Keppel, SICC fate hangs in the balance

Both golf clubs expected to be hardest hit by govt move to take back land

Speculation is centring on the fate of two golf clubs ahead of an announcement on Sunday over whether various clubs will be granted lease extensions.

Keppel Club and Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) are likely to be most affected by the news, according to the mounting speculation.

The future of golf clubs here has been a hot topic since early last year, when the Government indicated some golf club land might be taken back for other uses.

In response to queries as to whether Keppel will be offered an alternative site after the club's lease ends in 2021, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) declined comment.

But it reiterated its stance that no new land will be set aside for golf clubs and courses.

Some Keppel members are hoping for an offer of an alternative site, while others are concerned that this may not materialise.

Attempts to contact the club for comments and membership numbers were unsuccessful.

As for the fate of SICC and its 7,800 members, MinLaw told The Straits Times that it should come as "no surprise if one of the club's locations is affected".

SICC has four 18-hole courses, the largest number among clubs here. Its lease also expires in 2021.

The Government said in January last year that as it was low intensity, some golf course land may be taken back to serve more pressing needs such as housing, infrastructure and transport.

Representatives of government agencies will meet members of Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC) and National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC), as well as those of Keppel Club and SICC on Sunday to reveal details of how they will be affected.

When asked about the impact on TMCC and NSRCC's Changi site, MinLaw said that the two clubs may have to reconfigure part of their courses to allow for expansion of Changi Airport.

TMCC has 3,069 principal members, while NSRCC has about 9,300 golfing members who hold term memberships.

The second priority for planners in allocating space for golf course land is to ensure that there are sufficient courses accessible to the public, national servicemen and women as well as the labour movement.

"The minimum requirement is to have one 18-hole course available for public use," said MinLaw.

"The Marina Bay Golf Course is an 18-hole public course whose lease will expire in 2024.

"As the site is zoned for commercial and residential uses (in the Draft Master Plan released last year), the Government will find a replacement site for a public course when its lease runs out."

This suggests that one of SICC's four courses at its Bukit and Island locations may be set aside for public use when its lease runs out in about seven years.

Responding to The Straits Times' queries on possible shorter lease tenures for golf clubs, MinLaw said there will no longer be issued leases of 30 years.

That is the average tenure of golf club leases today, with Laguna National Golf and Country Club having most recently secured a lease extension through to 2040.

Members who bought the club's earlier membership, which expires in 2021, were given the option to pay a top-up fee and extend their use of the club till the existing lease runs out in 26 years.

Clubs may get their leases extended on shorter tenures if plans have already been made to develop the area for other uses, said MinLaw.

rjscully@sph.com.sg