Following an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) yesterday that lasted 41/2 hours, Seletar Country Club members will likely each pay less than the $10,000 fee originally proposed by the club to extend the land lease of its golf course and upgrade its other facilities.
The club's management committee (MC) had called the meeting to decide if it can charge top-up fees of $10,000 and $2,000 for ordinary and "social" members respectively, to extend the land lease of its golf course by 19 years and renovate the club's facilities. If it had been given the go-ahead, members who paid the top-up contribution would be able to extend their club membership to Dec 31, 2040. Otherwise, the membership would expire on Dec 31, 2021 with its 27-year land lease.
Members were also asked to vote on whether to accept the Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) lease renewal offer, and on what terms.
The SLA had agreed to renew the land lease of the club's golf course on the condition that the club provide public access along the edge of Seletar Reservoir. In an EGM notice dated March 1, the club told members: "This is part of a national initiative to link park connectors to a round-island route scheduled to be open to the public by 2025."
However, doing so would mean that six of the 18 holes in the golf course would be affected, so the SLA gave the club two options.
The first was to renew the lease without losing land area, but the club had to provide a strip of land 6m inwards along the edge of the reservoir for the walking trail. The club would have to "design, construct, operate, maintain and be responsible for security, safety and public liability issues" until 2040.
The second option was to renew the lease but lose a larger land strip. The walking trail would be constructed and managed by the Government instead.
Members overwhelmingly voted for the second option, which the MC had recommended.
Golf clubs feeling the squeeze
It is a long shot for golfing to remain popular here, with some country clubs being acquired and others asking members to pay top-up fees to extend the leases.
The top-up fees can vary widely.
Orchid Country Club members paid a $2,000 top-up fee when their lease was extended for seven years to 2030. Tanah Merah Country Club members were told in February to pay $19,000 to extend their membership by 19 years.
And yet, even with top-up fees, there is no guarantee that the club will not be acquired later.
The Government announced in January that it would acquire Raffles Country Club in Tuas to make way for a massive depot and stable for the upcoming Cross Island MRT line and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high- speed rail (HSR) project.
The club will have to hand over the land by July 31 next year. It had spent $9.5 million on renovations for a new wing, which opened in 2011 after two years of refurbishment.
The acquisition comes after the nearby Jurong Country Club was also gazetted for acquisition in 2015. It closed last December and had spent about $23 million on a revamp of its golf course in 2012.
Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Club are also due to shut when their leases expire in the next decade.
With those closures, there will be 13 golf clubs here by 2030, down from 17 now and 22 in 2001.
But after sitting through at least two hours of a presentation on the renovation proposal, with dozens leaving as the night wore on, the remaining members voted against the top-up fees proposed. Members told The Straits Times that some renovations were unnecessary.
The lease renewal premium is expected to cost about $21.8 million, excluding taxes. In total, the MC had estimated that the upgrading projects, including remodelling the golf course, would cost $30 million.
The MC will redo its sums and propose another top-up. The club has about 2,300 ordinary members - who get full access to its facilities - and about 1,280 social members, who get fewer benefits.
Semi-retiree S.K. Swa, 71, a club member for 26 years, said he was likely to extend his membership. He said: "I still want to play golf. I love this club and the members are very friendly."