Located to the west of Singapore city centre, between Changi airport and the two courses at Laguna National, the Tanah Merah golf complex boasts two of the finest layouts in the country.
The courses at Tanah Merah – the name means “Red Earth” – were built on reclaimed land in the early 1980s by designer Max Wexler and the Garden layout was the first in operation, followed a couple of years later by the Tampines.
A fair amount of earth was moved to fashion the lakes and subtle undulations here with the construction budget for the Tampines said to have reached nearly twenty million dollars – that’s over a million dollars a hole!
A very clever feature on the Tampines course is the set of three extra holes that can be brought in to allow maintenance work without closing the course – something that a lot of clubs would surely love to be able to do.
The respected architect Chris Pitman was called in to rebuild the course in the late 1990s and his firm gave the layout a complete makeover from tee to green on every hole.
Chris Pitman course architect writes:
"By contrast to the more regal Garden course, we wished to apply some beefy features of a more traditional flavour and these were to draw some breath early on before becoming proud members’ talking points; prototypes to the area certainly.
We created large, rolling greens where most were built up, links-style, over their surrounds. Deep pot bunkers, some finding their way to fairway locations, mixed amicably with the occasional hogs back landing area and well as punchbowl style masking. All the ingredients evoked mystery, local knowledge and charm.
Also we strived for more of a natural appeal by carefully developing the aesthetic ambience amongst the options of a very strategic mental approach to the golf.
With external views being restricted to the Changi airport tower, all character had to be created internally. Where much of the total area was presented as water bodies, rock landscaping and aquatic plantations became an integral part of the scene and tall coconut palms picked up the breezes, easily creating a desert-island appeal."
In August 2016, the Tanah Merah Country Club Redevelopment Committee advised its members in their magazine; “after some 16 years, the time and weather elements have taken their toll on the Tampines course. The lake walls have collapsed in many areas and the spare parts for the water irrigation system are out of production.
The drainage pipes that are broken are choked by the tree roots. The turf on the greens, fairways and tees have been contaminated by other species. Organic matter has dominated the fairway surface resulting in it adhering to the face of the golf club after each stroke.”
“The Redevelopment Committee decided to retain the services of golf course designer, Phil Jacobs, who has been involved with the Tampines conceptual design since 2009. He also redesigned our Garden course in 2004 and then reconfigured the Garden course in 2015.”
The new Tampines layout re-opened in April 2018 and it’s set to threaten the national No.1 position against an ever-decreasing number of Singaporean courses owing to leases not being extended.