Singapore Golf Club

Singapore Infopedia


The Singapore Golf Club opened in 1891 at the Singapore Sporting Club.1 After World War I, it moved to new premises, while some members formed another club with locals.2 In 1963, the two clubs merged to become the Singapore Island Country Club.3

Opening of the club
Thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of its first president, Supreme Court judge Sir John Tankerville (Justice) Goldney, and its first treasurer, R. N. Bland, the Singapore Golf Club (or Golf Club) opened on 17 June 1891 at the Singapore Sporting Club race course. It was originally a horseracing club formed in 1842,4 and was located where Farrer Park stands today.5 However, the golfers had to share the grounds with the jockeys and horses.6

The opening of the Golf Club was such an important occasion that it was featured in the editorial section of The Straits Times.7 The event was marked with a golf match that was attended by then Governor of the Straits Settlements Sir Cecil Clementi Smith and his wife.8 There was also a fireworks and aerial parachute display.9

In 1891, the club’s entrance fees were $2, while its annual subscription was $6.10

Growth of the club
Almost as soon as the Golf Club was founded, golf mania hit the colony, mainly among the British since only they could be members.11 By December 1891, the club had 60 active members.12 In April 1893, the newspapers reported that there were at least 100 members in the Golf Club and that golf equipment was in short supply.13 In 1893, the committee decided to limit the club’s members to 150 people and double membership subscription fees.14

For the convenience of its members, the Sporting Club constructed a clubhouse for $3,000. It officially opened on 27 January 1894.15 The Golf Club was charged a monthly rental of $20 for the use of the clubhouse.16

While women were encouraged to take up golf, they were not allowed to become members of the club.17 Women could only play on Tuesdays, and they took full advantage of the opportunity to play. The governor’s wife, Lady Clementi Smith, and her daughters also made several appearances at these social occasions.18 By 1894, men and women were playing in pairs.19 By 1898, women were playing for monthly medals.20 However, it was only in 1907 that women were allowed to join the Golf Club as members.21

In December 1898, permission was granted by the Committee of the Sporting Club for polo to be played on the golf course on Mondays and Thursdays, a decision that caused considerable friction between the Sporting and Polo clubs and the Golf Club.22

By the end of 1912, golf had become a favourite sport among the colonial masters and membership at the Golf Club ballooned to the hundreds.23 Perhaps because of this, the Golf Club managed to persuade the Singapore Sporting Club to disallow polo on the premises.24 On 1 January 1913, the Sporting Club withdrew its permission to allow polo to be played on its grounds and the Polo Club had to find its own permanent location.25 The Golf Club took the opportunity to improve the fairways, put in decent bunkers and ensure the course was properly maintained.26

Move to Bukit Timah
The interest in golf in Singapore waned during the latter part of World War I.27 This affected activities at the Golf Club.28 However, with the end of the war, things went back to normal in Singapore and at the Golf Club.29 As business activities in the surrounding area grew, the club decided in August 1924 to move to another location.30 The then president of the club, John M. Sime, chose a site in Bukit Timah next to a reservoir known today as MacRitchie Reservoir.31 Since this was a catchment area, the club could be assured that there would be no development nearby.32 On 17 March 1925, the newly constructed course at Bukit Timah was formally opened by the then Governor Sir Laurence Guillemard. It was renamed the Royal Singapore Golf Club on 12 November 1938 after King George VI became the patron of the Club.33

However, some members of the club were unhappy about the move.34 They felt that the Bukit Timah course was too far from the main road and thus inconvenient as they did not drive.35 They joined the Chinese, Indian and Eurasian members of the Singapore Turf Club (formerly known as the Singapore Sporting Club) and founded their own club known as the Race Course Golf Club on 1 October 1924.36 This was a historic event as the new club was the first multiracial club in Singapore.37 The members of the Race Course Golf Club continued to play at the racecourse location until 1928, when they moved to another course beside Pierce Reservoir.38 A new golf club called the Island Club was formed for the new course.39 Most of the members were former members of the Race Course Golf Club, which was liquidated in 1932. The Island Club was the first golf club in Singapore to admit any Singaporean who wanted to join, and included representation from all races in Singapore in its committee. At the time, membership comprised around 40 European, 20 Eurasians, 40 Japanese, 50 Chinese and 20 Malays and Indians.40

