Golf: SICC mulling over swing to 6-hole layout

Hole 16 (par 5) at the SICC's New Course. SICC club captain Andrew Lim said discussions are still ongoing, and any plans for the New Course are very preliminary.
Hole 16 (par 5) at the SICC's New Course. SICC club captain Andrew Lim said discussions are still ongoing, and any plans for the New Course are very preliminary.PHOTO: SICC

It's considering reconfiguring its New Course from two 9-hole format into three 6-hole set-up

It is widely regarded as the bastion of golf in Singapore, with a history dating back almost 130 years, but the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) could also be the sport's forerunner of change here.

The Sunday Times understands that SICC is considering renovating and reconfiguring its New Course, located at the Island location along Upper Thomson, from a traditional two nine-hole layout into a three six-hole format.

It would be the first course in Singapore with such an unconventional design. SICC club captain Andrew Lim said discussions are still ongoing, and any plans for the 6,506m New Course are very preliminary.

He added: "Six-hole golf has its appeal, especially with the younger generation. We know that modern golf needs to be fun, and so why not try something different?"

Under club rules, any major renovation requires formal approval from SICC's membership of around 7,800. A $25.5 million proposal to upgrade the Island Course in 2011 was voted down.

The three six-hole set-up is rare - the Nikanti Golf Club in Bangkok, opened in 2014, is one of the few in Asia - though it has been suggested as a way to shorten the game and broaden golf's appeal.

Courses are typically designed in loops; players start on the first hole and return to the clubhouse after completing the ninth. This takes roughly 21/2 hours, with 18 holes taking double the time. Playing six holes requires about 90 minutes.

Professional golfer and SICC member Lam Chih Bing is a fan of this new format. He said: "Golf needs to change. Most people nowadays don't want to spend half a day out on the fairways."

That was a sentiment shared by Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, the second biggest professional golf circuit after the United States PGA Tour.

Pelley had said last year that for golf to stay relevant, it needed to evolve and modernise and that "every golf course being built needs to be six holes, six holes, six holes - so that people can go at the beginning before they go to work."

Six-hole golf will make its European Tour debut at next month's A$1.75 million (S$1.84 million) World Super 6 Perth. The final round will consist of a six-hole knockout matchplay format.

Traditionalists like Sentosa Golf Club general manager and director of agronomy Andrew Johnston remain unconvinced. He was equally hesitant about dividing an existing 18-hole course into three parts.

Johnston, who has over 25 years' experience in golf course design and construction, said: "One of the main constraints would be land, as you would probably need a third more space to create a course with three six-hole format."

The New Course was opened in 1965 and last underwent redevelopment in 2001, as part of an overall $25 million upgrading programme. The land lease for SICC's Island location is until 2040. The Bukit Course in Sime Road has a lease until 2030 while the adjacent Sime Course will be run as a public course when the lease expires in 2021 to replace Marina Bay Golf Course.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline 'SICC mulling over swing to 6-hole layout'. Print Edition | Subscribe