General Manager and Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club, Andy Johnston, on why he thinks Singapore is one of the best golf destinations in the world
I moved over to Singapore 10 years ago from Jupiter, Florida to assist Sentosa with some agronomy inputs and at the same time further my career in golf course design, construction and agronomy consultation management, and to be honest I’ve never looked back. I love everything about Singapore, from the food and the people, to the diversity of business and leisure on offer. It’s such a multi-cultural and vibrant city and to me the location is the centre of Asia’s financial district. In some ways it feels like Asia’s version of New York city.
Plus, I have a very special connection with the island resort in Singapore, called Sentosa. This is where I am proud to have spent the last 10 years, working at a place I love, Sentosa Golf Club, one of Asia’s pre-eminent golfing destinations.
Sentosa Golf Club is one of the most established golf clubs in Singapore, home to two award-winning championship ready courses, The Serapong and The New Tanjong, which are amongst the most challenging golf courses in the region. The Serapong plays host to the SMBC Singapore Open, whilst the HSBC Women’s World Championship has been played on The New Tanjong for three years now, having been on the Serapong previously. Both tournaments attract world class fields and are beamed to TV screens across the world. The effort that goes into hosting these tournaments is no small feat – our entire team works tirelessly in the build-up and their achievements in getting the courses ‘tournament ready’ are always something I’m very proud of. We just get better and better every year.
This was my aim when I was initially involved at Sentosa in a design capacity, to get better each year and progress, tasked with re-modelling the heralded Serapong Course in 2006, and then in 2016 when I managed the club’s second major re-design project on the Tanjong Course. Both projects required innovative thinking, vision and leadership to ensure Sentosa Golf Club maintained its reputation as home to the finest conditioned golf courses in the region, a club that stands shoulder to shoulder with the finest around the globe. And I think we’ve achieved that.
What I like about our achievements is that only Sentosa Golf Club has the potential to deliver world-leading golf tournaments, iconic leisure attractions and unparalleled business opportunities, in such a beautiful and one-of-a-kind location. It’s an extraordinary proposition really; to have two championship golf courses in such a setting, which you can access by cable car, monorail or road, where on the doorstep you have South East Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park, golden sandy beaches, rainforests and luxury hotels with fantastic food and hospitality. It’s what attracts millions of visitors to Sentosa and Singapore every year.
I firmly believe the golf club and island seamlessly integrate with Singapore life, depicted by the distinctive city skyline and mega port. It’s partly this recognisable backdrop and magnificent location that first attracted me to Sentosa Golf Club, and one that our members and guests also get to enjoy regularly.
Back on the course, in Serapong and New Tanjong we have two very distinctive golf courses both presenting very different characteristics and challenges. The Par 72 Serapong provides trademark contours, extended stone-lined lakes, vast bunker complexes and fast, challenging greens. All in front of a breathtaking Singapore harbour backdrop.
At last year’s SMBC Singapore Open on the Serapong we launched #KeepItGreen, a campaign designed to increase awareness of the game amongst youngsters in the local community, as well as drawing attention to sustainable practices within golf.
This was a natural progression for us, given environmental protection was integral to the renovation of the Tanjong. Through the installation of six interconnected lakes across the new course, the club has become completely self-sufficient when it comes to irrigation. Other impactful measures we’ve introduced include tree-saving initiatives, the banning of plastic water bottles on golf carts, with further plans to introduce bee colonisation and electric car charging stations.
The New Tanjong is also a Par 72 and another iconic experience for golfers, set against the Singapore Straits with panoramic views of metropolitan Singapore. We also have large bunkers on the New Tanjong, rarely seen in Asia, offering golfers the chance of playing on a course inspired by the style of renowned golf course architect Alister MacKenzie.
What I like about Sentosa Golf Club is that no year is the same. If I look at the last 18 months, it has been a very significant time for the club, and everyone involved. As well as launching Keep It Green, in just over 12 months we hosted six globally televised golf tournaments, a landmark achievement for Sentosa Golf Club and something no other club in the world has ever done before.
Amongst the huge amount of work and effort that goes in to putting on these tournaments by our team, I am also very proud of their meticulous attention to the overall conditioning of the golf courses we present here, and overall quality of experience and hospitality our members and guests receive all year round. We welcome thousands of visitors every year who, like our members, get to experience a championship ready golf course, 365 days of the year.
The great events we host, viewed by millions in over 120 countries, have not only shone the spotlight of world golf on Singapore and Sentosa, but also on our two fantastic golf courses. And every day when I arrive to work at the club, it’s something I’m very honoured to be part of.