SINGAPORE - In January, the Government indicated that some golf courses might have to make way for other land use such as housing.
The announcement indicates that an important policy shift could be in the works. Golf course land, previously as good as out of bounds, is now eyed more closely as part of the land use equation, and may be converted for other uses.
In the past, vast tracts of land were used for golf courses because they were deemed unsuitable for anything else. The Government rarely took back land from a golf club when its lease expired.
One of the rare occasions involved Warren Golf Club near Dover Road in 2001, as space was needed for the expansion of the National University of Singapore. However, the club was offered an alternative site.
The January announcement has created uncertainty over whether current golf club leases will be renewed. Membership prices have therefore fallen.
Members of Keppel Club, which has about eight years left on its lease, are especially nervous. Even at clubs with longer leases, the knowledge that part or all of the land can be acquired if there are more pressing needs, has given members the jitters.
Are golf courses and golf club memberships still relevant today as Singapore gets more densely populated? It may seem that golf courses take up a large amount of space. But estimates are that they occupy around 1,500ha, or two per cent, of Singapore's total land area.
Historically, having a rigorous basis to decide how much land was allocated to golf courses was probably not a top priority. Instead, golf courses occupied land that had limited alternative use, for example, near water catchment areas or the airport.
The first golf courses were in fact legacy courses, dating back to the British colonial period.