Han lends hand to new SICC layout

New Course, brainchild of former Aussie pro Marsh, receives plaudits for its wow factor

Between former golfing professionals Graham Marsh and Kyi Hla Han, the pair would have played at the Singapore Open for beyond 40 years.

Marsh, 77, played in the 1960s and 70s, and Han, 60, in the 80s to the mid-noughties, of which almost 30 would have been appearances at the Singapore Island Country Club's (SICC) Bukit Course.

So when you pick their brains - especially so because the duo have been involved in course design after their playing days - for the redevelopment of the club's New Course, it is expected that their project should turn out to be a brilliant one.

Since the $50 million course at SICC's Island Location was opened for play from July 31, the feedback has been very positive and members have rushed to make bookings until the end of the year. The official opening, postponed because of the Covid-19 restrictions, by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was held on Tuesday.

Australian Marsh, who has won more than 70 tournaments around the world, including 10 on the European Tour and 20 on the Japan Tour, has made a name for himself as a course designer under his company Graham Marsh Golf Design.

Han has designed courses in his home of Myanmar as well as in Dalat, Vietnam. He won 12 professional events, including the Singapore Open in 1994 at Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden Course, and played in the 2000 British Open in St Andrews.

A member of the SICC's golf redevelopment planning committee, Han said Marsh managed to bring in the natural forest at Peirce Reservoir into the configuration and design of the 27-hole course.

He added: "Being in a catchment area, it was a challenging task getting the course into shape. But Marsh has done a tremendous job, working the natural scenery into the golfing plans. The fairways have zeon zoysia grass and the greens are of the easier-to-maintain primo zoysia with contours and gentle slopes.

"It would be unfair for me to pick the best holes for all 27 holes have their own unique characteristics, and the par-threes are simply beautiful visually, and to play on."

The milestone for SICC comes amid the club's need to increase its golfing capacity by next year, after the Sime Course is handed over to Keppel Club, and to prepare for its next phase of transformation.

SICC's Island Location will see a 23 per cent increase in golfing capacity with the New Course, and is likely to command a premium in membership value. Currently it is valued at $280,000.

The New Course features several heritage trees such as the Pulai Basong, Jelutong, Dyera and Cotton which are some of the oldest specimens in Singapore. During the redevelopment, the trees were carefully relocated to frame new holes on the course, and will continue to provide wildlife corridors while making for scenic spots.

SICC president Andrew Low said: "The idea of a new sand-based course was mooted eight years ago. We agreed that it must have a wow factor, and be able to play as a member's course and a championship layout, for we intend to stage some major events."

The club started the ball rolling with the Singapore Open - inaugurated in 1961 - that brought together the leading golfers from Asia, Oceania and Europe, joining top local golfers.

That was from 1961 to 1987, then 1992 at the Bukit/New courses, and at the sister course at Island in 1990, 1995 and 2000, the last time the event was held at SICC. It has been staged at Sentosa Golf Club since 2005.

Other premier tournaments held at SICC in recent years include the women's Lexus Cup in 2008 at the Bukit Course and the 2011 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the New Course.

The new set-up of the three nines - Millennium (par 36), Peirce (par 36) and Forest (par 35) - offers three 18-hole combination which is an exciting prospect, noted Low.

SICC club captain Vincent Wee added: "While playing on the slopes and terrain as if carved out from the natural landscape, and in harmony with the delicate surrounding ecosystem, driving on the bridges and boardwalks will be a pleasant and tranquil transition between some of the holes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2021, with the headline 'Han lends hand to new SICC layout'. Subscribe