Creating An Extraordinary Vision
Celebrating 20 Seasons Review Our Timeline
When R.D. Hubbard and his wife, Joan Dale, began vacationing in the desert in the early 1970s, they may not have imagined what a transformative effect they would have on the Coachella Valley. Drawn by the ideal climate, proximity to the mountains, and tremendous golfing opportunities, Hubbard believed that he had discovered one of the world’s best-kept secrets in BIGHORN. (Indeed, he had!) Without hesitation, he purchased two homesites and built his own residence. Since that time, under his direction, BIGHORN has become one of the most beautiful and prestigious golf and residential communities in the world. And while the BIGHORN narrative to date is one of great success, according to its visionary founder, the story has just begun. Hubbard confirms that the Club lies at the cusp of its most thrilling days – and the best is yet to come.
Though BIGHORN was originally started by Westinghouse Corporation, it was Hubbard and a group of Member investors in 1996 who purchased the land and development rights that led to fulfilling their ultimate vision of creating a Club of unmatched setting, amenities, and services where Members develop lifelong relationships.
“Westinghouse couldn’t sell lots; we had no trouble with R.D. running BIGHORN’s sales,” explains investor Jim Gagan. “He picked up the phone and people came from all over the world. They came to buy a house, a lot, and a membership because they believed in what R.D. was selling, which was a unique way of life, our own culture. I think the biggest risk-taker here was Hubbard who put his reputation on the line along with his money and his heart. The results are obvious. We’ve got the only club in the world like it.”
“Our goal was to create the best golf club and residential community anywhere,” explains Hubbard. “From the beginning, I was committed to creating a community that was responsive to its Members’ and Homeowners’ desires and doing so in a way that always delivered even more than expected. Consistent with that commitment, I was not willing to compromise the quality of the environment or the high level of personal service. To create BIGHORN, I enlisted excellent people who grasped the vision and who worked tirelessly and creatively because they realized that a chance to develop a community like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
After Hubbard’s purchase of the Mountains course from Westinghouse, Safeco Insurance, who owned a 90-acre parcel across Highway 74, approached Hubbard about expanding the Club. “R.D. made the deal,” shares Gagan. “We partnered with Safeco and brought in Tom Fazio to design the Canyons course, promising him an unlimited budget, which he immediately exceeded in the first two holes. Nine months after groundbreaking, Safeco decided to get out of the development business altogether and they wanted to cease the project, but BIGHORN was selling lots already.”
PGA Champions Tour Winner and Investor Jim Colbert continues the story. “Hubbard convinced Safeco to let BIGHORN buy them out. Hubbard said, ‘They’re going to sell it for $25 million. The golf course is slated for $40 million and the infrastructure is $65 million. We cannot take that risk – it’s crazy. We’re out of the woods over here on the Mountains.’ I asked him, ‘If we buy the ground, build the golf course, and never build a road or sewer, is the ground around it worth $65 million?’ He said he would get back to me. Next thing I knew we owned the place.”
The Canyons course opened December 1998 and within the first three months BIGHORN had sold 40 lots and Golf Digest had already recognized the Canyons with a distinction as one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the nation. By summer, a deal was struck for the Battle at BIGHORN to be hosted with newcomer Tiger Woods, who had only won two majors by 2000, but by 2002 had won eight. The shootout under the lights brought notoriety to BIGHORN as well as to the top players in the world including Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Annika Sorenstam, David Duval, Karrie Webb, and Sergio Garcia. LPGA great Annika Sorenstam shares, “The Battle at BIGHORN was extremely fun! At the time, I was number one and we had Karrie Webb who was number two, and then you had Tiger Woods and David Duval, so you had the top players in the world from both tours. It was a bit of a showdown, and we played the last few holes under the lights, which I had never done before. I’ve always enjoyed playing with the guys, and to partner with Tiger on this occasion was very, very special. I have some fond memories from that time; certainly making the putt on the last hole was pretty cool.”
“Mr. Colbert invited me over to BIGHORN before the first Battle and I was blown away by the quality, the amenities, and the golf course,” continues Sorenstam. “I knew it was something special from the very beginning. After that, I signed on the dotted line and was a new neighbor!”
After opening to great success, the results poured in, including the sales! Homeowner Duane Hagadone shares his theory on this triumph and what it meant to him personally. “I give R.D. a huge amount of credit for developing the Canyons in the manner that he did. Most developers get very selfish and squeeze in every lot that they can. We looked all over the world for the perfect place to build our dream home, and it was R.D. who made our lot happen – down to the right size, shape, and level of privacy.”
