The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will not take up the offer to manage Singapore Island Country Club’s (SICC) Sime Course as a public golf course owing to financial considerations, the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said in a joint statement yesterday.
Instead, Keppel Club, whose lease in Bukit Chermin expires on Dec 31 next year, has been offered the chance to operate the 18-hole facility in Lornie Road for the same nine-year period from Jan 1, 2022, to Dec 31, 2030.
Under this arrangement, Keppel will also take over the existing Bukit clubhouse, which includes a golfers’ terrace and accompanying restaurants, changing rooms, as well as the 60-bay driving range.
“Keppel has the necessary expertise and experience, and its involvement in the operation of the public course will provide golfing access to a broader base of local golfers,” said the joint statement.
In 2014, the Government said it would not renew the lease of Keppel and Marina Bay Golf Course, which ends in July 2024.
The latter is the country’s only public 18-hole course and is operated by NCI Golf, a subsidiary of NTUC. To ensure continued public access to golf facilities, NTUC was then offered the chance to manage one of the two courses at SICC’s Bukit location.
The ministries last night said the Government remains prepared to offer SICC a lease renewal for the other 18-hole Bukit course up to Dec 31, 2030, “if both clubs are able to reach an agreement on the sharing of the courses at SICC-Bukit”.
Singapore’s oldest and grandest golf club’s other two courses are at its Island location near Lower Peirce Reservoir, and the leases there have been extended until the end of 2040. It has about 18,000 members, and membership fees are about $200,000.
One potential obstacle is Keppel Club’s lack of funds. In a notice on its website, the club said its reserves are being depleted due to Covid-19, coupled with its $1 monthly subscription – it was reduced from around $105 to this nominal fee in April.
Its monthly operating deficit has been around $850,000 since June and is likely to continue, the club noted.
It will have an estimated $25 million in reserves at the end of next year, but this is insufficient to cover the projected $31 million required for the capital outlay of the new land lease, clubhouse, recreational facilities and Sime Course.
To raise the $7 million to $10 million needed, Keppel is asking its members to opt in to a top-up scheme – $3,210 (social members), $5,350 (ordinary) and $8,025 (corporate).
It is targeting 1,500 members and has set a Nov 7 deadline.
Those who choose to opt out will be able to use the club’s facilities at Singapore Polytechnic Graduates’ Guild and Sime Course for a year till the end of 2022.
Retired lawyer William Wong, 61, has been a Keppel member for 30 years and intends to opt in.
But he is hesitant about the proposed allocation of golf flights – 40 per cent will be reserved for Keppel members and the rest open to the public – if Keppel takes over the Sime Course.
He said: “If the monthly subscription, buggy fees are about the same as if I were a member of the public, why would I subscribe if I can try to get a slot as a member of the public?”
In a letter sent to members yesterday, SICC president Andrew Low said representatives from both clubs met on Monday and expect to execute the memorandum of agreement with Keppel later this year. SICC will hold a virtual dialogue with its members on Oct 20 to provide more details, he added.
• Additional reporting by Laura Chia