Golfers in Singapore are among the most fortunate in the world. Within the small and affluent republic, there are no fewer than 25 courses. Although membership rosters of the top clubs in the island-state read like a Who’s of Singapore, and the majority of the leading establishments are strictly reserved for members and their guests, Singapore’s burgeoning golfing population, estimated at more than 70,000, is still spoilt for choice.
For in addition to the outstanding selection of golfing facilities right on their doorstep, a slew of excellent golf clubs have sprouted up across the causeway in Malaysia’s Johor Bahru and the nearby Indonesian islands of Bintan and Batam.
Located in the northernmost reaches of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, Bintan’s beach resorts and golf courses are just 45 minutes from Singapore by fast ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
And while the droves of golfers, who head for those greens on a daily basis, will continue their happy pilgrimage, further good news for aficionados of the sport is that the green light has recently been given for the construction of the city-state’s first 18-hole pubLic course.
1. RIA BINTAN GOLF CLUB
Facing the southeast coast of Singapore, it’s a 45-minute high-speed catamaran from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Bintan. The 11km journey from the Bintan terminal to the clubhouse in the north of the island takes 15 minutes by bus.
Aptly named Ria Bintan (“Ria” meaning celebration), the 447-hectare development (above) is set amid pristine white beaches, clear emerald waters and lush tropical forests. Nine-time Major champion Gary Player says of the 27 holes he has sculpted: “Ria Bintan is among the most beautiful courses in the world.” Opened in late 1998, the holes wind through forests and atop windswept coastline. With course maintenance, the club’s number one priority, superb teeing grounds, immaculate fairways and magnificent greens are par for the course. The distinctive characteristics of the Ocean Courses are the sleep bunkers, undulating terrain and the natural elements of sea, rock outcrop, and tropical forest.
Ocean Course: 18 holes, 6,366m, par-72; Forest Course: 9 holes. The practice complex includes a 20-bay driving range with target greens and distance markers. There is also a multi-green short game area and a golf academy in association with the Gary Edwin/Peter Senior Academy. Lessons must be pre-booked. Overlooking the South China Sea, the clubhouse includes a pro-shop and spacious locker rooms. Jacuzzi and Japanese bath will be ready next year.
After the golf:
A short distance from the golf club is the 302-room Club Med Ria Bintan with a range of land and sea sports and recreation facilities. Additionally, 8 apartments are available for daily rental. Spa facilities including massage with special treatments by Asmara Spas. The Restaurant at Ria offers specialties in Asian and Western cuisine. There are also meeting and banquet facilities in two function rooms. Ria Golf Lodges are scheduled for 2005 or 2006.
2. JURONG COUNTRY CLUB
Occupying 67.7 hectares of prime land in the west of Singapore, the course is 18km from downtown and 38km from the airport. What’s it like? Opened in 1975 by the Jurong Town Corporation as a recreational venue for senior ranking executives working around the area, as well as an attraction for industrialists to set up factories in Jurong, the parcel of land on which the golf course is built was once a swampy, crocodile-infested outback! Originally designed by British architect Frank Pennink, the course is split into two distinct halves, with the clubhouse sitting in the middle. The front nine sprawls over heavily wooded hills and valleys with one major water hazard. In contrast, the back nine, remodeled by Max Wexler in 1992, is relatively flat with open fairways running into the Jurong Lake and water coming into play on most holes.
Visitors are required to produce a handicap certificate.
One 18-hole, par-72 course measuring 6,219m. The course is floodlit for night play. There is also a five-hole Executive Course and a short game practice area. As well as a two-tier, 54 bay driving range, the club is also home to Singapore’s only Gary Player Golf Academy.
After the golf:
Three restaurants and Time Out pub, as well as function rooms. Also, there are swimming pools and squash and tennis courts.
3. BINTAN LAGOON GOLF CLUB
On Bintan island, a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal followed by a 15-minute bus ride.
The main aesthetic appeal of the Jack Nicklaus-designed SeaView Course is the South China Sea, which forms a spectacular backdrop for the signature hole. The 12th is a medium-length par-three out towards a dramatic rock formation. If you play it when the wind is blowing in off the wave tops, take at least two clubs more than normal. The Ian Baker-Finch-designed Woodlands Course has a more European feel. It’s cut into wooded and undulating terrain. The drainage system in the bunkers has had a complete overhaul.
Proficiency certificate or handicap card required during weekends.
Two 18-hole courses – Jack Nicklaus SeaView Course and Ian Baker-Finch Woodlands Course. A 31-bay driving range, plus chipping and putting areas and a pro-shop.
After the golf:
There’s a 460-room hotel and luxury villas on the beach, offering a complete getaway holiday including health spa, gym, free-form swimming pool, tennis courts, leisure centre, sea sports centre and karaoke lounge.