By Tom Collins
Not long ago, sleepy Henderson, Nev., seemed as far away from Las Vegas as, say, the Great Pyramids of Giza. Today, of course, the Pyramids and the Sphinx overlook The Strip, and Henderson is a suburb of Vegas on steroids. Looking down from the foothills of the Black Mountains, Henderson is visibly linked to Sin City by a sea of terra cotta tile rooftops spilling down the hillside and into the valley like the jumble of a Cezanne painting.
Amid the hyper-growth of Henderson are several new residential golf communities situated at either end of the town’s almost infinite limits, which are attracting golfer-home buyers from the intermediate, upper-income brackets to the don’t-ask-don’t-tell super-wealthy.
The town’s motto, “A Place to Call Home,” scrolled atop the ubiquitous blue and white signboards along Horizon Ridge Parkway in burgeoning west Henderson, must rank as the most successful ad slogan in history. Since 1994, Henderson has been America’s fastest growing city and according to the 2000 Census, more people are calling Henderson “home” everyday than any other city in the United States. With a population that has tripled in a decade, from 69,000 to 200,000, and with 560,000 residents projected within a generation, Henderson is now the second largest city in Nevada.
New Nevadans, and Hendersonians, seem to fit into one of two categories: early Baby Boomer retirees – what one sociologist terms “the yuppie elderly” – looking for and “active lifestyle”; and young, largely immigrant families looking for jobs in the booming service and construction economy and for affordable housing. Most of the new emigres come from the Old Sun Belt (read, California) to the New Sun Belt (read, Arizona and Nevada), and, regardless of economics, all are lured by lower taxes and real estate prices (the median home price in Las Vegas is around $160,000), less traffic, good schools, great climate and a cleaner environment, not to mention reliable, round-the-clock electrical service.
Dell Webb’s Anthem
Henderson’s expansion west along Horizon Ridge Parkway is dominated by Dell Webb Corp.’s sprawling Anthem, a city-state unto itself. Opened in late 1998, and only 10 minutes from The Strip and McCarran Airport, Anthem’s three communities on 5,000 acres anticipate 32,000 residents in 13,000 residences, at full build out – oh yes, and three golf courses, two of which are built, and the last scheduled to open in March 2002.
Webb Corp. helped make Las Vegas what it is today, building wise guy Bugsy Siegle’s Flamingo Hotel in 1946. In 1960, the company created the concept of the exclusive enclave for the over-55 “active,” upper-middle class adult with Sun City, northwest of Phoenix. It’s been building Sun Cities across the Southwest since. Webb’s Sun City Summerlin in northwest Vegas was the No. 1 hottest-selling master planned community in the United States last year and Anthem, on the far west-side of Henderson, southeast of Sin City, was No. 6 on the U.S.’s hot-selling master planned community roster.
Anthem’s high-end neighborhood is Anthem Country Club, a security-gated cluster of 1,600 rather crowded homesites surrounding the private Hale Irwin and Keith Foster-designed course. The vast majority of the high-end, Webb Corp.-built homes back up to the course and are, perhaps, a little too “surrounding.” Architectural styles and their numerous variations can be characterized as contemporary California – stuccoed split-levels and ranch homes with expansive glass, some with a bit of stone work and concrete roof tiles in prices ranging from $200,000 to $800,000. Custom homes will be built on 150 homesites ranging from one-half to three-quarters of an acre and from $230,000 to $550,000. (Half are still on the market.) According to Jennifer Hoying, public relations assistant at Webb, approximately half the Country Club’s members are new arrivals and more than 90 percent are full-time residents.
The country club (7,267 yards, par 72: 73.6/133) is a gently rolling, player-friendly track. From numerous elevated tees, the fairways seem unmissably wide, but glittering Vegas, and surrounding Nevada badlands and mountain peaks can be distracting. Memberships are limited to 490 with equity golf memberships for country club residents ($47,500) and a limited non-equity executive membership for nonresidents ($40,000). Of course, there is a state-of-the-art athletic club and salon, and a 35,000-square-foot clubhouse designed by Wilson & Associates, who, among many projects worldwide, renovated the St. Andrews Old Course Hotel.
Sun City Anthem, a little higher in elevation but more democratically priced, is Webb’s 9,100 home, over-55, “active adult community” set around the Greg Nash-designed, Billy Casper-“signed” Revere course. Webb-designed and built homes, from cottages at $136,000 to estates priced at more than $350,000, crowd in upon each other, but, perched atop the ridge lines of deep arroyos, they keep a pretty respectful distance from the golf course. The Revere (7,143 yards, par 72, 73.9/ 139) winds its way down and through a series of canyons with vistas every bit as dramatic as the country club’s, but with a few more imaginative golf holes. All Sun City homeowners – including Tony Curtis, who is building a home along The Revere’s 18th green – get preferred green fees and tee times. The 75,000-square-foot Anthem Center, featuring the Trumpets at Anthem restaurant and lounge, has everything from fitness/wellness center, to art studios, and from bocci ball to computer rooms.
