Schools, resorts and tours
Just about every "sunbelt" resort in the world has tennis courts, and every avid tennis player can find a place to play tennis on vacation. Where we attempt to assist you is in naming, and describing, the locations for "total tennis," "tennis immersion," "single-minded tennis," the places where the vacationer lives, eats, and breathes tennis. And these fall into three categories: (a) the tennis "camps" and "clinics" whose sole, exclusive purpose is to provide instruction in tennis; (b) the "tennis resorts" supplying serious, tennis instruction by multiple tennis professionals, but on the grounds of a larger establishment with broader forms of recreation; and (c) the "tennis tours" that take you to attend famous professional matches in tennis, but also provide an opportunity for you to play on the courts of those world-renowned venues.
These specialist camps, resorts and tours don't come cheap. Tennis hasn't yet become a mass-market sport (though some half-heartedly claim it is approaching that state) and most tennis players need to be of upper-middle-class status before they have means to practice the sport intensively.
Tennis "campa" and "clinics"
Although the Vic Braden Tennis College is on the grounds of the Green Valley Spa, and guests can participate in the various exercise routines of that Spa, the primary purpose of a vacation here is tennis, tennis, tennis. Operating for over 15 years, the Vic Braden Tennis College combines--in its words--the science of "stroke production" with a philosophy that stresses the fun of the game in a relaxed learning environment. Its motto is "50% of all tennis players lose. Here you learn to win." The College is nestled in the canyon lands of southern Utah, at the Spa we've mentioned, and the tennis/spa "package" includes hiking in the surrounding state and national parks from one to four hours in the morning, followed by tennis instruction throughout the afternoon. You'll eat a low fat, low sugar diet, and receive a full range of massage, body and skin treatments; but tennis predominates. A five-day Tennis/Spa stay is $2,025 per person during the low season (July and December), $2,430 the rest of the year, inclusive of lodgings, meals, tuition, daily spa treatments and all else. For those who wish to forego the spa, a tennis only package is available for $105 per day, for three to five days. This package is what it says, "tennis only" and includes no meals or lodging. Teacher/student ratio is one to five.
Ramey Tennis School
270/771-5590, 812/649-2668, rameycamps.com/
If time on the court is your barometer for a good tennis vacation, Ramey Tennis School is the clear winner. Participants spend a full eight-hours per day in clinics, doing drills, working with the ball machine or in competitive match play. Priding itself on being among the least glamorous of the tennis clinics, the school promises: "bone-grinding drills and lots of blood sweat and tears. Ramey Tennis School is no vacation." A small program, the center can accept no more than 14 guests at a time, ensuring a guest to instructor ratio of 4:1. Participants stay either at a B&B on property or down the road (a five-minute drive) at the Holiday Inn Express. Rates for a two-day, three-night program including housing, breakfasts and lunches and all instruction are $360 per person double occupancy, $420 single. Longer programs are slightly less expensive.
Evert Tennis Academy
10334 Diego Drive South
Boca Raton, FL 33428
A serious training facility that offers instruction to players of all levels, year round; Chris Evert is the founder. Essentially, the Center runs a full-time year-round boarding academy for young tennis hopefuls, as well as a variety of packages, non-boarding, for adults. Pros who teach all have IPG experience, and the student/teacher ratio is 4:1. A five-day package for a single adult low season (summer) is $350 for the camp, accommodations are extra.
Bollettieri Tennis Academy at IMG Academies
5500 34th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34210
941/755-2600, 800/872-6425, imgacademies.com/
Perhaps the most "hard-core" tennis facility of them all, a place for people who are very serious indeed about their tennis. For 40 years Nick Bollettieri has been helping people play better tennis. His facility here has 79 championship courts, a high-tech 30,000 square foot artificial turf dome, a Sports Therapy and Performance Institute, and even additional sports facilities supporting adult programs year round on a weekly and mini-week basis. There are on-site Jacuzzis, pools, Nautilus machines and aerobic training. The programs range from basic sports instruction (mini-week for $485); to whirlwind tennis immersions which combine video analysis, daily private lessons, therapeutic massages, healthy meals, daily strength, speed and agility sessions and five and a half hour drills with performance analyses by the sports psych department, (full week for $935). Participants find their own accommodations in the Bradenton area. Alumni of Nick Bollettieri include Monica Seles, Andre Agassi and Anna Kournikova.
