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The Pines members unswayed by offer for Laguna club membership

Members intend to continue with court case; more have joined representative action, with the number now at 162

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Above: The Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore, a new hotel within Laguna National Golf Resort Club, where members of The Pines will get preferential rates for rooms and at the spa.

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The Pines members will also enjoy special rates when they play at the 18-hole Masters championship golf course. This is the lounge for golfers.

Singapore

THE management of The Pines has informed members that the club is ready to resume operations in two months in the upgraded premises of the Laguna National Golf Resort Club - but unhappy club members have panned this offer as "not genuine", "not relevant" and "too little, too late".

Lim Seng Hoo, who is leading 162 disgruntled members in a representative action against the club, said that the clubhouse referred to by the management was in fact built for Laguna National's members from the start.

Moreover, its location in Tanah Merah does not meet the needs of members who had joined The Pines precisely for its formerly accessible location along Stevens Road.

Exklusiv Resorts owns The Pines, and is in turn wholly owned by Laguna Golf Resort Holding. Both are companies owned by motoring tycoon Peter Kwee.

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The Pines' management had recently sent a brochure titled "The Beginning of a New Beginning" to members, with the message: "While we had hoped to welcome you back in the second half of 2018, the upgrading works for the clubhouse and the development works for the hotel took longer than expected, owing to construction restrictions due to concurrent MRT development works in the area and the Covid-19 outbreak."

The brochure said members of The Pines would be given discounts on room rates and spa treatments at the new five-star hotel, Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore, within Laguna National's grounds. They will also enjoy special rates at Laguna's 18-hole Masters championship golf course.

Members were also told that their membership, set to expire in 2032, will be extended to 2040.

The Pines management also announced that it had secured a lease at The Pines' old location in Stevens Road, and planned to turn it into a satellite clubhouse for members to use for business or entertainment. More details on this will come soon.

The management added that if members decide to transfer or sell their membership within two years of the resumption of The Pines' operations, the usual transfer fees (S$3,600 and S$4,000 for the individual and corporate categories, respectively) and administration fees will be waived as a "gesture of goodwill".

But Mr Lim, speaking to The Business Times after receiving the brochure, said that the decision of a location change was taken without consulting members, and comes "too little, too late", after opportunities to make the offer had lapsed, for instance when members issued a letter of demand against the club's management in 2018, and during mediation.

"We were hoping for a dialogue," he said, adding that the offer as it is remains a "breach of contract".

Some members already hold Laguna memberships, so this offer does not benefit them, he added. "For the rest of us, it is just too far away - or we don't play golf."

He also said the brochure lacked key information on the satellite clubhouse, and other terms and conditions.

The group of members thus intends to continue the case in court. About 20 more club members have joined the plaintiffs in the representative suit since last week, bringing to 162 the number seeking damages from Mr Kwee and Exklusiv Resorts for the loss of the use of club facilities and loss of their club membership, among other things.

Hearing dates have been set from Nov 24 to 26, and Nov 30 to Dec 4, before Justice Chua Lee Ming.

The spat between the two sides erupted in 2013. Members had understood then that the club was closed for renovations, and that new facilities would be built on the Stevens Road site. But in March 2013, Exklusiv Resorts sold the entire land parcel, with a 103-year lease, to property developer Oxley. Two hotels, Novotel Singapore and The Mercure Singapore, opened on the plot in late 2017.

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