Little fuss over loss of golf club land

Little fuss over loss of golf club land
About 220ha of land occupied by Marina Bay Golf Course (above), Keppel Club and Orchid Country Club has been zoned by the URA for residential and commercial uses.

SINGAPORE - One month after the Government's keenly watched move to take back some golf course land for homes and other uses, there has been little public reaction.

Many Singaporeans seem to agree that the move is a step in the right direction - or they simply cannot be bothered to make a fuss.

Last month, the Law Ministry said Keppel Club will not be able to renew its lease when it expires in 2021. Orchid Country Club in Yishun will face a similar fate come 2030, and Marina Bay Golf Course will lose its greens when its lease runs out in 2024.

The three sites occupy about 220ha in total, equivalent to a third the size of Ang Mo Kio town. They have been zoned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for residential and commercial uses, although residential use includes more than just homes.

"Land zoned for residential (needs) will not be used for housing alone," said a URA spokesman.

"The land is usually planned to include other amenities and local services - such as parks and schools that will benefit future residents in the area."

The lack of an outcry over the land use decision may signal that golf, once the business world's sport de rigueur, could be losing its lustre here, observers say.

Associate Professor Sing Tien Foo of the department of real estate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) cited the relatively small numbers of people playing golf today.

"The latest land use decisions affect only an exclusive group of club members," he said.

There are about 36,360 golfers with registered handicaps here, according to data from the Singapore Golf Association.

He also suggested that Singaporeans are pleased to see the land being put to more productive uses. There are 17 golf clubs and public courses in Singapore occupying about 1,500ha, making up 2 per cent of Singapore's total land area. This does not include the five driving ranges that take up another 31ha (see box).

"The intention of converting golf course land at Keppel Club into housing areas may attract higher economic values," he said.

Of the 308 people who responded to an online survey by The Straits Times, more than half wanted the golf course land to be converted into public spaces and parks.

"We must protect Singapore's natural greenery and history and by removing all these golf courses for other uses, it will only make Singapore more of an urban jungle that has lost its history," wrote one respondent.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, an avid sportsman, believes that another reason for the absence of an uproar is the availability of other options for golfers.

He told The Straits Times that the various government agencies "had also been engaging the different clubs, so the constant communication and early notification" helps with planning purposes.

Another active sportsman, Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng, said the golfers affected by last month's announcement may hold memberships at other clubs or go golfing overseas, and would not find the decision as drastic.

Meanwhile, other sports have been gaining traction with businessmen.

These include cycling, running and tougher sporting activities such as triathlons and marathons.

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