The Cherished Clubs of Penang


Penang Club's swimming pool. The club is family oriented with a host of activities for everyone.

Be it for recreation or sports, the clubs in Penang are never short of activities.

In an age when young and old tend to be glued to their mobile devices, there exists an avenue for healthy socialising: sports and recreational clubs. These clubs serve as social nodes for members to escape the stress of school or work, allowing them to indulge in life’s simpler things. With the mix of activities and facilities on offer, it’s no wonder that many Penangites are members of the state’s many establishments.

Emphasis on Family

One big pull factor is how communitycentric most of these clubs are. Take the Penang Club, for example. Established in 1868, this club counts notable colonial luminaries like David Brown and E.W. Presgraves as past presidents.
The club’s speciality is its gastronomic delights.

Patrons have a choice of a classy dinner indoors at the restaurant or a relaxed meal outdoors on the patio. The club also holds events and functions regularly for members to cross paths and get to know one another. On weekends, after the sun has gone down, musicians entertain patrons at the Patio with live music.
With a pool, gym and squash courts counted in its repertoire of sports facilities, one is not hard pressed for activities to do at the club. On top of that, being a family-centric club, its library is stocked with thousands of books and DVDs at the disposal of members.

But what is unique about Penang Club is that it offers accommodation as well to its members, affiliated club members and guests. The club has eight rooms, having just added a new one to its inventory. The rooms are well kept and rates per night are affordable. Having many ideas for improvement but small building capacity, the only challenge Penang Club faces now is a lack of space.

Dedicated to Sports

Chinese Recreation Club.

When it comes to sports, the Chinese Recreation Club (CRC) goes back a long way. It was founded in 1892 by a group of Chinese sportsmen aching to play football during colonial times. They had been playing on the Esplanade field until it was occupied by two existing sports clubs. Determined to continue the game, they purchased a plot of land along Jalan Pangkor, now known as Victoria Green. Over a century has gone by, but the passion for football is still very much alive within the club.

It is this fervour that glues together CRC’s sporting community, even today. A handful of old timers have spent decades as club members. Initially, they joined the club to represent CRC as footballers. With excellent coaches and caring mentors, CRC groomed them to be the best they could possibly be. They decided to stay on as members and, over time, developed an unwavering allegiance to the club. In their silver years, many volunteer as coaches and mentors to the younger generation of athletes.

At CRC, children are encouraged to pick up a sport – all kinds of sporting programmes are held for them, such as tennis, basketball, table tennis, swimming, football and badminton lessons. Other group fitness programmes offered to adults include aerobics, line dancing, tai chi and yoga.

Premier Grounds

While their beginnings might differ, the CRC and Penang Sports Club share the same passion for games. Starting as the Penang Cricket Club in the 1850s at the Esplanade, where the first inter-state cricket tournament was held, Penang Sports Club was formally established on May 21, 1936 at its present location at Jalan Utama following a string of efforts to revamp the club in the past century, including renaming the club from Penang Cricket Club to Penang International Club to Penang Tennis Club, and finally Penang Sports Club.

Having hosted a slew of international events, the club lodges one of Penang’s best grounds for cricket, football, hockey and tennis. Its cricket oval is historically recognised as one of the region’s premier cricket ovals, having hosted two world tournaments. And for the past 17 years, the club has also been holding an annual international soccer 7s tournament.

Hockey being played at Penang Sports Club.

But the club’s prized jewel has got to be its nine grass tennis courts – now a rarity – which have been graced by many tennis stars. A prime example is world-famous Indian tennis pro Vijay Amitraj, who even acknowledged Penang Sports Club’s courts during his time in Wimbledon. In addition to the club’s various sporting facilities, there is also a library, gymnasium, darts area, karaoke lounge and hair dressing saloon. In short, there is something for everyone at the club.

Taking to Water
Back in the 1900s, Tanjung Bungah was just a fishing village. It was then that the Penang Swimming Club (PSC) was founded by a group of adventurous young Europeans who found the area to be the prime location for a swim. Later in 1930 an Olympic-sized pool was constructed, giving members the option of a safer and more modern pool to take a dip in. Initially, membership was only open to Europeans, but in the 1940s the club was open to the public.

The club’s seaside location makes it suitable for aquatic activities such as sailing and windsurfing. It is an ideal spot for holding regattas and international sailing competitions, and lessons in aquatic sports are offered to members. Apart from its water sports facilities, the club also contains several bars and multi-cuisine restaurants where patrons can grab a bite.

The Chinese Swimming Club, on the other hand, houses a variety of other aquatic activities, such as water polo and scuba diving. The club was conceptualised in 1928 with the noble pursuit of bringing these activities to the local community.

PSC's boat berthing area is allocated for members’ boats.

These days, the Chinese Swimming Club aims to be a wholesome premier club excelling in all aquatic sports. It has turned countless members into savvy swimmers; recognising the importance of knowing how to swim, the club holds swimming classes for members of all ages. There is also a variety of exciting events throughout the year, including a beach carnival, a George Town heritage trail treasure hunt and a durian feast.

Be it a walk by the beach to enjoy the tranquil sunset followed by a sumptuous dinner or an afternoon of challenging water sports, the unique seaside clubs in Penang offer members an escape from the chaos of city living.


Nanda Lakhwani is studying Media and International Relations at the University of New South Wales.

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