Keppel Club eyes fairways of other golf clubs

Joy Fang Today Online 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Keppel Club is eyeing the fairways of other golf clubs here and overseas, after a suggestion by the authorities to convert the 110-year-old institution to a social club failed to garner support among its members, TODAY has learnt.

It is understood to be exploring the possibility of buying land from other clubs or entering into a collaboration, such as through reciprocal fees or corporate memberships, to allow its members to use their golf courses.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, its management committee said talks have begun or will be held with other clubs and the Singapore Labour Foundation, which controls Orchid Country Club. “We have spoken to one 36-hole club and intend to approach two other 36-hole clubs, which may have excess capacity, to consider a collaboration ... The models of collaboration could be by way of a sub-lease or master corporate membership for our members’ use.”

The management committee said things were at an exploratory stage and “nothing has been put on the table yet”.

Last month, the Government announced its decisions on the leases of various golf clubs. Keppel Club, which has more than 4,500 members, is one of two golf clubs — the other is Marina Bay Golf Course — that will not have their leases extended. The 44 hectares of land that it is sitting on is slated for residential development after the lease expires on Dec 31, 2021. The club has been offered an alternative site — the location of which has not been confirmed — to operate as a social club.

On Monday, the club held a two-hour dialogue with its members on the matter. The discussions got heated at times as the management laid out various plans it was considering. Members present did not reach a consensus on which option to pursue. Options overseas include golf courses in The Legends Golf and Country Resort and Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort, both in Johor, and the Ria Bintan Golf Resort.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from The Legends Fort Canning Park, which owns The Legends Golf and Country Resort, said the club has been approached informally. Adding that no official talks have taken place, Club Manager Amy Cheong said: “Some members from Keppel Club approached us in their personal capacity showing interest in a possible collaboration, but there is nothing concrete or official yet.”

It is understood that a possible option is for Keppel Club to buy an 18-hole course from The Legends’ site in Johor and use its Fort Canning Park site as a social club.

Among the other clubs TODAY contacted, Laguna National Golf and Country Club declined to comment, while Raffles Country Club and Tanah Merah Country Club said they have not spoken to Keppel Club on potential collaborations. A Raffles Country Club spokesman added that there is “no decision nor intention to collaborate with Keppel Club for the time being”.

Keppel Club members whom TODAY spoke to said they were not keen on a social club, as they bought the membership for the golfing facilities. Retiree James Quek, 65, pointed out that there are already several social clubs. “If you really want (membership for a social club), why not join another club? Keppel Club is a golfing club,” he said.

He added that he supported a suggestion from members during the dialogue for the club to lower its monthly subscription fees and run down its reserves until the lease is up.

The club management committee said its position is “in line with the members’ aspiration to continue having a golf course”. “Keppel Club is historically and predominantly a golf club and our golf course is substantially utilised by our members,” it said.

Nevertheless, it added that should it fail to acquire a golf course for its members despite all efforts, “we may have no alternative but to consider a social club for the time being”.

While some members have suggested letting the club run down its reserves, the management said this will be the “worst-case scenario” that will not be “lightly considered at this moment”.