The first Golf Club at the old racecourse (Farrer Park) was the forerunner of the Singapore Island Country Club. When Justice John T Goldney arrived in 1887, he brought along his clubs in eager anticipation of playing golf, but alas, Singapore had no golf links.
Justice Goldney and Mr R N Bland, another golfing enthusiast, then drew up site plans at the Farrer Park area to select the first nine tees and greens where the holes would be cut. The course was fair, with excellent hazards by the rails and sundry ditches with broken grounds. The club was opened on 17 June 1891 by the then Governor, Sir Cecil Clementi. Members of the Sporting Club (the predecessor of the Singapore Turf Club) were eligible to join as members since the golf club used the racecourse grounds.
With the growing popularity of golf, the President of the Golf Club, John M Sime, decided to search for another alternative golfing site. A site at MacRitchie Reservoir was located, and work to clear the jungle area started in 1920. The first nine holes of the planned 18 hole-course were ready two years later. This gave members a choice of playing at either the old (racecourse) or the new (MacRitchie) course. However, the Golf Club eventually made a permanent move from the Race Course Road site to Bukit Timah’s MacRitchie site on 31 August 1924.
By 1938, a second group of nine holes was created at MacRitchie. King George VI became its patron and renamed the club the Royal Singapore Golf Club. However, maintenance of the two golf courses was high, so members decided to give up on the Race Course site. A final golf game was played at the Race Course site by the Singapore Golf Club’s members on 31 August 1924.
As a result of its growing patronage, the Race Course Golf Club, also known as the Turf Golf Club, was formed on 1 October 1924. Its first chairman was E S Manasseh, a wealthy Jew and donor of the Race Course Cup in 1932. With its multi-racial membership, the club was the first of its kind in the country and created a new chapter in Singapore’s history.
When the Turf Club sold the parcel of land to the Singapore Improvement Trust (HDB), it was time for the Race Course Golf Club to look for a new location. As a Municipal Commissioner of Singapore, Mr John Laycock used his influence to request a suitable and similar site to the Royal Singapore Golf Club.
Mr Laycock spent up to three years looking for a suitable site. He eventually came upon a large catchment area in the middle of Singapore (MacRitchie). The matter was referred to the club’s general meeting, which approved it. The new club was named the Island Club and was opened to all races and nationalities, unlike the Race Course Golf Club, where membership was restricted to Turf Club members only. In March 1930, work commenced on the 18-hole course, taking over two years to complete.
Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith officially opened the Island Club, complete with an 18-hole course on 27 August 1932. This was a historical event for Singapore as this was the first club with a multi-racial membership in the colony. All the races in Singapore were represented on the club’s committee. It was essentially a mixed club with no consideration for colour or creed – Chinese, Indians, Arabs and Jews all integrated and blended as one at the club.
It was also the first club with other sports facilities not yet introduced in Singapore – there were two tennis (grass) courts, and plans were drawn out for a swimming pool. Together with a very nice view of the reservoir, the Island Club also boasted a pro-shop for golfers amidst a beautiful rustic clubhouse. The club was also Singapore‘s first country club, with facilities for other sports apart from golf; other games like cricket and football were also provided for and played enthusiastically.
With the outbreak of war and the Japanese occupation in 1942, both the Royal and Island Club’s grounds were destroyed and the golf courses were dug up into trenches and vegetable plots for the planting of crops. After WWII, the reconstruction of the two clubs began to take place with strong enthusiasm, and by April 1946 a six-hole golf course was ready for play at the Island Club. By year-end, a 16-hole course was ready and club activities resumed in full swing. In 1960, the Island Club was selected to host the Singapore Open golfing tournament, with participating golfers coming from Japan, Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia and Australia.
The Island Club concentrated on its next ambitious plan to construct a 10-pin bowling centre. Singapore‘s first air-conditioned automated bowling centre was opened on 16 March 1963 by then Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee.
When the 25m swimming pool, built in 1957, became too small for the growing number of swimmers, a new 50m competition pool and a diving pool were constructed, opening for use in 1974. Squash courts and changing rooms were also built. A new clubhouse with seven tennis and six squash courts at the Bukit location was completed in 1987.
In 1963, prior to independence, there was a need to cater for the changing needs of the population. A decision to merge the Royal Singapore Golf Club and the Island Club was made.
When the merger of Royal and Island Clubs began in earnest, it was agreed that the new club be named the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC). Negotiations were long and intense, and only in June 1963 was it officially declared that a merger would take place, to be effected a month later on 1 July 1963, and culminating in the establishment of the SICC.
The formation of the Singapore Island Country Club effectively ended a bastion of colonial elitism, which the Royal Singapore Golf Club had become known for; in effect, the merger created a social entity that no longer placed membership based on racial and social exclusivity.
The SICC was unique in itself since it was a club with two separate clubhouse locations – one at the Sime location and the other at the nearby Bukit location.
With the merger finalised, the SICC crest was recreated to incorporate elements of the Royal and the Island – the lion against a coconut palm (Royal) and the white-bellied sea eagle over a lone coconut tree (Island) were retained within the crest, joined by a belt to signify the merger.