MacDonald Highlands/DragonRidge Golf Club
A few miles east of Anthem on Horizon Ridge Parkway, is the private, security-gated MacDonald Highlands and David Druzisky and Jay Moorish-designed DragonRidge Golf Club (7,039 yards, par 72, 72.9/143). Definitely a step up from Anthem, economically, aesthetically and coursewise, the Highlands’ 560 homesites within several different neighborhoods are comfortably spaced amid 1,200 acres of jet-black boulders, giving the eye, and the golfer, plenty of drama and “breathing” room.
Emily Sherwood, vice president of sales and marketing, says the Highlands “has appealed to the local market and ‘move-up buyers’ ” rather than out-of-staters. Sherwood estimates that Highlands buyers range in age from 35 to 50 with young families preferring the one-third acre lots, starting at $160,000, and older clients purchasing the half-acre to two-acre homesites for up to $2 million. Design guidelines at MacDonald Highlands insist on what Sherwood calls “desert contemporary or desert elegance – more like the architecture you’ll find in upscale Palm Springs and Scottsdale.” Indeed, one mammoth residence under construction features a neo-Bauhausian design with more angles than a trick billiard shot. To date, nearly 100 homesites have been sold and 20 homes are completed or under construction,DragonRidge, which opened in May 2000, was given a boost in late October when Tiger Woods and his coach Butch Harmon put on the Tiger Jam III golf clinic there to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation (Tiger Jam IV was held at DragonRidge in late April). DragonRidge, which is open to limited public play, winds its way naturally through the daunting, boulder-strewn badlands. Moorish, as he did so often with former partner Tom Weiskopf, keeps your attention with numerous risk-reward decisions throughout the round.
Lake Las Vegas and Southern Highlands easily would rate as the two premier luxury residential golf course communities in just about any neighborhood in the universe, and here is no exception. While they might be at opposite ends of Henderson geographically, and a universe away from the intense building activity along Horizon Ridge Parkway, they exist in the same rarified eco-systems – ecological and economic.
OK, so Southern Highlands isn’t really in Henderson – but, hey, only a few miles west of the Henderson Executive Airport on St. Rose Parkway and minutes from McCarran Airport and The Strip on the west side of Interstate 15, who’s counting? Besides, you can’t ignore an ultra-exclusive residential community boasting a golf course co-created by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and his namesake son.
Custom estate lots in the security-gated development range from one-half acre to one-plus-acre sites offered from $300,000 to a cool $1.5 million, and are set in the foothills amid the back-nine holes only. In addition to the high-end custom lots, Christopher Homes offer approximately 100 luxury production models, at the entrance end of Southern Highlands, beginning in the $500,000s.
Opened since spring, Southern Highlands (7,381 yards, par 72, 74.4/138 ) is eminently walkable, unlike many new courses (there’s a caddie program, too), keeping low on the outward nine, then ascending into the foothills for the inward half before coming back down to the tantalizing and treacherous 622-yard par-5 18th.
The 42,000-square-foot “Mediterranean” clubhouse has an elegant, exotic “Casablanca” feel. Memberships are by invitation only and limited to 360 and, of course, are in the if-you-have-to-ask, don’t-ask realm.
Lake Las Vegas
Finally, several miles northeast of Henderson proper (but Henderson all the same) and heading toward Lake Mead on Lake Mead Boulevard., is the $4.5 billion, 2,245 acre Lake Las Vegas mega-development. This is a virtual reality, palm-studded, Mediterranean-themed Shangri-La around the man-made, 320 acre Lake Las Vegas. In the foothills of the Muddy Mountains and some of the area’s rockiest most visually stunning geology, ultra-high end homesites and Tuscan-themed palaces ring two award-winning Jack Nicklaus courses, semi-private Reflection Bay, and absolutely private South Shore.
Clusters of Italian-themed, north shore neighborhoods are set high above Reflection Bay and the Hyatt, and offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and desert and as far as Lake Mead to the east. Homes and town homes on the north shore begin in the $400,000s, while multi-acreage homesites in the elevated MonteLago and MontiCatini neighborhoods range from $2 million $10 million.
Meanwhile, across the lake, the security-gated, 550-acre South Shore offers custom homesites in a myriad of neighborhoods, from mountainside to lakeside. They range from the $300,000s to more than $2.2 million, while semi-custom residences and villas in a couple of select South Shore enclaves are offered from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
The ultra-exclusive South Shore and the semi-private Reflection Bay, on the north shore, represent the Golden Bear’s first Nevada efforts. Opened in May 1998, Reflection Bay (7,261 yards, par 72, 74.8/138) offers excellent variety – rolling links-style holes, desert-target holes, and five holes along 1.5 miles of Lake Las Vegas shoreline. Home to a Nicklaus/Flick Golf School, Reflection Bay also is host to the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge charity event.
South Shore (6,917 yards, par 71; 72.8/133), with 500 foot elevation changes, waterfalls and dramatic contrasts of course and desert vegetation, looks a little tougher than it plays. South Shore has grabbed more than its share of kudos, including a No. 40 ranking among Golfweek’s America’s Best Modern Golf Courses.