Bighorn Golf Club
Within seconds of arriving at BIGHORN Golf Club, I know I’ve entered a world entirely its own. Wispy mesquite trees sway in the warm breeze. Saguaros stand tall, regal, and proud. Emerald green fairways blanket the foothills. Mountains soar just a few hundred yards away. And though the streets aren’t quite paved with gold, they are made of individual brick pavers — not a single speck of asphalt or blacktop in sight.
By the time I arrive at the porte cochére of the clubhouse, where a sweeping, curved roofline rises up to kiss an endless, sun-drenched sky, and step through the gleaming glass double doors, I can’t help but let out a sigh of disbelief: I’m not in Palm Desert anymore.
And that’s what makes BIGHORN the best.
It’s transportive. It’s a place of pure beauty and endless possibility. It’s everything R.D. Hubbard envisioned when he and 20 fellow members purchased the club back in 1996.
The late entrepreneur and philanthropist, who with his wife, Joan Dale, owned a home in BIGHORN at the time, saw nothing but potential in the then-single-course club nestled in the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains. From BIGHORN’s acquisition R. D. Hubbard served as its chairman and managing director until his passing in 2020. For 25 years, the Hubbards, together, helped forge a unique approach to private golf club living, creating a lifestyle, culture, and community that is both timeless and ahead of its time — the new 80,000-square-foot clubhouse, where I find myself standing in complete awe, being a perfect case in point.
From the building’s overall curvature and complex form to its dynamic interior design, every detail displays an unparalleled level of artistry and craftsmanship: Peruvian limestone floors, Portuguese travertine walls, hand-blown glass sculptures, splashes of color and metallics
“There really is a unique feel to it,” BIGHORN President Carl Cardinalli tells me.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK DAVIDSON
And while a simple renovation would have sufficed for most clubs, he explains, BIGHORN razed theirs to the ground — something no club in the Coachella Valley has done before — and erected an extraordinary $70 million masterpiece in its place. But even “extraordinary” doesn’t quite seem adequate enough to describe this modern edifice, let alone all that it comprises. Like the glass-walled, oval-shaped Golf Shop, which features designer apparel, accessories, equipment, and The Jewel Box by Leeds & Son Fine Jewelers, alongside breathtaking mountain views. Or The Pour House, where hip vibes, cocktails, and casual bites flow all day and night long.
Futuristic finishes, such as iPad menus, touchscreen kiosks, and keyless, electronically coded lockers in the men’s and ladies’ locker rooms, only add to the otherworldly atmosphere. And four luxurious penthouse residences created by renowned designer Guy Dreier offer an exclusive homeownership opportunity for those in search of the ultimate concierge lifestyle.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHANNING BENJAMIN PHOTOGRAPHY
It’s a lot to take in — and that’s only the beginning.
“Unlike most clubs, who operate out of one large clubhouse, we’ve separated our individual components into six intimate amenity buildings scattered throughout the campus,” says Membership Director Mike Grenier as we set out to explore the rest of the 1,200-acre property. Each building, he explains, has a special purpose and showcases BIGHORN’s forward-thinking.
The 14,000-square-foot Spa & Wellness Center, for instance, evokes a resort-spa feel you won’t find in most private golf communities, from the luxurious private treatment rooms to the fully staffed hair and nail salon. Here, members can focus on health, beauty, and well-being, whether it’s planning a girls’ spa day, attending a yoga class, meeting with a personal trainer, hitting the cardio machines, or swimming laps in the adjacent outdoor pool.
The Bighorn Campus
A few steps away, newly added pickleball courts have become a popular gathering spot for families who enjoy the fast-growing game, and clay-surface hydro courts made of crushed granite provide prime playing conditions for tennis fans, even in the midst of summer. There’s nothing they haven’t thought of — even courtside telephones for on-call food and beverage service.
“And that’s what BIGHORN has always done,” Grenier says. “Adapting and adjusting. If there’s a trend out there, then we certainly want to bring it to the club if it makes sense.”
Most of the time, though, they’re setting the trends themselves.
What was once a turn building for the Mountains Course now serves as a one-stop Marketplace filled with all your household essentials, such as milk, eggs, and bread, as well as assorted light snacks, a wine and liquor display, hot soup and chili stations, yogurt station, fresh-cut flowers and greeting cards, and its very own Starbucks coffee bar.
Then, there’s The Vault, a one-of-a-kind amenity where Members can store their favorite luxury cars inside a 58-space, climate-controlled gallery (which, I’m told, houses a car from every decade since the 1930s).
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK DAVIDSON
The Pour House combines casual dining and five-star cuisine in an enchanting multisensory environment.
The Vault and its on-site, integral Redline Lounge sports bar is entirely bespoke and “on theme,” from the entryway light fixture replicating a McLaren grill to the cocktail table fashioned from a Ferrari tachometer.
