Seletar Country Club in Singapore has selected Golfplan for a major golf course renovation that will begin this summer.
Seletar is located in the island’s interior, near Seletar Airport and directly beside the Seletar Reservoir. The property is leased from the Singapore government, which plans to reclaim a 15-metre wide, five hectare strip of land along the reservoir for new hiking and bike paths. This directly impacts six holes at Seletar, the re-routing of which, according to Golfplan partner Kevin Ramsey, will affect another five holes.
“It’s a domino effect,” said Ramsey. “With safety setbacks, the six holes along the reservoir have been completely redesigned, which necessitated the rerouting and redesign of five additional holes. Making everything fit together – in an aesthetic sense, in the golfing sense, in the safety sense – required a great deal of ingenuity on our part. We still have fully 160 acres [64 hectares] at our disposal, but this will be a brand new 18 and a vastly improved one when we’re finished.”
The renovation includes three more major components: rebuilding all 18 greens (and regrassing them with paspalum or TifEagle), regrading several of the crowned fairways and enlarging/deepening every water hazard.
Golfplan, led by Ramsey and David Dale, designed Singapore’s top ranked Serapong course at Sentosa Golf Club and led renovation efforts at the nation’s largest golf property, Singapore Island Country Club.
“It was a competitive design competition for the Seletar job – a dozen different firms put in for it,” said Ramsey. “I’m sure that we were chosen in part because we are so familiar with the unique parameters of course design work here. I can’t imagine anyone is more comfortable with the baroque government regulation process – we’ve been through it so many times.
“But ultimately, we got the job because our design solutions were the most artful and efficient. We can’t wait to get started.”
The golf course has not been significantly renovated since it was first built in 1991, with the original design created by former Golfplan associate Chris Pitman.
“Eleven holes being totally reimagined and reconstructed, the club wisely saw the opportunity to sand-cap the entire course footprint, lay new irrigation, rebuild all the bunkers, and regrass with Zeon zoysia,” said Ramsey.
The Seletar project follows Phil Jacobs’ renovation of the Tampines course at Tanah Merah in Singapore, which was required to make way for airport expansion. Ramsey also recently finished remodelling the fourth, fifth and sixth holes at Cenkareng Golf Club in Jakarta, Indonesia, to accommodate expansion of the nearby airport.
“I give the Board at Seletar a lot of credit for seizing the moment here,” said Ramsey, who anticipates a grand reopening in the fall of 2019. “Something had to be done to address the land reclamation, but they’re doubling down on the opportunity – spending 20 million Sing dollars to create an entirely new course, one that will compete very well in this market going forward.”
Dale agreed: “Sentosa, which our firm designed in the 1980s, is clearly the number one club on the island. Singapore Island always has grand plans but nothing substantial ever seems to get done.
And Tanah Merah’s new course has not been particularly well received. I think Seletar has a real chance here to use this makeover to acquire significant market share.”
Pitman’s original design of Seletar featured a series of challenging pot bunkers. The club wants these ‘signature’ elements preserved, so Golfplan will rebuild them in what Ramsey considers to be a Royal St. George’s style, with flat sand bottoms and steep grass faces.
“The club is very much attached to this bunker style and the challenge it presents,” he says. “From an architectural standpoint, our goal is to open up the views into these bunkers – to show the golfer more sand – so they don’t look like a succession of big, bottomless pits. We’ve also designed the new ones with minimal leading edges, meaning the steep faces remain but they are much easier to walk in and out of. This will improve aesthetics and maintainability, while preserving the challenge.”
Dale noted that all Singaporean golf courses are now required by law to be 100 percent water self-sufficient. Rainfall is more than plentiful but there is a dry season, too. The Golfplan renovation plan calls for the de-silting and enlargement of all existing water features to create the water-storage capacity Seletar needs to sustain grass quality year around.
“I think the Seletar Reservoir sits at 101.5 meters above sea level, and all our lakes are situated above that – so there are no water table issues here, unlike many Sing clubs that sit at or near sea level,” said Dale. “The clubhouse here sits up at 120, or 20 meters above the reservoir – so it has stunning views out over the course and reservoir below. With all the moving parts inherent to this renovation, we’ve worked very hard to preserve the site’s many mature trees. It’s such a gorgeous setting. Our whole approach was centred around preserving those vistas while enhancing the strategic challenge of play. Improved visibility is a big factor at Seletar.”