Singapore's only public course, and much better than you would expect. Pot bunkers, sea breezes and undulating fairways give it a links feel.
Before the opening of the Marina Bay Golf Course in 2006, there was no public access golf course in a country where the growing popularity of the sport is matched by the inaccessibility of the prestigious clubs to the general public. This links-style affair, built on reclaimed land, is very popular despite green fees which, whilst by far the cheapest in the country, are still pretty steep. It takes inspiration from classic courses such as St. Andrew's in Scotland, most evident in the liberal use of pot bunkers (91 in all) up to 5 feet deep. They are located to allow high handicappers to play around them, so they are mainly found in the landing zones and to the side of the green, so you can usually run your ball up to the putting surface rather than being made to play some awkward forced carries. Nonetheless these sand traps, which often appear in clusters, can be nightmarish to get out of and you'll soon learn that playing out sideways is often your best move. The square cut tee boxes, rolling fairways, sea breezes and relative lack of trees further enhance the club's links credentials, and the greens all come with the same SubAir drainage system used at Augusta National and Congressional in America so they don't suffer in the wake of the occasional thunderstorms.
The first hole gives a decent flavour of what is to come - a wide fairway that slightly dog-legs right with a series of pot bunkers clustered on the corner to prevent you going direct to a green that sits behind a small stream. The green on the par-5 4th sits on the edge of a lake so it's a risky move to try to reach it in two. The view from the elevated 5th tee is excellent, and as you tee off towards the distant skyscrapers you need to make sure you avoid a lone pot bunker right in the middle of the fairway that will almost certainly cost you a shot should you find it. The enjoyable par-4 12th, which dog-legs around a lake, also has a couple of bunkers right in the middle of the fairway, but it's a fairly short hole so you don't lose much by laying up off the tee. With the water right, it's best being left to give yourself a decent angle to approach the green. The standout hole is the par-3 13th, a Sawgrass-style par-3 with an island green surrounded with a railway sleeper retaining wall. Your tee shot from an elevated position must contend with some fairly stiff side winds which make the target seem all the smaller. The 18th is another great hole, a dog-leg par-5 with a small stream in front of the heavily bunkered green with some fairly significant undulations. Take a par and be happy with that.
Despite seeing some fairly heavy traffic, particularly on weekends, the course is in generally excellent condition, and despite some sanding on the greens it's still far above what you would expect for a public course; the local flora combine with the Singapore skyline to make for an attractive environment for the course, especially at sunset when the floodlights kick in for those wishing to play late. A nice touch is buggies with GPS and a full map of the course, meaning that you can get exact distances and the ability to manage your way around the course without running into any unexpected hazards. Aside from the course itself, there is Singapore's largest driving range (a 4-tier 150 bay behemoth) attached to a golf academy that also boasts putting green, chipping area and a practice bunker which you should certainly use in advance of your round. The changing rooms aren't exactly spacious but do the job, and the Canopy Cafe serves a variety of light meals whilst offering great views over the course. One thing to note is that to ensure people get round as fast as possible, the club insists on seeing a handicap certificate before letting you play - you'll need an R&A or USGA approved certificate or have to undergo a short swing test, which costs extra. Overall, this is an excellent 18 holer which is certainly better than most public courses, and with green fees that lean towards the more affordable end of the spectrum it is a good option for those trying to avoid breaking the bank without crossing the border in search of an alternative to the private clubs in Singapore.
Like the sound of this course? Secure a tee time and take advantage of the discounted green fees on offer by adding Marina Bay Golf Course Course to your Singapore golf holiday package.