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Spending billions to convert Royal Selangor Golf Club into a mere public park?

Spending billions to convert Royal Selangor Golf Club into a mere public park? Picture by Vincent Wong of Trover.

The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry has announced its intention to turn The Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) in Jalan Tun Razak into a recreational public park.

Its minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the move took into account public views that the ministry received via various media. According to him, he had received suggestions from the public that the existence of a golf course in downtown Kuala Lumpur was no longer feasible.

“The public hopes that the golf course will be replaced, be taken out of Kuala Lumpur and a public park takes its place, like New York’s famed Central Park.

“I have no personal views on the matter. However, the suggestion was received by the ministry to ensure that a green area is made available,” he said.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan added the suggestion was proposed as the public wanted a park within the proximity of urban and commercial areas.

“We have Taman Tasik Perdana and Titiwangsa but not within walking distance from the city centre," he said.

He added that in most developed countries there were no more golf courses in city centres, and as such the site was more suitable for a recreational park.

"We understand city dwellers need a recreational park close to their homes, work places and shopping centres,” said Abdul Rahman.

"However, it requires further discussions with the relevant parties including its owners,” said Abdul Rahman.

To realize this “dream”, the minister said discussions were in order between various interested parties namely, the landowner, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. The final decision hinges on the agreement of all parties concerned.

“We have to ensure the parties with interests will agree. We have to check with His Majesty, the Tuanku Sultan of Selangor.”

“We understand the nostalgia and history of the club," he told reporters after opening the 2015 World Habitat Day recently.

“We want to discuss the issue with an open heart, listen to the opinions of all the parties as well and see its merits. I expect many will object. Club members are high-profile individuals but there is no harm in discussing the matter.”

The 300-acre RSGC counts Malaysian royalties, government officials and foreign diplomats among club members. The club at present has over 5,000 members and of that, about 2,000 are ordinary members who actually own the golf course.

The golf course is estimated to worth more than RM52 billion if the closest, most recent land transaction of over RM4,000 psf was to be benchmarked upon. Typically, the land of such size would be priced lower psf-wise but it will still definitely cost multi billions in compensation to club members.

This cost has not include the costs for land conversion, planning, landscaping, upgrading and revampment works, which are all to be paid by the government.

The minister said city folk could rest and take part in recreational activities after work while waiting for the traffic to ease to return home. A cultural centre, a recreational centre and facilities for family activities will be planned at the park.

He also said the National Landscaping Department would meet the owner of the club soon to discuss the matter.

Tan Sri Elyas Omar, Kuala Lumpur’s third mayor, said he kept an open mind over the idea.

“RSGC is an old golf club that has been given royal status. So, it’s tricky to change it to a park as the club has been part of the city’s history,” he said.

“But I am open to the idea as long as the club is relocated.”

He suggested any conversion plans should emulate the Perdana Botanical Lake Gardens, which had a private clubhouse.

“You don’t need to demolish the buildings. Let them stand as part of our heritage. The 18-hole (golf course) can be retained while the rest can be open to public.”

He added that members would benefit if the 18-hole course was retained, with another new 36-hole course for the club located elsewhere.

“Playing 54-holes at more than one location can truly be beneficial to the members,” said Elyas who had been a member of the club since 1978.

Another former mayor, Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, a nature lover, called it a good move.

“Kuala Lumpur will then be comparable to larger cities like New York (Central Park) and London (Hyde Park),” he said.

“If the government can relocate the club, the people will be thankful as they have a new park in town.”

He said a public park in central Kuala Lumpur would benefit more people.

“The park in (Bukit) Kiara is actively used by people, mostly from Taman Tun Dr Ismail or Petaling Jaya. If RSGC is turned into an open space, it will cater to those from Ampang, Cheras and Kuala Lumpur as it is more accessible.”

He said the biggest challenge would be the sorting out of the land ownership.

“The authorities will need to find a way to compensate the members and relocate the club. They will also need to look into the legalities, especially over land ownership matters.

“The need of one million people in KL is more important than that of a few thousand club members,” he added.

However, historian Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim said the government should not disrupt the operations of the club.

“The government should focus on making existing open spaces and fields more active instead of introducing another public park,” he said.

“It’s not as though we don’t have enough spaces. If the idea is for Malaysians to mix around, then we should be focusing on sporting activities instead.”

The RSGC was set up in 1893 by the British and is among the oldest golf clubs in Asia. This golf course is essentially the birthplace of Malaysian golf. Located within the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur, this parkland course offers a panoramic view of the city skyline from almost every hole.

It has two 18 hole courses, and one 9 hole course constructed many years apart with each course maintaining a unique identity. The Old Course was home to the inaugural Malaysian Open in 1962.

In 2006, the club had a multi-million ringgit renovation and upgrading.

The largest nightclub in Southeast Asia, the Zouk Kuala Lumpur, recently opened at TREC Entertainment Hub located at the fringe of the RSGC on Jalan Tun Razak. A purpose-built, upcoming financial district known as Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) is located opposite the golf grounds.

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