Singapore Golf Club
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The Singapore Golf Club opened in 1891 at the Singapore Sporting Club. After World War I, it moved to new premises, leaving behind certain members who joined forces with locals to form a club of their own. In 1963, the two clubs merged to become the Singapore Island Country Club.
Opening of the Club
With the enthusiasm and energy of Justice Goldney, its first president, and R. N. Bland, its first treasurer, the Singapore Golf Club (or Golf Club) was opened on 17 June 1891 at the racecourse belonging to the Singapore Sporting Club (founded in 1842). It was located at where Farrer Park is today and stretched down to what is now known as Buffalo Road. However, the golfers had to share the grounds with the jockeys and the horses.
The opening of the Golf Club was such an important event that it appeared in the editorial section of The Straits Times. The event was marked with a golfing match, which was attended by then Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, and his wife. There was also a fireworks display.
Growth of the Club
Almost as soon as the Golf Club was founded, golf mania hit the colony, mainly among the British, as only they could be members. By December 1891, there were 60 active members. In April 1893, the newspapers reported that there were at least 100 members in the Golf Club and golfing equipment was in short supply. The committee subsequently decided to limit the membership to 150 and double membership subscriptions.
Even with a strain on the facilities, women were encouraged to take up golf, although they were not allowed to become members of the Club. The women were only allowed to play on Tuesdays, but they took full advantage of the opportunity accorded to them. By 1894, there were matches with men and women playing in pairs. Four years later, by 1898, women were seen playing for monthly medals.
By the end of 1912, golf had become a favourite sport among the colonial masters and membership at the Golf Club had reached the hundreds. Perhaps because of this, the Club managed to persuade the Singapore Sporting Club to disallow polo on the premises. The conflict between the Golf Club and the Singapore Polo Club had begun ever since the Sporting Club allowed polo on the premises in December 1898. On 1 January 1913, the Sporting Club withdrew this permission and the Polo Club had to find its own permanent location. The Golf Club took the opportunity to improve the fairways, put in some decent bunkers and ensure the course was properly maintained.
Move to New Premises (Bukit Timah)
Interest in golf declined in Singapore with the onset of World War I. This affected activities and membership at the Golf Club, and of course other clubs as well. But with the end of the war, things went back to normal in Singapore and at the Golf Club. As business activities in the surrounding area grew, the Club decided in August 1924 to move to another location. The president of the Club, John M. Sime, chose a site in Bukit Timah next to a reservoir known today as the MacRitchie Reservoir. Since this was a catchment area, the Club could be assured that there would be no development nearby. The Club formally opened its newly constructed course at Bukit Timah on 17 March 1925. It was renamed the Royal Singapore Golf Club on 12 November 1938 after King George VI became the patron of the Club.
However, some members of the Club had been unhappy about the move. They felt that the Bukit Timah course was far from the main road and would be inconvenient as they did not drive. They decided to join forces with the Chinese, Indian and Eurasian members of the Singapore Turf Club (formerly known as the Singapore Sporting Club) and created their own club known as the Race Course Golf Club on 1 October 1924. It was a historic event as the new club was the first multiracial club in Singapore. The members of this club continued to play at the racecourse location until 1928, when they moved to another course at Upper Thomson. A new golf club called the Island Club was formed for the new course. Most of the members were former members of the Race Course Golf Club, which was liquidated in 1932.
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. 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 for their office. They also built roads across the turf and raked other parts of it to grow tapioca. In 1944, civilian internees were transferred from Changi Jail to the large area behind the clubhouse (known as Sime Road).
The fortunes of the Club turned with the end of the war and the surrender of the Japanese. Soon after the return of British troops in September 1945, reconstruction work on the courses of both the Island Club and the Royal Singapore Golf Club began. By the end of the year, golf could be played on both courses once again. By the middle of the 20th century, both clubs were seeing rigorous golfing activities. But while membership grew at the Island Club, renamed the Royal Island Club with the visit of the Duchess of Kent in 1952, membership at the other club dwindled.
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 worsened and club members initiated a merger with the Royal Island Club. At a conference of delegates from both clubs held on 21 June 1963, the two clubs became the Singapore Island Country Club.
Jeanne Louise Conceicao
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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.