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50 Best U.S. Tennis Resorts

September 17, 2004 10:49 AM

The following article originally appeared in the October issue of Tennis Magazine and provides a fabulous rundown of the top 50 tennis resorts in the country. Not surprisingly the USTA Southern Section, with its mild year round climate and passionate player base, is home to three of the nation's top ten resorts and eight of the top 50. The piece should not be distributed or reproduced without the permission of Tennis Magazine.

You don’t need much for a basic tennis vacation. A clean room, friendly service, open courts, and somebody to play with will get the job done. But nobody is just a tennis player, no matter how much he loves the game. What if you’re a food fanatic or a spa lover or an outdoor sportsman as well? What if a bare-bones hotel room at a boot-camp resort just won’t cut it? You shouldn’t have to sacrifice these things just to get a decent tennis lesson. And you don’t. Whatever your interests, one of the resorts featured in the following pages has you covered. These are the cream of the crop, after all—the 50 best in the United States.

There have been a few changes at the top since we last compiled this list, in 2002. Kiawah Island Resorts in South Carolina, a long-time contender, has moved into the No. 1 spot, while our champion for the last eight years, Florida’s Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, comes in at No. 3 this time—still, not too shabby. Alongside these two classics are some newcomers, including Arizona’s Scottsdale Resort & Athletic Club, as well as the return of a legend from the ’70s, the Naples Bath & Tennis Club in Florida.

Together, the 50 Greatest offer a wide variety of top-of-the-line facilities, innovative instruction, hardcore clinics, plenty of courts, luxurious lodgings, family activities, and, of course, value for your money. So if you really are just a tennis player—not such a bad thing, in our minds—most of these destinations will keep you happy, too.

A word about the rates: The lowest rate is for the least expensive room in the specific resort’s low season, the highest for the most expensive in the high season. But always check with the resort or its Web site—you may find special packages that offer better values than the quoted rates.

The Top 10...

Kiawah Island Resort
Kiawah Island, South Carolina

The big news at this perennial Top 10 resort near Charleston is the opening this past summer of the upscale Sanctuary at Kiawah Island. There you’ll find 255 luxury rooms, two oceanfront restaurants, and a nature-based spa, all just a three-minute walk from the East Beach Tennis Club. After 28 years, tennis director Roy Barth continues to supervise his crew of eight pros and oversees 41 clinics every week, including his signature three-day, eight-hour Adult Doubles Mini-Camp. You can also work out the kinks in your game on a singles-size court with a ball machine that bombards you with 1,200 balls an hour. Fortunately, the stop button is on your side of the court. The golf’s pretty good, too—five courses, one of them designed by a guy named Jack Nicklaus. Courts: 23 clay, 5 hard (4 lit). Court time: $21 hourly per court. Lodging: 855 rooms, villas, and homes. Rates: $$ ($99–$4,500). Information: (800) 654-2924; www.kiawahresort.com.

This year, Kiawah has added 255 luxury rooms two restaurants and a spa to its already first class tennis program.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

“Our clinics are up-tempo—good workouts,” says tennis director Mike Leach. With 14 of these each week you can expect to get great exercise in a fast-moving but friendly environment. Off court, it’s a cinch to unwind and get yourself back in shape for the next clinic. The 300-acre resort has just completed a $75 million upgrade, so you’ll bed down in sumptuous rooms, sigh contentedly in a 10,000-square-foot spa, and dine in gourmet restaurants with trend-setting menus (take along a jacket for the Seafoam Dining Room). There’s also 36 holes of golf, an oceanfront gym, and mile after glistening mile of beach. Courts: 15 clay (7 lit). Court time: $15 daily per person. Lodging: 250 rooms and suites. Rates: $$$ ($170–$640). Information: (800) 234-7842; www.pvresorts.com.

The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort
Longboat Key, Florida

They’re so keen on tennis here that the courts are bustling even in 90-degree heat, resulting in “five-shirt days,” as coach Sammy Aviles puts it. One of the original tennis-and-beach resorts—it got its start back in 1969, with Nick Bollettieri as its first pro—the Colony has grown from a few bungalows, which are still standing, to a 235-suite getaway with 21 courts. While it’s not as luxurious as some of the other top resorts, it’s still a warm, welcoming, family-run place, and regular guests include families who come all the way from Britain and Sweden for lessons. And look what’s free: court time and the year-round kids club. Courts: 11 hard, 10 clay (2 lit). Court time: included in rates. Lodging: 235 suites and specialty suites. Rates: $$ ($195–$1,450). Information: (800) 426-5669; www.colonybeachresort.com.

