Often referred to as "The Playground of the Presidents" and "the Heart of the Palm Springs Valley", the city of Rancho Mirage was incorporated in 1973; however, its first modern settlements date began in the 1920's. After World War II, the popularity of the "Cove Communities" surged with the opening of the Thunderbird Guest Ranch, the city's first resort that welcomed Hollywood entertainers and business clientele, which would later become the Thunderbird Country Club. Rancho Mirage was already a destination for the wealthy and the popular who frequently visited the Annenberg Estate, now affectionately called Sunnylands, the home of philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg who hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Fred Astaire and Mary Martin. Sunnylands, designed by architect A. Quincy Jones, would also welcome several sitting and past Presidents of the United States, including Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and in recent years Barack Obama. Gerald Ford and his beloved wife Betty would call Rancho Mirage and the Coachella Valley home, where Betty's work in alcohol and drug dependency would eventually establish the Betty Ford Center, world-renown for its treatment and list of high profile patients.
As the Cove communities grew in popularity and notoriety, more country clubs and golf resorts would continue to open with the Mirage Cove merging with the Magnesia, Rancho, Tamarisk and Thunderbird communities to form the city of Rancho Mirage. Now host to thirteen golf courses, the city of Rancho Mirage continues to see growth with new retail and entertainment developments like The River opening along the Highway 111 corridor as well as the opening of the Agua Caliente Resort and Spa, a gaming destination created by the local Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and light industry and commerce complexes located off the I-10 freeway.
Established in 1952, Tamarisk Country Club was only the second 18-hole private club in the Coachella Valley. Known as an oasis for well-known movie stars, producers, studio executives, and entrepreneurs to escape, founding members (also known as the Golden 65) included Hollywood A-listers in the 1950's including Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, George Burns, and four of the five Marx Brothers; Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, and Gummo.
Similar to Thunderbird's growth, the Tamarisk area in Rancho Mirage includes a non-associated area around the Tamarisk Country Club proper. There are numerous examples of noted Mid-Century architects in this area including E. Stewart Williams and Hugh Kaptur. Along the 3rd and 10th fairway are homes designed by William Cody, William Krisel and Powelson. On the edge of the 3rd fairway is a 16-home enclave known is Tamarisk Ranchos and Valley of the Sun, both originally designed by William Krisel. Many homeowners are attracted to the Tamarisk area due to its rich history, architectural significance and the fact that there is no Homeowners Association (HOA) dues. Membership to the Country Club and Golf Course are optional and social memberships can be enjoyed by other homeowners throughout Rancho Mirage and other Desert Resort Cities.
Founded in 1951, Thunderbird was the original country club in the Coachella Valley. Golf course architect, Lawrence Hughes, worked with Johnny Dawson over the summer of 1950 to build the par-72, all grass, 18-hole golf course, with fabulous views and expansive greens. Three thousand trees were brought in to build Thunderbird Country Club. Underground power and telephone wires were installed to keep views unobstructed while William F. Cody transformed the buildings and clubhouse. Original members included star couple Phil Harris and Alice Faye with golf loving celebrities like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope quickly snatching up lots along the golf course. Crosby would later sell his golf course lot and buy the first home in the area "up on the hill" above the golf course in the area now known as Thunderbird Heights. Additional stars started pouring into Thunderbird including charter members Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, baseball star Ralph Kiner, tennis great Nancy Chafee as well as Hoagy Carmichael.
With its colorful history, Thunderbird is one of Rancho Mirage's most iconic and established golf communities. At its height, Thunderbird transformed from the humble birthplace of golf carts in the 50s to the luxurious playground of the country's most powerful and influential figures. Over the years, Thunderbird has expanded into multiple communities including Thunderbird Cove, Heights and the original Country Club area.
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