Golf: Sentosa eyes world stage

ESM Goh Chok Tong teeing off yesterday at the first hole of Sentosa Golf Club's Tanjong Course, whose redevelopment cost $32 million.
ESM Goh Chok Tong teeing off yesterday at the first hole of Sentosa Golf Club's Tanjong Course, whose redevelopment cost $32 million.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

New Tanjong Course aims to make a name for itself after uplift, just like Serapong

After a complete facelift, the New Tanjong Course is no longer in the shadows of its more famous neighbour and has shed the unwanted image of being the Serapong Course's "poorer cousin".

With two top-level championship courses, officials at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) are now eyeing a challenge beyond Asia, more confident than ever before in the facility's standing on the world stage.

"The New Tanjong Course will help share the spotlight," SGC general manager Andrew Johnston said yesterday, on the sidelines of the new course's grand opening.

"It'll complement Serapong well and help us to continue to improve our offering as a world-class facility."

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was guest of honour at the event and also played a round on the new course, which completed its redevelopment late last year to the tune of $32 million.

The much-needed upgrade on a course that opened 43 years ago helped address safety issues, but also gave SGC the chance to introduce a complete overhaul and give the New Tanjong, in Johnston's words, some "character".

It means the par-72 course is just as capable as Serapong in holding championship events. The local qualifier for this year's HSBC Women's Champions was held there a fortnight ago and preparations are well under way for the prestigious women's golf tournament next week.

Said Johnston, also the architect of the course: "It gave us a chance to really enhance our product.

"No two holes, no two greens are in the same place.

"I don't know if it can break into the world's top 100 courses like Serapong did, but it really gives us a chance to put our foot out on the world stage. I don't know many other facilities in Asia that have the amenities that we have now."

Serapong, host of the SMBC Singapore Open, which is sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation, is No. 58 in Golf Digest's world rankings.

The New Tanjong features greater length - from 6,056m to 6,512m - as well as the new Zorro Zoysia grass, a first in Asia. Its thinner leaf blade allows for a better playing surface.

Amanda Tan, who will fly Singapore's flag at the HSBC Women's Champions after winning the local qualifier, said the course was more challenging than it looks.

Said the 18-year-old: "At first look, I thought it was going to be easy, but when I went down and had a few rounds, it was completely different.

"The course feels long, the greens are a challenge, it's very different from what it was before and I really enjoy it."

Still, with six tee boxes (not including an unofficial "wee tee"), the New Tanjong will remain accessible to golfers of all abilities. The senior tee box and junior tee box are new features not available on the Serapong course.

Said Johnston: "We set up as many options as possible. If you play it from the very back, it's a very tough course, but if you play from the others, it's more fun and fair.

"What sets us apart is that the two courses each have their own character, and a completely different playing strategy."

The ultimate aim, said SGC president Low Teo Ping, is for it to matter little - or not at all - to golfers which SGC course they play on.

He said: "That way, you would have arrived. We deliberately planned it such that through the redevelopment, the New Tanjong would come up to be as good, if not better, than Serapong.

"This was money well spent, well invested, and will definitely help to elevate SGC."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Sentosa eyes world stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe