Wildhorse Golf Club trots into the future, bringing along the past and present.
avigating traffic along Warm Springs Road, you might catch a glimpse of
a thick tree-line drive. If you turned onto the drive, it would take you to Wildhorse Golf Club, a place of serenity where social-distanced fun, joys of nature, and history come to life. The lush green foliage, mature trees, sparkling ponds, crashing water- falls, feathered creatures, and the sport of golf beckon all to enjoy.
Nestled in Henderson, Nevada, Wildhorse Golf Club is a public course with a colorful past that remains vibrant today. Developed by media mogul Hank Greenspun, Wildhorse opened to the public in 1959. It was only the second golf course to be developed in Southern Nevada. Iconic billionaire Howard Hughes purchased the property in 1968 and allowed it to remain pristine for generations to enjoy its beauty. Today, the course is owned by the city of Henderson and operated by Elite Golf Management.
“We encompass wider community events and projects here,” says Christine Lord, administrator and facility manager of Wildhorse Golf Club. “This is our opportunity to show off our quirky, funky place that is part of the history of Nevada.”
Known by many names over the years, it has been named the Wildhorse Golf Club since 1994, with many renovations and new buildings added over time. In 2004, the course was updated and redesigned by renowned golf course architects Lee Schmitt and Brian Curley.
Inducted into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame, Wildhorse has a rich history that includes serving as a stop on the PGA Tour, making for only-in-Vegas stories. Legend has it that when golf great Jack Nicklaus was playing the Sahara Classic in 1970 (now called the Sahara Invitational), his caddy, who was transporting Nicklaus’s golf clubs in his car, left the golfer without his clubs. The caddy loved to gamble and got caught up in the moment in the casinos and never made it to the competition. Nicklaus was forced to use rental clubs but still played a good round.
Wildhorse Golf Club is also a place to enjoy avian life; many species of birds call the links home, whether year- round or seasonally. Audubon International has designated the club as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. It’s one of only three golf courses in the entire region to earn the designation. “The open space of a golf course is utilized not only by golfers but is habitat for a variety of wildlife species,” explains Jim Sluiter, a staff ecologist for Audubon International.
Course personnel plan, organize, implement, and document a comprehensive environmental management program. The club is home to very rare birds, and a bird count is conducted on the first Wednesday of each month in the early morning hours. It should be noted that bird watching for the general public is not a part of the bird count each month.
Conservation efforts at the club include relocating 15-year-old honeybee hives that measure 10 feet tall from along the play’s path to an on-site sanctuary. From their new aviary, the bees continue to pollinate in the beautiful flora, and the beekeeper on staff rescues and works to preserve the honeybee population.
Another legend suggests that Wildhorse Golf Club is haunted. Mormon settlements once dotted the landscape in the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to staff members, a little girl in a white dress has appeared at the end of the banquet hall or as a streak of white light at dawn. Lord says that while she was working early one morning, the heavy wooden kitchen doors swung open inexplicably. Other staffers claim to have seen handprints mysteriously appear on freshly cleaned surfaces and have found faucets in the clubhouse’s restrooms running prior to opening. Paranormal investigators are welcome to call ahead and make arrangements to visit the property, says Lord.
Part of Wildhorse’s charm is its staff. They are funny, friendly, warm, and down-to-earth without the rigid attitudes often associated with exclusive private golf clubs. “We take care of each other and our guests,” says Lord. “We want the community to come here to celebrate their weddings, receptions, celebration of life, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and parties.”
Meetup groups, disc golf (including the Las Vegas Disc Golf Challenge), networking, and clubhouse events bring the community together while everyone socializes (safely). The on-site restaurant, Terrace on The Green, is open to the public, affording the most amazing views of Southern Nevada.
Ironically, with COVID-19, the game of golf is on an upswing as a wonderful way to safely socialize while perfecting a skill. Two professional instructors at the club include Kerri Clark, a lifetime LGPA pro and a Golf Hall of Fame inductee, and Tony Lawson, also a PGA lifetime pro. Wildhorse is a public golf course, so being a member is not required to learn or play, and there are special rates for locals, industry workers, and military personnel.
Although it’s not a public park -its main emphasis is on the game of golf- Wildhorse Golf Club does offer living history, flourishing nature, and thriving community events. It’s a great place to eat, drink, and celebrate.