A red-tailed hawk glides on thermals, its impressive wings silhouetted against the sun. Mount San Jacinto looms in the distance, snow crowning its highest point. The hawk slowly begins its descent into the valley. It lands, talons alighting on a rugged cliff overlooking sweeping terrain that lays bare the grandeur of this particular slice of California’s Colorado Desert.
This magnificent creature serves as the emblem for The Reserve, a premier private membership golf club spread over 780 acres in both Indian Wells and Palm Desert. And although developer/environmentalist Ted Lennon of Lowe Enterprises did not have that identical aerial perspective, he possessed an impassioned vision for this special parcel of land: an intimate community fully attuned to the desert’s natural landscape.
Lennon worked closely with The Reserve’s neighbors, The Living Desert preserve and University of California’s Philip L. Boyd Deep Canyon Research Center, to meet environmental standards that would assure their support. Development of the club began in October 1997 with grading of home sites and the golf course. In the process, construction teams salvaged 1,700 trees and shrubs, which were replanted on the property. The Reserve celebrated its grand opening Thanksgiving weekend of 1998 with 100 members. It has since received a number of accolades, including a 2001 Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence.
The Reserve stirs up a feeling of ultimate serenity in its harmonious coexistence with nature. Palo verde, brittlebush, desert willow, creosote, beavertail cactus, and other indigenous vegetation border more than 26 miles of walking and hiking trails. Lakes sparkle like diamonds in the sun, while streams meander in a whisper beneath stone bridges. Glorious mountain vistas greet nearly every view.
Beyond the external beauty, it’s the experience of "family" that truly defines this club. The Reserve’s intimate setting and size — 260 members and 242 residences — allows members and staff to interact on a regular basis, cultivating familiarity and friendship.
"There’s a sense of community and family here," says General Manager Craig Surdy. "Members really care about the employees, and employees genuinely care about our members, because they’re so highly respected and so very well treated. Our members are down-to-earth, good people."
"This is a very congenial community; everyone is friends here," says Board ChairmanTim Murray.
Another longtime Reserve member agrees: "The staff is fantastic; most of them have been here since the club’s inception. And the membership is great. People get along and like to socialize and play golf together."
The Reserve’s laid-back, retreat-like atmosphere offers an ideal climate in which to take advantage of the club’s ample five-star amenities, which include luxury spa treatments, concierge service, and private jet charter service.
For an initiation fee plus annual dues, Reserve members have access (with no tee times required) to a spectacular 18-hole, par-72 Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish championship golf course; three-hole practice area; driving range; and 18-hole putting course. The club hosts many annual tournaments, including the member/member; member/guest; ladies 9-holer; club championship; and twilight stay and play, with a barbecue following the game. For those who don’t golf, the community offers social memberships.
When members are not on the course, they frequent the club village. Set amid the first and ninth holes, the stunning Tuscan-style buildings encompass the clubhouse, well-stocked golf shop, wellness and fitness center, and The Lakehouse, a favorite among members for casual dining.
The clubhouse evokes rustic elegance with its high-ceilinged rotundas, oversized fireplaces, and well-appointed furnishings that incorporate massive wrought iron chandeliers, rich tapestries, oil paintings, and a cozy library redolent of an elegant Tuscan villa. "When members come to the clubhouse, they truly feel like it’s an extension of their homes," says Director of Membership and Marketing Kirstin Fossey.
Soffit lighting accentuates the pervading atmosphere of comfort. The women’s locker room features a sunny and spacious drawing room ideal for bridge, mahjong, and art classes, while the men’s locker room sports a full-service bar and shoe service.
The Old World ambiance also invites members and their guests to linger and converse in the bar and on covered stone patios. Executive Chef Hugh Duffy offers an inimitable dining experience, using organic ingredients he sources from local producers. Members can choose to dine in the formal Governor’s Room; casual Chuperosa Grille; or subterranean, candlelit wine cellar that is regularly booked for intimate dinner parties and anniversary celebrations. Duffy and his expert culinary team also cater many special events, including weddings, concerts, and holiday children’s activities on the lakeside event lawn adjacent to the clubhouse. Across the lake, The Lakehouse serves casual snacks, lunch, and dinners indoors and on a newly expanded terrace overlooking the valley floor.
The Reserve offers a singular outdoor entertaining experience at The Mountaintop, the site of many barbecues, fiestas, and even early-morning fitness classes. Situated on a cliff overlooking the village, giant boulders encircle this enchanting spot, which is equipped with a stone bar, buffet area, and seating.
Club-sponsored social activities run the gamut from theater nights and speakers’ dinners to painting and cooking demonstrations. Regular activities include a book club, dance lessons, Friday night mixers, and bridge lessons, to name a few.
Reserve residents are physically active and take full advantage of the 7,000-square-foot Wellness and Fitness Center. In addition to state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment, the facility boasts locker rooms equipped with steam and massage treatment rooms, as well as a dedicated space devoted to Thai massage. Those who enjoy fitness classes can select from a calendar that includes Zumba, yoga, mat Pilates, stretch and cardio, and Gyrokinesis (a fusion of yoga, dance, gymnastics, and tai chi). Other fitness opportunities include cardio tennis, tennis instruction and play on three tennis courts, and aquatic classes and swimming in an outdoor junior Olympic-sized pool. Wellness & Fitness Director Kelli Rose, a trained raw-food chef, plans to expand the nutrition component with lectures and classes. There’s also a separate children’s pool for the little ones, and members take their beloved canines to the dog park and Yappy Hours.
Bordered by rugged cliffs and canyons, The Reserve’s geographic location provides inherent privacy. Director of Security Bill Ebert, a former Secret Service agent, oversees a staff of 30, which includes roving patrols and personnel monitoring the latest in security systems technology.
The Reserve offers a variety of residential types. Bungalows range from 2,500 to 3,000 square feet and start in the low $1 millions; Casitas range from 3,200 to 4,000 square feet and begin in the mid-$1 millions. Desert Villas range from 4,400 to 5,500 square feet and start in the mid-$2 millions. Custom homes, from 5,000 to 14,000 square feet of living space, range from $3 million to $20 million. Lots for sale start at approximately $1 million.
Although most Reserve members are property owners, the club offers nonresident golf membership. Member applicants are introduced to the club and guided by two host members and Membership Director Kirstin Fossey. Prospective members are hosted for lunch, dinners, and weekly mixers. Upon acceptance, new members will already feel completely integrated into the club. The process is well worth it for those desiring a friendly, environmentally sensitive golf community in the most magical of settings.
"If you want a vibrant, active community where you will always get world-class, personal service," Fossey says, "then The Reserve is definitely the place for you."
Photography by Arthur Coleman.