Rancho Valencia
Rancho Santa Fe, California

Think of a botanical garden filled with eucalyptus trees and flowering shrubs, but with tennis courts where you would expect to find ponds and lawns. Now add cozy casita suites with fireplaces, candlelight dining and a soon-to-open state-of-the-art spa, and you have the sort of resort you need when tennis might just take a back seat to l’amour. A member of the refined Relais & Chateaux group of properties, service is above par. Which may be one reason it has attracted the likes of Bill Gates and Ted Danson. Guaranteed playing partners? “Absolutely,” says tennis director John Delille. Courts: 18 hard. Court time: included in rates. Lodging: 49 suites. Rates: $$$ ($409–$875). Information: (800) 548-3664; www.ranchovalencia.com.

Sea Pines Resort
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

This is one of the country’s best-equipped tennis facilities, with 23 courts, 11 teaching pros, clinics “all day, every day,” and round robins for 4.0s and up. But the Sea Pines Racquet Club’s main claim to fame is its Stan Smith Tennis Academy (12 hours, four days, $309 for players 3.0 and up). Sea Pines also offers golf (54 holes), an equestrian center, fitness center, 15 miles of trails, and a forest preserve—even the tennis center is surrounded by live oaks and palmettos. Courts: 23 clay (2 lit). Court time: $23 hourly per court. Lodging: 500 rooms (inn, homes, and villas). Rates: $/$$ ($125–$650). Information: (800) 732-7463; www.seapines.com.

Sea Pines, with 23 courts and its signature lighthouse, is tennis central.

The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Seven courts for 700 rooms is not exactly a reassuring ratio, but there’s so much going on here (most of the guests are off golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, or on balloon rides), and the tennis program is so dependable, it’s worth a trip to this palazzo in the Rockies. Hall-of-Famer and Broadmoor tennis director Dennis Ralston oversees his acclaimed Davis Cup Drill for 4.0s (a distillation of his years of experience as the U.S. captain) and a tennis program that squeezes in 26 or more clinics a week. The pros get in on the weekly round robin and matchups are guaranteed with 24 hours’ notice. Courts: 7 hard (2 covered by a bubble October–April). Court time: $25 hourly per court. Lodging: 700 suites and condos. Rates: $$$ ($230–$800). Information: (800) 634-7711; www.broadmoor.com.

Boca Raton Resort & Club
Boca Raton, Florida

Everything at this thousand-room resort is deluxe, from its main hotel, the 1926 Cloister, to its clay courts, where an underground watering system keeps the surface from drying out (many other resorts use above-ground sprinklers). If you overdo things, and that would be easy to do with a choice of 20 clinics a week, there’s the new Spa Palazzo to soothe every weary muscle in your body. And more than a hundred new suites come with butler service. Courts: 18 clay (8 lit). Court time: $18 daily per person. Lodging: 1,041 rooms and suites. Rates: $$$ ($150–$765). Information: (888) 495-2622; www.bocaresort.com.

Topnotch at Stowe Resort & Spa
Stowe, Vermont

They’ve more than doubled the size of the spa here, to 36,000 square feet, and the morning stretching is led by a full-time fitness staff. Tennis director Andrew Chmura’s academy (May through October) features high-energy on-court clinics augmented with Dartfish video analysis, sports psychology seminars, tennis aerobics, and sport-specific training. Lots of social events set up matchmaking possibilities, as well as pleasant evenings of camaraderie in Topnotch’s three superb restaurants. In between, feast your eyes on 120 acres of lawns, flowers, and forested hillsides. Courts: 5 hard, 5 clay, 4 indoor. Court time: $60 hourly per court. Lodging: 180 rooms and condos. Rates: $$ ($190–$850). Information: (800) 451-8686; www.topnotch-resort.com.

