Lease extension: Golf clubs to know their fate next year

Lease extension: Golf clubs to know their fate next year

SINGAPORE - Golf clubs across Singapore, facing an uncertain future, have been told they will learn of lease extension plans early next year.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has urged the golf clubs to hold off on major development and recruitment plans for now.

In January, the Government flagged plans to redevelop some golf courses to better optimise land with such low-intensity usage.

Last month, Raffles Country Club members voted down a plan by the club to proceed with a $26 million revamp on one of its two courses. Members had not been told that the authorities would be initiating lease renewal talks with the club soon.

An SLA letter, dated Aug 16, went out three days after The Straits Times ran a story reporting that the members had been kept in the dark.

The SLA told The Straits Times that talks on the issue with some clubs had already started last month.

A spokesman said: "The SLA has started engaging the affected golf clubs on lease extension plans, which will continue over the next few months.

"An announcement is expected to be made early next year."

The January announcement concerning the Land Use Plan sparked uncertainty among many golf club members and those thinking of joining.

Singapore has among the highest concentrations of golf courses in the region, with 18 golf clubs covering 1,500ha.

Thirteen are leased out on tenures of 30 years by the SLA, and received the Aug 16 letter informing them of the timeline.

The first leases to expire are those for Keppel Club and Changi Golf Club - in 2021.

Others with less than 10 years left on their leases include Tanah Merah Country Club, Seletar Country Club and Singapore Island Country Club. Those with more than 20 years remaining on existing leases include Jurong Country Club and Laguna National Golf and Country Club.

The five clubs which did not receive the SLA letter are those on short tenancy agreements or with public courses, as well as Sembawang Country Club, managed by the Defence Ministry.

The SLA added that the letter "serves to gently remind golf clubs to hold off on all major development and recruitment plans for the time being, until the lease plans are certain".

Many Raffles Country Club members did not know the SLA will start lease renewal talks with golf clubs before the year end. Close to two-thirds of those present at the club's extraordinary general meeting on Aug 14 opposed the upgrading plans.

A check with the 13 clubs which received the SLA's latest letter showed most were holding off on heavy capital expenditure until after lease renewal talks are concluded with the authorities.

Laguna National, however, is going ahead with plans to spend more than $100 million on a new golf resort hotel and refurbishment works on its clubhouse as its lease expires in 2040, said Mr Patrick Bowers, managing director and chief executive of Laguna Hospitality.

"Work is slated to begin within weeks with a soft opening planned for September 2015 and a grand opening in January 2016," he said.

The club has the longest lease of 27 years, followed by Jurong Country Club, which has 22 years left on its lease.

A member of Tanah Merah Country Club, who wished to be known only as Mr Tan, said he is happy that the authorities will clarify lease renewals soon.

But he feels that golf clubs and courses should be viewed as recreational facilities for those who have worked hard and done well in life and aspire to own a club membership.

Another golfer, Mr Ong, who is in his 60s and owns three golf club memberships, said: "My health would probably allow me to golf for 10 more years, so I won't be selling any of my club memberships.

"I'll probably let them lapse when the land lease expires to avoid paying a top-up fee.

Besides, not many people see the need to own multiple golf club memberships any more; we can play the game at other courses at the invitation of our friends."

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