Today, the future of BIGHORN is secure. Residence and Membership continues to grow, and the Club has sustained a high level of real estate sales, equaling over $2.4 billion. BIGHORN’s location, within minutes of El Paseo and the McCallum Theatre and abutting the foothills adjoining National Monument land with views of the valley, provides a site and a setting that can never be duplicated and will continue to be desirable. Additionally, the constant creation of new facilities and the renewal of existing ones has not only maintained the Club’s relevance, but has also surpassed the expectations of current and prospective residents.
“The financial aspect of this club is so solid and that comes right from the top,” Colbert affirms. “Mr. Hubbard manages this Club so well financially that it never has had any trouble. Everything has continued to grow – even through some pretty tough times – without any financial strain being passed along to the Membership.”
Over the years, BIGHORN has added the Spa & Wellness Center (one of the first premium club spas in the country), the Canyons Steak House, The Marketplace (a boutique market with a Starbucks coffee bar and wireless Internet cafe), The Pour House and Golf House restaurants, a Golf Learning Center, bocce ball courts, dog parks, and a children’s park, as well as refurbishing all of the facilities. Three years ago, for example, BIGHORN added a $1 million well to meet the long-term irrigation needs of the golf courses and community landscaping. This one significant move has made BIGHORN one of the most water-efficient golf course communities in the world. And of course, the Club’s two world-renowned golf courses are continually maintained in perfect, championship condition.
“Golf is certainly a big part of what makes BIGHORN special,” touts Sorenstam. “But it’s all the other amenities where BIGHORN really has an edge. They have so many fun activities and that is why the Membership is always growing.”
Investor and long-time Member Robert Masterson says, “I have to give a lot of credit to R.D. Hubbard. He’s always listening to the Members – to their needs and wants – and every year he’s trying to add additional amenities. He’s not letting other clubs catch up to him. He’s always pushing our Club further and further into the future and trying to create something better.”
“The best run clubs are by dictators, but you’ve gotta have a damn good dictator,” shares Hagadone. “In my mind, we have the best dictator in R.D. Hubbard. He does a great job. He runs this place, he cares, he puts money back into it, and we could not be happier. I’d put BIGHORN up against any club in the world!”
“When you talk about leadership, it starts from the top down, beginning with how people are treated and how they’ve handled service,” prides Member Jay Westman. “At BIGHORN, everybody knows your name. I don’t know how they do it but they do! There isn’t anybody here who doesn’t have a smile on their face, doesn’t know your name, and doesn’t do everything to please you. It’s amazing! And in terms of value in life, this Membership has probably given us the most joy of any single thing that we’ve done, I’d say, in life to date.”
Today BIGHORN is a mature, stable, yet innovative community that offers a variety of living choices, including remarkable new custom homes, resale homes, villa residences, and homesites. In a larger context, the Coachella Valley offers not only a breath¬taking natural environment and lifestyle, but also a thriving and cooperative business community, which distinguishes BIGHORN and the Coachella Valley among other luxury resort areas. Throughout both challenging and prosperous economic times, the Coachella Valley continues to grow.
“But I think what makes BIGHORN so special is the people themselves,” adds Masterson. “It’s such a family. Not only is it a family of people enjoying themselves and the events, but they’re also such a caring group. They raise so much money for all the local charities throughout the valley. And they love the employees; they are part of the family.”
Members of BIGHORN routinely demonstrate a passion for generating enthusiasm and resources that benefit all of the desert’s residents. Individual and corporate support of charitable and educational organizations in the Valley is virtually unmatched. BIGHORN Members individually, as a group, and through BIGHORN BAM, have contributed $43 million to Eisenhower Medical Center, which has led to the BIGHORN Radiation Oncology Center. Donations have been used for necessary diagnosis and treatment equipment, transportation services, and bare essentials through Eisenhower Medical Center and The Pendleton Foundation.
BIGHORN Golf Club Charities has gifted 419 scholarships and established BIGHORN Cares donating nearly $400,000 annually to 38 non-profit organizations that serve the most underserved citizens of the Coachella Valley.
These efforts, in addition to the spectacular natural, architectural, social, and recreational lifestyle provided by the Club are BIGHORN’s past, present, and future legacy. BIGHORN’s global stature and recognition provide a sense of pride to the Valley’s residents and an example of responsible, successful development. From its inception, BIGHORN’s team of Members and developers, helmed by R.D. Hubbard, have strived to preserve the desert environment and to demonstrate how it can be cultivated to create a beautiful community, emulating what is so magnificent about this pristine setting.
“You know, it’s been 20 years since the investors took over this Club,” shares Masterson. “But if you look back from where we started with just one golf course and you look at this place today, you look at the size, the 500 homes, the Canyons Steak House, the Golf House, the Spa, and you keep seeing more and more events. And you say, ‘Wow! What a wonderful thing we’ve created and we’re not done!’”