World War II
The 1930s were hailed by many as a period of great golfing strength in Singapore, but this came to an abrupt end with the Pacific War.41 During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore between 1942 and 1945, the Japanese took over the clubhouse of the Royal Singapore Golf Club and used it as their office.42 They also built roads across the turf to the other side of the reservoir and raked other parts of it to grow tapioca and sweet potato. The Japanese also built a shrine on top of the hill, at the third hole of the Bukit Course. 43 In 1944, civilian internees were transferred from Changi jail to the large area behind the clubhouse where a Japanese internment camp had been established at Sime Road.44

The fortunes of the club turned with the end of the war and the surrender of the Japanese.45 Soon after the return of British troops in September 1945, reconstruction work on the courses of the Island Club and Royal Singapore Golf Club began.46 By the end of the year, golf could be played on both courses once again.47 The Island Club was officially re-opened on 3 March 1947. On 8 December 1951, Secretary of State for the Colonies Oliver Lyttleton (later Lord Chandos) officially opened the new clubhouse, which was built at a cost of more than half a million dollars.48 By the mid-20th century, both clubs were seeing rigorous golfing activities.49 But while membership grew at the Island Club, renamed the Royal Island Club following the visit of the Duchess of Kent in 1952, membership at the Royal Singapore Golf Club dwindled. The Royal Singapore Golf Club membership was exclusively reserved for Europeans and in 1957, numbered 820 members. Efforts were made to recruit non-Europeans members in view of the changing political climate, with Singapore headed towards self-government and independence, but the recruitment was a quiet affair and only a few very skilled golfers took up membership.50

Merger to form Singapore Island Country Club
By the 1960s, with the departure of expatriates as Singapore moved towards independence, membership at the Royal Singapore Golf Club declined and club members initiated a merger with the Royal Island Club.51 At a conference of delegates from both clubs held on 21 June 1963, the two clubs merged to become the Singapore Island Country Club.52

Jeanne Louise Conceicao

1. Tommy Koh et al. eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, 2006), 218–19 (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Alex Josey, Golf in Singapore (Singapore: Asia Pacific Press, 1969), 12. (Call no. RSING 796.352 JOS)
2. Koh, Singapore, 218–19.
3. Koh, Singapore, 218–19.
4. Koh, Singapore, 218–19; Josey, Golf in Singapore,12–13; Wendy Hutton, The Singapore Polo Club: An Informal History 1886–1982 (Singapore: Girdwood Enterprises, 1983), 10, 18–19 (Call no. RSING 796.3530605957 HUT); Lulin Reutens, The Eagle & the Lion: A History of the Singapore Island Country Club (Singapore: Singapore Island Country Club, 1993), 17–18. (Call no. RSING 367.95957 REU)
5. Hutton, Singapore Polo Club, 10.
6. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, eds., One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 338 (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Josey, Golf in Singapore, 13–14; Hutton, Singapore Polo Club, 10, 18–19.
7. “The Singapore Golf Club,” Straits Times, 18 June 1891, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Josey, Golf in Singapore, 18.
8. “Singapore Golf Club”; Josey, Golf in Singapore, 18.
9. “Singapore Golf Club”; Josey, Golf in Singapore, 18.
10. Koh, Singapore, 218–19; Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 338–348.
11. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 18–19.
12. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 339; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 18.
13. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 19.
14. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 341; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 19.
15. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 341; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 19. (Call no. RSING 367.95957 REU)
16. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 341; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 19.
17. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 21.
18. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 21.
19. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 21.
20. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 22.
21. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 15.
22. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 344; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 22.
23. Hutton, Singapore Polo Club, 46.
24. Hutton, Singapore Polo Club, 46–47.
25. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 27; Hutton, Singapore Polo Club, 46–47; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 23.
26. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 347; Josey, Golf in Singapore, 27.
27. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 30.
28. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 30.
29. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 24.
30. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 24.
31. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 24.
32. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 34; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 24.
33. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 37; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 26.
34. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 26.
35. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 26.
36. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 29.
37. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 52; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 29.
38. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 33, 52; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 30–31.
39. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 52; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 31.
40. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 31–32.
41. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 35; Josey, Golf in Singapore, 38.
42. Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 35.
43. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 38; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 35–36.
44. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 38–39; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 36.
45. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 39; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 49.
46. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 39; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 39.
47. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 39, 56; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 39.
48. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 56, 58; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 40.
49. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 40, 58; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 40–43.
50. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 58; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 40, 41, 43.
51. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 82–83; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 51–53.
52. Josey, Golf in Singapore, 84; Reutens, Eagle & the Lion, 56.

The information in this article is valid as at April 2021
 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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