Golf: Sentosa in drive for new members

Last year's Singapore Open rew a strong field, including Colin Montgomerie, seen here in action on the Serapong course.

SINGAPORE - Despite a weakening market, the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) has launched a rare recruitment drive to meet what it calls an "overwhelming demand" for its membership.

One of Singapore's most exclusive golf clubs, it has released a limited number of memberships for sale on an invitation-only basis through existing members.

This is the first time since 2006 that the club, which opened in 1974, has undertaken such an exercise.

New memberships are priced at $255,000 for Singaporeans and $308,000 for foreigners.

The prices are nearly $30,000 more than their respective market rates, as they take into account a scheme that allows for partial payment through instalments.

Across the board, membership prices have dropped slightly for most of the 11 private golf clubs here.

Compared to a year ago, fees for the three most prestigious and sought-after memberships - SGC, Singapore Island Country Club and Tanah Merah Country Club - have all fallen by at least $9,000 and as much as $22,000.

But interest - which has come from well-heeled Singaporeans and golf enthusiasts from South Korea, China and Europe - remains strong in SGC, said its president Low Teo Ping.

He added: "Our two challenging courses (Serapong and Tanjong) have established themselves globally after hosting top tournaments like the Singapore Open and the HSBC Women's Champions. Very few, if any, are selling our memberships so we decided the time is right to expand our base."

Low declined to reveal how many new members will be added, noting that applications will be judged on a case-by-case basis by the club's general committee. SGC has around 1,500 members and an average course utilisation of 65 per cent.

There is room for expansion: A 10-minute interval exists between playing groups on its two courses, three minutes better than the industry average.

Brokers are not attributing the slide in prices to the Government's announcement in January that land leases for some golf clubs might not be extended.

"Prices have come off somewhat due to economic uncertainty and people who want to sell because they don't have the time to make use of their club facilities," said Henry Yip, who runs club membership brokerage Aspire Networks.

Still, prices are expected to rebound as golf - traditionally perceived as a game for the affluent - has opened up to the masses, with an estimated 100,000 people now playing the sport here.

Veteran broker Fion Phua, of Tee Up Marketing Enterprises, said: "As our population continues to grow and golf becomes more popular, golf memberships will be a sound investment, not just financially but also for the enjoyment of the whole family."

Golf membership market rates at 'Big Three' golf clubs

Sentosa Golf Club

June 2012 - $232,000

June 2013 - $223,000

Singapore Island Country Club

June 2012 - $220,000

June 2013 - $208,000

Tanah Merah Country Club

June 2012 - $152,000

June 2013 - $130,000

Figures courtesy of Tee Up Marketing Enterprises