Creating an Extraordinary Vision: Celebrating Season 20

Scott Avra, Mark Davidson, Getty Images & Pat Lassy

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 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 breathtaking 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!’”

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