In March 1950, The Desert Sun’s front page announced plans for Thunderbird Ranch to be converted into an 18-hole golf course. Chief among the trailblazers were top amateur golfer and developer Johnny Dawson, Barney Hinkle, and Frank Bogert (who ran the ranch). Dawson and Hinkle pooled their resources to buy the adjacent Warburton ranch, then Dawson contacted his old friend, Houston oilman D. B. McDaniels, who provided the extra $100,000 they needed to fulfill their dream.
Thunderbird became the first golf club to feature home sites for sale. It was a risky and untried venture for Dawson and Hinkle, but fortunately their instincts proved sound. Home sites sold like hotcakes to the rich and famous such as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, Hoagy Carmichael, and Leonard Firestone.
Architect William F. Cody was appointed to adapt existing guest ranch buildings, design the new clubhouse with the all-important cocktail lounge overlooking the first tee, and a 300-seat dining room to facilitate serious socializing. Members and guests could also stay in one of 14 long-gable cottages Cody designed for Thunderbird. A master at site planning, Cody worked alongside course designer Lawrence Hughes to interweave the valuable home sites resulting in the best of both worlds for golfers and homeowners.