Singapore Island Country Club originated in 1891 as The Golf Club and its first members played over a 9-hole course at the local horseracing track. The club moved to Bukit Timah in the early 1920s and a new 18-hole layout (today’s Bukit) was ready for play four years later. The authors of James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses take up the rather unusual story:
“Braid was asked to design a layout of eighteen holes, which he did by using topographical maps. These disappeared during World War II, along with club records, as a result of the Japanese invasion. It was only recently that Braid had been attributed with the course, which was ploughed up during the war and the clubhouse was destroyed. A new course has now opened, attempting to recreate some of the Braid characteristics…
Is the Bukit a Braid course? We know maps had a great fascination for him and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that at the very height of course designing in the early 1920s he could have taken on what seems an extraordinary task. Stranger things have happened.”
By 1938, the Sime course had been added and the club was renamed the Royal Singapore Golf Club.
Merging in 1963 with the Island Golf Club, the amalgamated “superclub” adopted its present name and within five years, they opened the New course at the Island site. Today, members are truly spoiled by having four 18-hole layouts on which to play – the Bukit, Sime, Island and New.
Course architect Frank Pennink is credited with upgrading the Bukit course at the end of the 1960s.
A beautiful parkland course laid out beside the MacRitchie Reservoir, the Bukit has held many Singapore Opens (starting in 1962) but perhaps its finest moment was when it hosted the World Cup back in 1969 – Orville Moody and Lee Trevino won the team event for USA, with six-time major winner “SuperMex” claiming the individual trophy.
SICC was founded in 1891. The Bukit course opened in 1924 (cost: $45,000) with a James Braid design that has not been altered since. Braid, from Scotland, was a great professional golfer who won The Open five times. He was also a prolific golf course designer with over 200 courses to his credit, almost all in the British Isles. He was afraid of the ocean and therefore did no overseas travel. Braid never visited the SICC site and did the design solely from topographic maps. He was well-known for his accurate and detailed working drawings…
Singapore is only 85 miles north of the Equator. We are riding in carts which is a good thing because the course is quite hilly in places. All holes are lined with tall mature trees as well as the periphery of the course (3,000 in total and at least 10 varieties). There is a feeling of isolation and so quiet in places that you could hear crickets chirping. On a few holes trees squeeze the playing surfaces. Out-of-bounds comes into play on a few holes.
On the beginning holes you are able to see the huge Mac Ritchie Reservoir. A small tributary of the reservoir affects play on only four holes. The fairways and rough are Cow Grass similar to Wack Wack, but are much better maintained so there was normal roll. The club has a maintenance challenge with wild boars (pigs) chewing up the fairways. They cannot be eliminated. The course is 6,607 yards par 72 with only 69 bunkers. A few of the holes are on flat terrain, but mainly the course has some steep uphill and downhill shots as well as some steep falloffs around some greens. Approach accuracy is important as a miss to the wrong green side is disastrous. The greens were firm and tough to read due to some grain. The grass is a type of Bermuda called serangoon.
After golf we took a short ride to the other side of the huge property to a busy, large clubhouse built in 2011. SICC is a huge operation with 7,800 members and 4-½ courses in two locations. In addition to Bukit, the other courses are called Island, New, Sime, and Millennium (9 holes).