Golf clubs 'must return state land when lease ends'

SICC members seem to be especially concerned about the possible loss of at least one of the club’s two courses at this Bukit location. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
SICC members seem to be especially concerned about the possible loss of at least one of the club’s two courses at this Bukit location. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Country clubs will still have to give up golf courses built on state land even if the current lease includes an option to renew. This was made clear by the Ministry of Law, ahead of meetings with four golf clubs over the future of their courses.

The ministry explained that any renewal option is secondary to the original fixed period of the lease, and the land has to be returned when needed.

"This information is known to those who become golf club members," said the ministry in its reply to The Straits Times' queries. "It is the same for all other state leases, whether for residential, commercial, industrial or other uses."

The authorities are expected to explain the Government's policy on lease extensions during tomorrow's separate meetings with four country clubs, and shed light on its impact on certain golf courses.

Three of the affected clubs - Tanah Merah Country Club, Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) and Keppel Club - currently have golf courses on state land with leases which will expire in seven years. Meanwhile, the lease for the National Service Resort and Country Club in Changi comes to an end in nine years.

Elaborating on tomorrow's closed-door meetings, a ministry spokesman said: "The Government is taking the extra step of letting the clubs, their members and the public know the status of expiring leases more than seven years in advance.

"This is to enable the clubs to better make their investment and membership plans; and for members and the public to make informed decisions if they are thinking of selling or buying memberships in these clubs."

The leases that are being reviewed are for land earmarked for other use under the Draft Master Plan 2013, which was released last November by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. For instance, the land on which Keppel Club currently has its golf greens has been rezoned for residential use.

The Government is also seeking to claim back one 18-hole course and convert it for public use. This will replace the Marina Bay Golf Course public course, where the lease will expire in 2024. The land has been zoned for commercial and residential use.

The ministry had earlier also said that it should come as "no surprise" if one of SICC's locations is affected. SICC, the largest golf club here, has four 18-hole courses at two places - the Bukit location near MacRitchie Reservoir and the Island location at Lower Pierce Reservoir - plus a nine-hole course.

SICC members seem to be especially concerned about the possible loss of at least one of the two courses at the Bukit location.

"It would be extremely distressing in view of the more than $120 million investments over the last 15 years we have made and the emotional attachment to the four greens," said former SICC committee member S. Radakrishnan.

"We are hoping for the best from the authorities."

It is understood that the Bukit location also includes freehold land - about the size of a football field - which belongs to the club.

Asked if this ground will be affected in the event the lease on the surrounding area is not extended, the ministry said the "Government will not touch freehold land".

vijayan@sph.com.sg