Thunderbird CC Rumored to Offer Obama Honorary Membership

By | September 13th, 2017

The Rancho Mirage, Calif., club has reportedly extended an honorary membership to former President Barack Obama, though The Desert Sun was unable to confirm the report and club officials would not comment.

Officials at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said they could not confirm or deny reports that the oldest 18-hole club in the Coachella Valley has extended an honorary membership to former President Barack Obama, the Palm Springs, Calif., Desert Sun reported. 

Coachella Valley TV station KMIR cited a membership letter signed by Obama in a report Monday morning. In a response to a call by The Desert Sun, General Manager Scott Julien said that the club does not comment on membership matters in any way. 

Though The Desert Sun has not independently confirmed the report, Obama has been a fixture in golf in the desert since he was in office. He generally came to the desert twice a year as the sitting president, once in February and once in June. Twice he came to the desert for international summits, once with the King of Jordan and once with the president of China. On each of those occasions he played golf in the desert at Sunnylands, the Rancho Mirage property that was the estate of the late Walter and Lenore Annenberg, the Desert Sun reported.

When not at Sunnylands, Obama, sometimes accompanied by his wife Michelle, would stay in a home in Thunderbird Heights owned by interior designer Michael Smith and his partner, Ambassador James Costos. During those trips Obama was known to play Sunnylands as well as Porcupine Creek in Rancho Mirage, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison. Obama and his friends also played one round on the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta. Obama has never been known to have publicly played Thunderbird, which opened in 1951 as the first 18-hole country club in the desert. It is known that Michelle Obama has utilized the fitness facilities at Thunderbird, the Desert Sun reported.

Obama would not be the first former president to hold membership honors at Thunderbird. When he left the presidency in 1977, Gerald Ford and his wife Betty moved into a home at Thunderbird, the Desert Sun reported.

Since leaving office earlier this year, Obama was the subject of a controversy at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Some members of the historically Jewish club were angered that the club was considering offering a membership to Obama because of his foreign policies involving Israel. Eventually the club did offer the honorary membership and Obama accepted.

The talk of a membership at Thunderbird does not mean that the long-held rumor in the desert that the Obamas were considering buying a home in the desert has become reality. Honorary memberships are often extended to high-profile political or entertainment personalities to add luster to a club’s membership roles. The honorary membership would allow Obama the rights of other members of the club during his occasional trips to the area, the Desert Sun reported.

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