The Singapore Island Country Club is one of south-east Asia’s oldest and most prestigious golf clubs. But history and prestige count for very little when the government of Singapore comes calling.
Like all of the island’s golf, SICC’ s courses occupy land leased from the state – and with the pressure on real estate in Singapore, the government has indicated its desire to reduce the amount of land devoted to the game. Two of SICC’s courses, the Sime and the Bukit, its championship course, are under threat.
SICC therefore decided to make better use of the land occupied by its 10-hole Millennium course and the Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge-designed New course. It hired Australian architect and former touring pro Graham Marsh to design 27 holes on the land; Marsh’s course opened earlier this year.
“The biggest problem when you have an 18-hole course and a nine-hole short course – and huge constraints because the site is right up against one of Singapore’s major sources of drinking water – is simply trying to fit the holes in,” says Marsh. “And 27 holes makes it harder still, because you need three starting and finishing points close to the clubhouse. The site was somewhat compromised! The old course was in any case tired – it was time for a revision. Members preferred to play the Sime course and the old Bukit – it was where most of them grew up playing golf.”
Marsh’s bunkers on the new course are reflective of the famous bunkers on the Melbourne sandbelt, though the sand line is not quite so high. The bunkers use the patent pending EcoBunker Advanced synthetic edging system, and are lined using Capillary Bunkers technology. Marsh says this technology is crucial to achieving the kind of performance and aesthetic that high end clubs like SICC demand nowadays.
“I have been familiar with this technology since it was first introduced, but it took me a long time to develop enough confidence to use it on my projects,” he says. “In golf design, you need to be very careful about how you spend your client’s money – you spend really it as if it was your own money. I couldn’t bring myself to spend the additional money because the product was so new.”
But a combination of further exposure to technology like EcoBunker, and the knowledge that bunkers, already a major cost centre for golf courses, were only going to become more so, prompted Marsh to push the button. The increasing cost of sand played a signficant part. “Sand is critical, and it comes at a very high cost”, he says.
“A combination of wind and bunker design determines the amount of attrition, and when you replace sand, you have to use the same stuff. So how do you protect the edge of the bunker? Using EcoBunker locks in the edge and protects the sand.
“The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it five years earlier! We evolved the style of bunker over a period of time. I grew up in Australia, with MacKenzie-style high flashed bunkers. But if you don’t have the silty sand of the Melbourne sandbelt then it is fantastically expensive and very difficult to do that. EcoBunker technology enabled us to get the aesthetic we wanted, with really good sand visibility, and a confidence that the bunkers will endure without excessive maintenance requirements.”
Richard Allen, the inventor of synthetic bunker edge revetting, provided on-site technical support at the start of the bunker construction in the autumn of 2019.
“Protecting the low edge, preserving the bunker shape and preventing sand contamination were my three principal concerns when I was investigating solutions for eroding bunker edges on a well-respected Colt course, and when I first came up with the idea that became EcoBunker,” says Allen. “Synthetic edging was originally intended as a solution for low edges, rather than for the links-style pot bunkers with which revetting is most closely associated. At SICC, where Graham Marsh and the team have done an amazing job, it is very satisfying to see my original design intent put into practice.”