BIGHORN also boasts seven separate dining venues on the property, including the 8,000-square-foot standalone Canyons Steak House (yet another example of the Hubbards’ innovative way of thinking). Perched along the edge of a hillside, the five-star restaurant features two private dining rooms, a cozy bar and lounge area perfect for cocktail conversation, and an outdoor patio, with fireplaces and panoramic down-valley views.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK DAVIDSON
Members who dine al fresco on The Pour House patio enjoy a stunning glimpse of the Mountain Course’s 18th hole adjacent to The Pour House.
Private wine lockers are available for Members who want to pair their own favorite pours with whatever exquisite meal Chef de Cuisine Nick Stendebach has planned for them that evening.
“The way I look at it, this isn’t my club, this is their club,” Stendebach says. “We don’t offer memberships, we offer a unique lifestyle. So whatever they want, we’re going to give them.” Even if that means he has to whip up a special vegan dish for a member.
Of course, golf has always been a main draw for Members, and two championship courses — The Mountains and The Canyons — offer PGA Tour tournament conditions for all but two weeks out of the year during overseeding. Also unique to BIGHORN, there are two complete practice ranges and multiple putting greens and chipping areas and, of course, a state-of-the-art teaching facility. Occasionally while on tour, Grenier pulls the golf cart over so we can stop and admire the postcard-worthy views of lakes, streams, and waterfalls, peppered with palm trees, rock outcroppings, and brilliant bougainvillea and wildflower blooms.
Lush flowers and sweeping canyon views surround the 5th hole of the Canyons Course. R.D. Hubbard rides his horse on the first day of “The Last Great Cattle Drive of the New Millennium”, from Roswell to Lincoln, New Mexico — more than 70 miles.
But the beauty of BIGHORN, I begin to understand, lies not only in the incredible amenities and jaw-dropping scenery but also in all the things you don’t see, such as the laughter and camaraderie shared among members during countless activities and events occurring throughout the year. Or the compassion shown by all who generously give their time and energy to support BIGHORN’s three charitable programs — BIGHORN Cares, BIGHORN BAM, and BIGHORN Scholarships — which have raised tens of millions of dollars to date. Or the dedication of the men and women who work behind the scenes to create this seamless world in which all 500-plus members can escape, unwind, and relax or work from home, then escape, unwind and relax.
It’s that perfect combination of social, recreational and philanthropical spirit.
“And we couldn’t have done any of this without the way we were governed,” Cardinalli says. Whereas most clubs are run by a committee, BIGHORN bestows all voting rights upon a singular figure (formerly Mr. Hubbard) who makes decisions based on what is best for the club, rather than self-interest. And with the Hubbards’ nephew, John Beury, stepping in to fill the role of what Cardinalli likes to call a “benevolent dictator,” BIGHORN can continue to lead the way for private club communities for decades to come. As the new chairman Beury put it, “This won’t change. My goal always will be that BIGHORN will continue to set the bar high and exceed expectations. We will always be setting the standard.”
“All of us were selected by Mr. Hubbard to be in the positions we are in,” shares BIGHORN’s General Manager Tony Ogrodnick. Approximately 60 employees alone have been with the club for more than 20 years, a testament to both leadership and the membership.
the bighorn community
“It really does feel like a family,” says Executive Assistant & Office Manager Carol Tufaro, who recently celebrated her 28th anniversary with the club. Clubhouse Manager Juan Blanchard agrees. Though he’s only worked at BIGHORN for three years, he understands the importance of carrying on the Hubbards’ legacy, even helping to launch BIGHORN’s very own — and first of its kind — online Member Wine Shop. “Our whole mission is to give the members the best experience possible,” he says.
R.D. Hubbard attends a ribbon-cutting ceremony in celebration of the new BIGHORN Clubhouse.
The Vault offers BIGHORN members museum-quality luxury car storage.
As we wrap up the tour, I think back to my first impression of the clubhouse, which many at BIGHORN refer to as the “heart” of the valley and the pinnacle of Mr. Hubbard’s vision. Sure, the amenities are exceptional, the service is first-class, and the building itself is a sparkling work of art. But I’m equally impressed by the people. By the chef who remembers that one time you mentioned liking sea urchin and goes out of his way to prepare it for you, even though it’s not on the menu. By the groundskeeper who greets you by name as he passes by in his cart. Even by the front gate privacy officer, who smiles and waves as if you were old friends.
I’d go so far as to argue that it’s the staff and management in particular who are Mr. Hubbard’s greatest contribution. They are, in every sense of the word, the “house” that Hubbard built. It’s their passion and talent that make BIGHORN Golf Club the best in luxury living — then, now and always
The Canyons Steakhouse features a warm and refined nighttime ambiance.