Raffles Country Club to make way for new rail lines
Raffles Country Club is second golf course after Jurong Country Club to make way for new rail lines
In golfing terms, businessman Low Yi Cheng, 47, was hit with a double bogey yesterday.
The avid golfer got a sense of deja vu when he found out that Raffles Country Club (RCC), which he had joined last month for $33,000, has been acquired by the Government.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced that RCC site will be handed over to the Government by July 31 next year.
The 143 ha of land will be used for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR), Cross Island Line's Western depot and other transport-related needs.
It will be the second time Mr Low will lose his golf course.
He had turned to RCC after his previous club, the 67ha Jurong Country Club (JCC), was vacated to make space for the Singapore terminus of the HSR last November.
Like many of the 2,600 RCC members, he had thought only a portion of the club, which has two 18-hole golf courses, would be acquired by the Government.
The club, which opened its doors in 1988, had put renovation plans on hold over the past few years pending the Government's announcement, according to several members.
Mr Low said: "JCC was like a second home, and I couldn't get over the loss, and now I am dealt another blow.
"But life goes on, I am just going to enjoy the next 1½ years at RCC."
He said he would "tentatively" get $44,500 as compensation from JCC and is concerned about the payout from RCC.
Businessman Edwin Pereira, 32, who was a member of JCC, and holds membership to RCC, is also upset.
He grew up at JCC, and his father transferred his RCC membership to him in 2014.
Mr Pereira, who is considering two other clubs, said: "I am going to put in between $40,000 and $60,000, and I don't want to make the wrong choice.
"Now that two clubs are closed, there will be an increase in demand for club memberships.
"But there is also an increase in fear that your country club might close down."
In a press conference at LTA's Hampshire Road office yesterday, SLA chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai stressed that golf courses were not being targeted for land acquisitions.
But he said that development plans here are taken into consideration when they review the lease of golf clubs.
The fate of the RCC employees, who found out only yesterday that they would possibly lose their jobs, is also uncertain.
Mr Desmond Choo, executive secretary of the Attraction, Resorts & Entertainment Union, assured them in a Facebook post that they would be fairly compensated.
Compensation to RCC will be based on market value for the acquired land at the date of acquisition yesterday.
It is still unclear how RCC will compensate its members.
The club did not respond to TNP's queries at presstime.
RCC member John Mo, 52, who paid $45,000 for a membership in 1998, is also concerned about the payout and is not sure if he will invest in another golf club.
The engineer added: "I was just telling my wife that I want to play more actively this year.
"But what to do, it is the Government's policy for the long-term development of our country."
Golf club acquisition par for the course
Alternative sites could have been chosen for the new depot and stable facilities for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) and Cross Island MRT line (CRL), but none are as suitable as Raffles Country Club.
The golf club, which occupies an elongated plot measuring 2km end-to-end, is right next to Tuas Second Link, offering both the right size and location needed for the facilities, said the Land Transport Authority and experts.
HSR trains will cross from Malaysia into Singapore via a high bridge west of the Second Link before going underground towards a passenger terminus in Jurong East.
Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of KTC construction group, said that because of the high bridge - built 25m above the water - "much more land on our side is needed for trains to approach the tunnels on a gradual gradient".
"The construction cost (of a bridge crossing) is much lower than going undersea, but it requires higher land take," he noted.
The golf club's site is also close to the western end of the proposed CRL.
Mr Krishnan said this made it doubly efficient for a CRL depot to be located there as well.
"I would pick Raffles Country Club over say, the industrial and commercial sites in the vicinity (to acquire)," he added.
Raffles Country Club golf manager Dennis Ee said there are alternative sites, but he could see why the club was the more suitable choice.
"There's Safti (Military Institute) and Tengah Airbase for instance, but those are crucial defence installations," he said.
"There are industrial plots on the other side of the road, but the Government would have to deal with a lot of stakeholders, versus only one in the case of Raffles Country Club."
Still, Mr Ee said that the whole 36-hole golf club being acquired came as "a surprise".
"We thought only nine or 18 holes would be acquired," he said.
Raffles Country Club is the latest golf club to go after Jurong Country Club - entirely or in part - in the next few years as Singapore reprioritises its land use needs.
The Republic has among the highest concentration of golf courses in the region, with 18 clubs occupying 1,500 ha.
Even so, Singapore Land Authority chief executive Tan Boon Khai said yesterday: "We're not targeting golf courses for acquisition."
NTUC offers help to club employees
Help will be available for Raffles Country Club (RCC) employees who lose their jobs when the club closes, said NTUC youth development unit director Desmond Choo.
RCC announced on its website yesterday that it has to hand over its 143ha site to the Singapore Land Authority by July 31 next year for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) and the new Cross Island MRT line's western depot.
The HSR, which will cross the Johor Straits via a bridge, is scheduled to start running in 2026.
RCC's lease of the land was due to expire in 2028.
Mr Choo, who is also the executive secretary of the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU), wrote in a Facebook post yesterday: "Our workers at the country club would likely lose their jobs. Some might face difficult times.
"If retrenchment is inevitable, AREU will work closely with the RCC management to ensure the affected workers are fairly compensated and treated for their loyal service to the club.
"Our union leaders and industrial relations officers will be on-site to guide workers through these difficult and uncertain times.
"Together with NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), we will provide job placement assistance and retraining to them."
RCC is the second club to be acquired by the Government to make way for the 350km HSR project.
JURONG COUNTRY CLUB
The first was Jurong Country Club (JCC), which shuttered on Dec 31, 2015. The 67ha site in Jurong East will become the Singapore terminus for the HSR.
The club, which was offered $89.8 million for the acquisition, is appealing against the offer and asking for $168.1 million instead.
JCC's 112 employees have been told about their compensation benefits: a lump sum dependent on their years of service and current salary, a $1,500 training grant for courses to boost their skills, and an extra year of union membership.