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11 October 2007

Budget Golf 101 Series - Part 4 of 5

Now that you are done getting your necessary certifications, congratulations! You now can play any golf course in the world without restrictions.

Fifth - Fore! Ok once you have everything covered, it is down to the fairways to chase the little white ball. Majority of the golf courses in Singapore are private and unless you are already a member, it means paying a hefty guest fee which can chalk up to a pretty substantial amount at the end of the day, and specially so if you play weekends i.e. you work the usual 5 days like everybody else.

The reason why it was so expensive to play a game of golf back in the day, in Singapore was the obstacle of accessibility i.e. all, if not most, of the clubs (full 18-holes Par 72 courses) were private and the only public courses available were the Mickey Mouse courses (which I will explain shortly). Fortunately for us, we have come a long way since and have beautiful public courses available at an affordable rate, 20 years on.

Public Courses.

To me, I can split the public courses into 3 categories.

1) The Mickey Mouse courses. These are often 9 holes but because of the shorter than regulation length, they are normally rated below Par 36. Ok, so they may not be regulation courses and the scorecards are not admissible towards handicap calculation, it doesn't mean that you should up your nose away from it. Executive courses, as they are more glamourously called, can be useful especially for the beginners who are at the stage where they are ready to leave the range and hit the fairways but still a little short (in terms of proficiency) to play a decent game on the actual golf courses. Also, they are relatively cheaper than playing on actual courses especially when you are still at the hacking stages. These courses are also excellent training grounds to hone your short game.
  • Executive Golf Course - Mandai (Par 29).
  • SAFRA Executive Golf Course - Tanah Merah. The only Mickey Mouse course that uses Bermuda grass instead of Cow grass of the old days. Very beautiful and a particular interesting hole where you tee off from inside the bunker (Par 27).
  • Royal Tanglin Golf Course - Minden Road, in front of Australian High Commission. There was a news article many years back where a guy got bitten by a python in the ass (or nuts) while using the toilet there. Used to be a 7-hole course. Now 9 holes (Par 27).
  • Istana - A 3-hole course and you probably need to be related to Singapore's No.1 Prata Man in order to play there. And when you are the President himself, you probably be able to get away if you played a "5", tell everybody "I've got a 4!" and write down "3" on your scorecard. (Prata Egg 1, Kosong 1, Plaster 1).
2) The Half Courses. These are regulation length courses (Par 35/36) but only 9 holes which means that you would have to play the course twice to get the 18 holes. To add variation, these course either have 2 different tee boxes or 2 holes on the green to differentiate between Out 9 and In 9. Unfortunately, the only 2 public half courses in Singapore are gone.
  • Seletar Airbase Golf Club - Close shop liao. It's a pity as I felt that it was a very good course for the public.
  • Transview - Folkestone Road. Used to be the old Warren Golf Club before the latter moved to Choa Chu Kang. Also close shop liao.
3) The Real Deals. I am refering to public courses that offers the full 18 holes (Par 72). I would agree back in the 80s that golf is a rich man's sport as the single biggest expense of the game would be that of the membership fee. Today this barrier has been taken down as Singapore started up it's first regulation public course.
  • Marina Bay Golf Course - 18-hole links course i.e. a level plains course with not much trees. Beautiful place as you get to see the CBD skyline in the background. Night golf is possible for those who wishes to catch a game after work during the week.
  • Orchid Golf & Country Club - A beautiful 27-hole golf course located at Yishun. While it may be a member's club, it is technically still opened to the public as long as your are a NTUC Union Member, of which the union membership fee is nominal.
Private Courses

1) Singapore. We are looking at 5 figures (and even 6 for some) Singapore dollars when it comes to getting one of these babies. The only exception would be the SAFRA Resort And Country Golf Club where membership fees are in the 4 figures (good value for a membership with a golf course each at 2 different locations as well as a Mickey Mouse course next to the Tanah Merah course). The main reason is that the membership is a term membership i.e. there is a expiry date of say 10 years? I supposed there are various membership of different tenure and pricing will commensurate accordingly. Most, if not rest of the private club memberships are lifetime memberships where you can transfer the membership from generation to generation. While it seems to be a better deal in the long run, one has to consider the fact that there are many people out there that just cannot overcome then initial outlay. As such, a tenure membership at SAFRA is perhaps the more feasible option.

2. Overseas. There are the obvious Johor, Desaru, Batu Pahat and even Malacca (where you can go and come back within the same day) golf clubs where golf is cheaper than that of Singapore simply because of the weaker Ringgit and lower cost of living across the Straits. The downside is the distance to get there where you cannot do without a car. Playing in Malaysia is a whole day affair as you need to factor in the time taken to travel up and back. Next, we also have golf courses in Sebana, Batam and Bintan where you need to take the ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry terminal. Again, it takes up the entire day to play there due to the traveling time which may prompt many golfers to consider doing a resort weekender to justify the traveling hassle.

Sans the traveling (I recommend car-pooling), the good thing about playing in Malaysia is that the public courses are aplenty. Besides, it would be a good change of scenery if you were stuck in Singapore playing the same courses over and over again. Still, if you are in it for the long term, Malaysia club memberships may be worth taking a look at as good clubs like Pulai Springs Golf and Country Club can be acquired for as little as less than SGD 9,000 (well, that was the last I heard. Anyone care to verify?).

The good thing about a golf memberships, other than the obvious fact that it allows you to have access to the golf course, is also the fact that green fees would become nominal as guest fees are waived. Another benefit is that as you consistently submit your score cards, the club will maintain a player handicap index for you, that is recognised by PGA, to play at all the PGA-rated golf clubs in the world.

Image Credits: http://www.thebelamar.com; http://www.hickerphoto.com

... Last stop. Have a peek at what's in my bag right now.
- Voxeros

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