Fewer options for local golfers

Raffles Country Club is the second golf club here to be acquired for the development of the high-speed rail project. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Local golf is feeling the squeeze after yesterday's announcement about the acquisition of Raffles Country Club (RCC) further reduced playing options for golfers here.

RCC is the second golf club here to be acquired for the development of the high-speed rail project, following the acquisition of Jurong Country Club two years ago.

Coupled with the closures of Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Club when their leases expire in the next 10 years, there will be only 13 golf clubs in Singapore by 2030, down from 17 currently. This is also down from 22 clubs in 2001.

About 15 per cent of the land now occupied by golf courses - about 219ha - will make way for housing and other amenities after their leases expire.

Singapore Golf Association (SGA) president Ross Tan said the acquisition is disappointing for golf in the country. There are currently about 36,000 golfers with a handicap here. "My reaction is one of disbelief. SGA's duty, as a national sports association, to grow the sport, will be badly affected," said Mr Tan.

Singapore Professional Golfer's Association president M. Murugiah said he was "very sad" to hear the news. "Golfers here will have to go to Johor or Batam to play instead as more clubs close."

Memberships there can be up to 90 per cent cheaper, said observers.

"In Johor Baru, club memberships can go for around $3,000 to $4,000," said Ms Madeline Choo of brokerage Active Golf Services, adding that green fees for these courses are just about $60 on weekends.

This contrasts with membership prices at even middle-rung clubs such as RCC currently going for between $32,000 and $37,000. Green fees here are also much higher.

Many Singaporeans are deterred from snapping up memberships in Malaysia by the prospect of encountering jams at checkpoints and paying toll charges, said Ms Choo.

Others, however, might venture even farther afield to play the game.

China, Thailand and the Philippines are increasingly popular destinations for golfing holiday packages, said Ms Lee Lee Langdale, director of brokerage Singolf.

Those who want to play regularly, however, will have to go with a local membership, she said, adding that they may choose to go to clubs with cheaper memberships such as the Warren Golf Club.

At the higher end, club memberships here can cost as much as $210,000, the current price of a Sentosa Golf Club membership, according to figures from membership broker Tee-Up Marketing Enterprises.

Fewer options may mean a slight increase in membership prices in the coming years, said Ms Choo.

Ms Fion Phua, a Tee-Up broker, believes that given the scarcity of land here, freeing up land currently used for golf courses is a necessity.

"There really are a lot of golf courses here for such a tiny island," she said, adding that golfers make up a small percentage of the population.

Some golfers might even choose to do without club memberships.

Ms Choo said: "It doesn't make sense to pay so much for a membership only to have the land taken away in a few years."

One golfer might even give up the game.

Said Ms Theresa Ng, 55, a retiree who has been a member of RCC for more than 20 years: "I have a group of golfers whom I play with on weekends, some whom I first got to know through the club. I will miss meeting them a lot, and it won't be the same at another club. I may just accept the compensation and retire from golfing."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline Fewer options for local golfers. Subscribe