Golfing Around: Singapore And Bintan

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 Who 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.

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For in addition to the outstanding selection of golfing facilities right on their doorstep, a slew of excellent golf clubs has 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.

This report was compiled by Spencer Robinson, publisher of Asian Golf Monthly.

RIA BINTAN GOLF CLUB

Where is it? 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.

What’s it like? 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.” 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.

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Handicap requirement: Not compulsory. Facilities: 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.

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.

JURONG COUNTRY CLUB

Where is it? 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.

JURONG COUNTRY CLUB

Handicap requirement: Visitors are required to produce a handicap certificate.

Golfing facilities: 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.

BINTAN LAGOON GOLF CLUB

Where is it? On Bintan island, a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal followed by a 15-minute bus ride.

What’s It like? 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.

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Club hours: From 0700 to sunset.

Handicap requirement: Proficiency certificate or handicap card required during weekends. Golfing facilities: Two 18-hole courses–Jack Nicklaus SeaView Course and lan Baker-Finch Woodlands Course. A 31-bay driving range, plus chipping and putting areas and a pro-shop.

After the golf: There is a 460-room hotel and luxury villas on the beach, offering a complete getaway holiday including a health spa, gym, free-form swimming pool, tennis courts, leisure center, sea sports center and karaoke lounge.

ORCHID COUNTRY CLUB

Where is it? In the north of Singapore, along the waterways of the Sungei Seletar Reservoir, a 25-minute drive from the city center and 30 minutes from the airport.

What’s it like? Designed by Chris Pitman, with personal guidance from the late Ong Tong Cheong, former president of Singapore (who was also an architect), the three nine-hole courses–Aranda, Vanda, and Dendro–are as varied in character as the orchids they are named after. Wide fairways are a feature of the Aranda. Despite being the shortest of the courses, the Vanda requires good course management to negotiate the abundant water hazards.

ORCHID COUNTRY CLUB

Golfing facilities: Aranda Course (3,051m, par-36); Vanda Course (3,037m, par-36); Dendro Course (3,262m, pat-37). Buggies, equipped with state-of-the-art Global Positioning System, enhance the Orchid experience, while night golfing has become increasingly popular. As well as a four-hole practice course for beginners, there are excellent practice facilities for chipping, putting and bunker play. There is also a 160-bay driving range, one of the largest in Southeast Asia. Fully automated, it consists of two levels, with 80 computerized tees at the lower level and 80 manual tees on the upper level.

After the golf: Take your pick of the five dining outlets and beer garden, Relax at the spa or try out the movie screenings at the 165-seat theaterette. For the more energetic, there are three swimming pools, three tennis courts, two squash courts, gym, aquatic school and a 36 lane bowling alley. Also, there’s a card room, mahjong room, and billiard hall. There’re even a hair salon and a car grooming center!

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