The History of Portola Country Club Homeowners Association

By Marilyn Loewy, Portola Board Director

In 1968, Dr. Elmer Rigby, from West Los Angeles area, donated property for a manufactured home project to be named Sun King Estates. A limited partnership was developed with Dr. Rigby and B.J. “Mac” McMorrow, a land developer from L.A., as principal partners. The clubhouse and golf course were designed by Cecil Hollingsworth, and in 1970 construction started on the first phase. It was a nine-hole golf course designed with four holes in the “wash” and five on the upper level of the project, along with two sand traps. By 1973, a few model homes were installed, along with a sales office. A short time later, the “wash” was inundated with water from the mountain snow melt, and the greens were rebuilt. Unfortunately, another flooding occurred, permanently washing out the four holes in the “wash.” A national gas shortage affected sales, the economy slumped, and the company was forced into foreclosure. In 1977, the Newport Development Company purchased the foreclosed property and changed its name to Portola Country Club Homeowners Association, and a new master plan was developed. In its second phase, thirteen new golf holes were designed around the complex of 499 home sites and 180 acres.

Portola is an active 55+ community nestled in the heart of Palm Desert, near many shopping centers and the I-10 freeway, but far enough away to not be bothered with noise. Within a five-minute drive are the McCallum Theater, senior centers, Civic Center Park, and museums. Our residents often say that we truly live in paradise. As longest resident Lucille Williamson said for this article: “This gated community has given me the gift of cordial neighbors, special friends, countless activities and opportunities to get involved.” There are 499 home sites with attractive manufactured homes and beautiful landscaping with residents owning their lot.
We have a board of seven directors. There are ten committees–Architectural, Finance, Facilities, Greens, Security, Emergency Preparedness, Rules & Regulations, Bar, Kitchen, and Landscape. There are three clubs–Social, Ladies Golf, and Men’s Golf. There are various activities such as bingo, bocce, bunco, various card games, an exercise room, library with books and videos, and three pools and spas. We also have tennis courts, pickle ball courts, a dog park, and 80 secured RV parking spaces. In addition, we have a website and in-house TV channel. Our in-house publication, The Sentinel, is issued monthly during the season. Another feature that contributes to our uniqueness is our 18 hole executive golf course. Our monthly assessment includes unlimited golf privileges.
There certainly have been considerable changes in Portola Country Club, especially its golf course, over the 40 plus years since Dr. Rigby donated the property. The seven lakes are still in place, but no one remembers why the sand traps were removed. CVWD provides us with tertiary water for the common area and golf course. Approximately 50% to 60% of our population is comprised of our annual snowbirds, who are most welcome each year. They come to us from many states and Canada. House sizes range from 1450 to 2450 square feet. Prices currently range from $125,000 to $325,000, depending as always on location, location, location! Board president Karla Lewis commented for this article: “When we bought our home six years ago, the location was the immediate draw; once here though, it is the sense of community that is the draw to living in Portola. People take pride in their homes and common area facilities, have a spirit for volunteerism, and a caring heart for neighbors. This is a great place to live.” Portola Country Club is well maintained, has good reserves and is a solid community.

We are professionally managed by The Management Trust; Phyllis Harkins is our general manager and Leahna Lopez is our assistant general manager. Michael McCombs handles all aspects of our common area maintenance, and we welcome our new golf superintendent, Shaun Mahaffey, in early December. Shaun and his staff of seven will continue to keep our golf course lush and beautiful.

The takeaway from this article is that Portola Country Club is a fabulous place to live and play. As many residents say, it’s probably the best kept secret in the valley, so please sssshhhhhhhh!!!


Marilyn Loewy is a long-time resident of Portola Country Club; she previously served on the board in the mid-2000’s, and was recently elected to the board again. She can be reached at

General Manager, Phyllis Harkins, CCAM-LS, CAMEx, CMCA, AMS can be reached at (760) 346-5481 or by email at