Despite being one of the world’s richest nations per capita, this country just lost its last public 18-hole golf course

Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ranking third on this 2018 USA Today list of highest nations per capita GDPs, a list led by oil-rich Qatar.

And with more than five million people and a wealthy standard of living, you’d expect golf to be among the nation’s pastimes, right?

Not so fast.

Fewer than a dozen private golf clubs remain, and as of July 1, Singapore is without an 18-hole public golf course as Marina Bay Golf Course has permanently closed.

According to a story from Bloomberg, even a COVID boost wasn’t enough to keep the facility open as land in the region continues to climb in value.

“Golf was never a factor to be in Singapore,” said Mohit Sagar, an expatriate from India who works for a content platform. Despite that, the golfer who has been playing in the city state for 16 years expressed regret at the closure of the Marina Bay site. “You can play golf in Singapore, but you won’t get this backdrop ever again.”

The Phil Jacobs-designed course won numerous awards, with a signature par-3 island hole and a rare, par-6 hole that challenged experts and duffers alike. It offered night golf, giving players relief from the year-round tropical heat. The government announced in 2014 that it would not be renewing the club’s lease when it expired in 2024.

Golfers flocked to the course during the pandemic, when much of the city-state was shut down. They could enjoy a round, followed by spicy Char Kway Teow noodles and espresso martinis while taking in the skyline from its elevated open-air restaurant. Golfers played up to 10,000 rounds a month at the peak, up from 7,800 pre-Covid. Demand was so great that players had to log on to the website at midnight to snag a tee-time when new slots became available.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but unsurprising because ever since I arrived, I’d known it would be closing,” said Tom Hawker, an expatriate who has lived in Singapore for over a decade. The 44-year-old business consultant was getting a last game of golf on Saturday at the course which he frequented once a week during the pandemic.

Marina Bay Golf Course in Singapore closed on June 30, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Marina Bay Golf Club)

Although an executive 9-hole course remains in the north part of the region, the options for playing golf have become extremely expensive. For example, Sentosa Golf Club has 36 holes, but membership starts at more than $350,000. The course was the host site for the 2024 LIV Golf Singapore event won by Brooks Koepka.

And for those coming in from outside the country, memberships can run closer to $1 million, according to Bloomberg.

While foreigners can join the private clubs, a limited supply of memberships will drive up prices, said Singolf owner Lee Lee Langdale.

“It’s well-known in Singapore that land, especially golf courses, will be taken by the government to build other facilities in demand,” said Langdale, who doesn’t think this will make Singapore any less attractive for foreigners. “Most expats don’t have much time to play golf anyway.”

Many of those who do want to continue playing are choosing to go overseas for a game, she said.

“The easy option is to go away,” said Hawker, the British expat, whose visits to Marina Bay Golf Course dwindled to once a month lately as he opted to play more rounds abroad. “I’m nowhere near justifying the cost of a private club.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek