Racecourse was the forerunner of the Singapore Island Country Club. When Justice John T Goldney, a golfing enthusiast 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 a very fair one 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 it was the racecourse grounds that were used for the golf site.
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 9 holes of the planned 18 hole-course was ready 2 years later. This gave members a choice to play at either the old (Racecourse) or the new (MacRitchie) course. However, the Golf Club did eventually make a permanent move from the Racecourse Road site to Bukit Timah’s MacRitchie site (31 Aug 1924).
By 1938, a second 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 2 golf courses was high and 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 Aug 1924.
As a result of its growing patronage, the Racecourse Golf Club, also known as the Turf Golf Club, was formed on 1st Oct 1924. Its first chairman was E S Manasseh, a wealthy Jew and donor of the Racecourse 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 the annals of Singapore 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 for a suitable and similar site as the Royal Singapore Golf Club’s.
Mr Laycock spent up to three years looking for a suitable site – eventually coming upon a large catchments area in the middle of Singapore (MacRitchie). The matter was referred to the club’s general meeting which granted its approval. 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 members of the Turf Club 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 Aug 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 which had no consideration for color 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.
At the end of the war years, the reconstruction of the two clubs began to take place with strong enthusiasm, and by April 1946 a 6-hole golf course was ready for play at the Island. By year-end, a 16-hole course was ready and club activities were to resume to 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 center. Singapore ‘s first air-conditioned automated bowling center was declared open on 16 Mar 1963 by then Finance Minister, Dr. Goh Keng Swee.
Prior to independence, in 1963, there was a need to cater for the changing needs of the population. A decision was made to merge the Royal Singapore Golf Club and the Island club.
When the realization of merger between the Royal and Island began to start 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.
Hence, 1 July 1963 marked the historical merger that led to the formation of the Singapore Island Country Club; this in effect ending a bastion of colonial elitism with 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 being at the Sime location, with the other located at the nearby Bukit location.
With merger finalized, the new SICC crest was recreated to incorporate elements of the Royal and the Island. Key elements of the Royal (the lion against a coconut palm) and the Island (white-bellied sea eagle over a lone coconut tree) were retained within the crest, joined by a belt to signify the merger.