Wild Dunes Resort
Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Wild Dunes is famous for sea air and golf, but in recent months the tennis facilities have attracted the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Billy Joel, not to mention Andre Agassi. Ten teaching pros coax guests through their paces with five round robins and no fewer than 40 clinics a week, including Peak Performance Competitive Doubles. There are also six weekly clinics just for juniors. Besides tennis skills, the other thing you acquire here is a taste for Low Country cuisine, especially at the resort’s stylish Sea Island Grill. Courts: 17 clay, 1 hard (5 lit). Court time: first hour free, then $17 hourly per person. Lodging: 460 rooms, villas, and homes. Rates: $$ ($110–$750). Information: (800) 845-8880; www.wilddunes.com.

Desert Springs J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa
Palm Desert, California

The vast indoor-outdoor lake and its gondolas get most of the attention, but tennis players covet the resort’s 20-court tennis complex. Where else can you play a “Grand Slam” round robin on three surfaces (worth every cent of the $30 price tag)? Or play the Sports-PC “Incredible Fun” video wall and then relax with a game of croquet or lawn chess without leaving the tennis complex? Or show your paces in a 90-minute 4.0-plus drill session before cooling off in your pick of five pools? And with more than 2,000 fellow house guests, the Peter Burwash International pros can almost certainly find you a playing partner. Courts: 15 hard, 3 clay, 2 grass (6 lit). Court time: $22–$32 hourly per person. Lodging: 2,168 rooms and villas. Rates: $$ ($225–$475). Information: (800) 331-3112; www.desertspringsresort.com.

The Best of the Rest...
Here are 40 more outstanding tennis resorts, listed in alphebetical order.

Amelia Island PlantationAmelia Island, FL904-277-5145
Boar's Head InnCharlottesville, VA800-476-1988
The Boulders Resort & Golden Door SpaCarefree, AZ800-553-1717
The Breakers Palm BeachPalm Beach, FL888-273-2537
Carmel Valley Ranch ResortCarmel, CA831-625-9500
Copperwynd Resort and ClubFountain Hills, AZ877-707-7760
Diplomat Country Club & SpaHallendale, FL954-883-4400
The Fairmont Orchid, HawaiiKohala, HI800-845-9905
The Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & ClubAventura, FL800-441-1414
Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Los ColinasIrving, TX800-332-3442
Four Seasons Resort HualalaiKa'upulehu-Kona, HI888-340-5662
Gardiner's ResortCarmel Valley, CA800-453-6225
The GreenbrierWhite Sulpher Springs, WV800-624-6070
Green Valley Spa & Tennis ResortSt. George, UT800-237-1068
Kapalua ResortKapalua, HI800-527-2582
La Jolla Beach & Tennis ClubLa Jolla, CA800-624-2582
La Quinta Resort & ClubLa Quinta, CA800-598-3828
Litchfield Beach & Golf ResortLitchfield Beach, SC800-582-0048
The Lodge at Pebble BeachPebble Beach, CA800-654-9300
Mauna Kea ResortKohala Coast, HI800-882-6060
Meadowood Napa ValleySt. Helena, CA800-458-8080
Naples Bath & Tennis ClubNaples, FL800-225-9692
Palmetto Dunes ResortHilton Head Island, SC800-972-0257
The PhoenicianScottsdale, AZ800-888-8234
Pinehurst ResortPinehurst, NC800-487-4653
The Ritz-Carlton, Key BiscayneKey Biscayne, FL800-241-3333
Saddlebrook ResortWesley Chapel, FL800-729-8383
Sanctuary on Camelback MountainParadise Valley, AZ800-245-2051
Sandestin Golf & Beach ResortDestin, FL800-277-0800
Scottsdale Resort & Athletic ClubScottsdale, AZ877-343-0033
Sea Colony ResortBethany Beach, DE800-732-2656
Sea Island ResortSea Island, GA800-732-4752
Shadow Mountain Resort & ClubPalm Desert, CA800-472-3713
Shipyard PlantationHilton Head Island, SC800-845-6138
Stratton Mountain ResortStratton Mountain, VT800-787-2886
Sun Valley ResortSun Valley, ID800-786-8259
Tops'l Beach & Racquet ResortDestin, FL888-867-7535
Vail Cascade Resort & SpaVail, CO800-420-2424
Waterville Valley ResortWaterville Valley, NH800-468-2553
Wintergreen ResortWintergreen, VA800-266-2444
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