Start-Up

Play golf without a club membership

Green Golf app allows non-members to play at courses in Johor Baru, Bintan and S'pore at cheaper rates

Golfers can now tee-off in Singapore for as little as $30, and they need not have a golf club membership to do so.

Green Golf, a free app which allows players to make golf bookings cheaply and easily, has just added its first Singapore course to its roster. The course, Champions Golf Course, is a nine-hole public golf course with a driving range, located just off Eng Neo Avenue in Bukit Timah.

Mr Simon Wood, co-founder and director of marketing at Green Golf, said: "For someone just starting out, this is an ideal place to play. It is only a nine-hole course, but it's quite challenging."

Green Golf, which The Straits Times reported on in May, allows golfers to make bookings at courses here and in Johor Baru and Bintan, without having to be a member of a club. Over the next two months, the app will also be updated to include features such as equipment rental and golf lesson booking.

There are also plans to add more local courses to the mix, and Mr Wood said that at least two 18-hole courses in Singapore will be available in the upcoming months.

He added that the app comes at a time when the golf landscape in Singapore is changing.

Green Golf, a golf booking app, has added Champions Golf Course to its list. This is its first Singapore course on its roster, and there are plans to add more local courses soon.
Green Golf, a golf booking app, has added Champions Golf Course to its list. This is its first Singapore course on its roster, and there are plans to add more local courses soon. PHOTO: GREEN GOLF

"Going back 10 or 12 years ago, having a club membership was one of the five Cs, it was an aspiration," he explained. "But now, with peoples' disposable incomes waning somewhat, buying a club membership is not the first thing on their list."

Coupled with the imminent closure of clubs such as Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Course, Mr Wood said that the overall number of golfers in Singapore has dwindled over the past decade.

With Green Golf, Mr Wood hopes to draw players back to the sport by breaking down its barriers to entry. One of those barriers is the high cost. "If I were to play a round of golf in Singapore, it would cost me $150, or $100 if I'm lucky," he said. In addition, golfers have to fork out "at least $500" for a basic set of clubs, and a club membership can cost between $20,000 and $50,000.

Starting prices for a game booked via the Green Golf app are between RM20 ($6.60) and RM55 for courses in Malaysia, and $30 for courses in Singapore.

Mr Wood said that clubs were willing to offer such cheap rates, because "once the time is gone, they can't monetise it". He added that over $960 million a year worth of tee time is left unused in South-east Asia alone. Furthermore, the clubs still draw revenue from buggy fees, and food and beverage spending.

Within the next two months, first-time golfers will also be able to rent a set of clubs, and to book lessons via the app.

"Golf isn't a game where you can just get a set of clubs and start playing. There needs to be a bit of set-up," said Mr Wood. "We hope that the app can take someone from never hitting a ball, to their first game."

The Green Golf company was set up in January this year, and raised $250,000 from angel investor and co-founder Rajiv Kochhar. The third and final co-founder is Mr Harald Lang, who is also the company's chief technology officer. It currently has a team of six here, and an app development team of six in Kuala Lumpur.

To date, the app has been downloaded several thousand times, and 25 per cent of those users have made bookings.

Booking is a simple process. After users register, they will be able to browse through a list of eight clubs, offering a total of eleven courses.

After players select from a list of available time slots, they can make payment directly through the app via Visa.

Mr Meganatha Viswanatha, 45, who is a vice-president of sales in the infocomm technology industry, has been golfing for almost 10 years and has a handicap of 8. He downloaded the Green Golf app in May, and has been using it to make bookings. "Before the app, I used to book a golf round over the phone. It was quite tedious and time consuming, and I had to wait for the club house to open," he said.

"Now, it's very convenient, and I can make the booking whenever I find time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Play golf without a club membership'. Print Edition | Subscribe