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SICC members generally relaxed about loss of a course

SINGAPORE — Members of the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) yesterday expressed relief at the Law Ministry’s announcement on the fate of their golf courses, with some noting that the changes were not as drastic as some had feared.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam with members of the Singapore Island Country Club, after the meeting on the land leases of golf clubs yesterday. Photo: Ernest Chua

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam with members of the Singapore Island Country Club, after the meeting on the land leases of golf clubs yesterday. Photo: Ernest Chua

SINGAPORE — Members of the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) yesterday expressed relief at the Law Ministry’s announcement on the fate of their golf courses, with some noting that the changes were not as drastic as some had feared.

Speaking to reporters after attending a meeting, chaired by Law Minister K Shanmugam, where they were able to air their concerns about the forthcoming changes, many members felt that it was acceptable for them to give up one of the club’s two courses located at its Bukit site near MacRitichie Reservoir so that it can be run by the labour movement for public use.

Said a member who wanted to be known as Mr Khor, 72: “It’s quite extraordinary that we have four 18-hole golf courses, so I think it is reasonable for us to give up one for the public, given the limited land space that we have in Singapore.”

The SICC also has two other 18-hole courses at its Island location near Lower Pierce Reservoir, and the leases there will be extended until the end of 2040. But the lease for its other Bukit course will be extended only if it can work out with the labour movement how to reconfigure the courses there, with the possibility of sharing facilities, by Feb 15 next year.

SICC President Tay Joo Soon said a meeting between the club’s committee and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will be set up soon, adding that he hopes to “come to an early agreement” before the stipulated deadline.

“With the loss of one of our courses, it will put a strain on our remaining facilities given our large membership base,” he said. “Nonetheless, as with all golf clubs in Singapore, the SICC has to accept that change is on the horizon and necessary in the broader context of national interest.”

While some raised questions about the impact of losing a course on the value of their membership, members generally felt the impact may not be drastic. “We can still enjoy it for the next seven years — that’s how I see it,” said lawyer Thomas Lee, 57.

“The arrangement is that if the things go through, the likelihood is that we operate as a different club, there will be a partition and they will have their own guardhouse,” he added.

One SICC member for more than 50 years, Mr Chua, 73, questioned the authorities’ decision to appoint NTUC to manage the public course, pointing out that it would be “fairer” to call for an open tender. Some also queried whether it would make more sense to sacrifice one of the Island facilities as those at the Bukit location are interconnected, making a split more challenging.

Mr Tay said giving up one of the Bukit courses is logical, given that the club had spent S$150 million on a new clubhouse at the Island location.

Mr Shanmugam, however, said that the Government is open to the suggestion and will consider any request. Nevertheless, he added that this will be subject to factors such as the availability of the peripheral facilities, such as changing rooms and restaurants, needed at golf courses.

According to the Law Ministry, the push to transfer one of the SICC’s courses to the NTUC was to ensure that members of the public have enough access to golfing facilities once the Marina Bay Golf Course (MBGC), which is open to the public, is phased out for redevelopment in 2024.

Responding to queries, an MBGC spokesperson said an estimated 330,000 people visited the course last year.

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