The John Newcombe Tennis Ranch
325 Mission Valley Road
New Braunfels, Texas 78132
800/444-6204, 830/625-9105, newktennis.com/
With an international faculty, skewing strongly towards Australia, the Tennis Ranch is a highly convivial, fun place to learn. Instructors not only join guests on the courts but at the dining hall and for karaoke and drinks at the bar in the evenings. Offering both weeklong and weekend programs (at approximately $275 per day), students spend about five hours on the courts under the tutelage of John Newcomb himself (winner of 26 Grand Slam titles) or his able staff. The Ranch was built in the 1940's as a dude ranch, and it's a comfortable, luxuriously homespun place with a swimming pool, whirlpool, soccer courts and volleyball pit. Occasionally the school has special holiday and companion discounts, so be sure to inquire when you book.
Van der Meer Tennis University
Hilton Head Island, SC 29938
843/785-8388, 800/845-6138, vandermeertennis.com/
An instruction facility only, offering no accommodations ) the "University" has 28 courts: 25 Tru-flex, three clay, four covered/lighted, eight lighted; and a full-service pro shop. The staff stress that instruction is for players of all levels, from beginners to touring professionals, presented in "week-long" (five day) and weekend (three day) packages. The five-day camp includes 18 hours of instruction, video analysis and match play for $359; the weekend package is $259. Again, accommodations and meals are not included in rates. Dennis Van der Meer was chosen by the US Olympic committee as 1997's "Developmental Coach of the Year" and Tennis Magazine anointed him "Teaching Pro of the Decade."
Van der Meer Tennis University
Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar, VA
In addition to Hilton Head, Dennis Van der Meer offers even more economical summer sessions (early June to early August) at Sweet Briar College in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. A weekend session is $250. Each session has roughly 20 to 30 students, and this time includes campus lodging and cafeteria meals, as well as four hours of practice a day. While senior staff directs most sessions, each summer Dennis Van der Meer conducts one himself at Sweet Briar. Call ahead, or visit the Web site, to find out which one. By the by Sweet Briar College has quite a pleasant campus with 14 hard courts, a large gym, two lakes for swimming, boating and fishing, an Olympic-size indoor pool, an 18-station Parcours trail, two athletic fields, nature sanctuaries, and trails for walking, hiking, and jogging. Dorms are air-conditioned and the cafeteria has been recognized, believe it or not, as one of the best in the nation. A variety of main entrees and side dishes are offered with freshly baked pastries in the morning, and a large salad and sandwich bar for lunch and dinner.
Mr. Van der Meer also conducts a few sessions in West Town and Mercersburg, PA as well as Boars Head, VA. Go to the Web site for more details.
New England Tennis Holidays
P.O. Box 1648
North Conway, NH 03860
Operated by former touring pro Clare Grabher (she ranked as high as No.125 in the world at one time) and her husband Kurt, New England Tennis holidays employs a number of tennis' most distinguished players including Mikael Pernfors, the only player to achieve back to back NCAA titles, and Bob Kaufman, who played Davis Cup for Switzerland. About half of its campers come alone, and, in fact, the camp is becoming as well known for its hopping nightlife as for the tennis. Evening entertainment includes karaoke, disco, visits to the local summer stock theater, movies and concerts in the park. Package rates are per person and include lodging, breakfast, lunch, dinner (excluding first night), tennis school five hours a day, taxes and dining gratuities. There are three lodging options: condos just up the hill from the tennis complex, a mountain lodge or inn, and a hotel. A stay in a condo or mountain lodge/inn for two days starts at $445, and five days runs at $1015, singles and inns add approximately $50. Rates are slightly higher from mid June till September.
Swarthmore Tennis Camps
c/o Tennis Camps Ltd.
444 E. 82nd St., Suite 31-D
New York, NY 10028-5919
212/879-0225, 800/ACE-2442, swarthmoretenniscamps.com/
Set on 325 acres of rolling woodland at Swarthmore College, this highly regarded camp has been in operation since 1979. Unlike many campus programs, which only offer only dormitory lodging, this one gives guests the option of staying at the lovely Ashton House, an 1880s Victorian guest house, or in modern hotel-type rooms with outdoor pool. Sessions run from the middle of June till mid-August, and prices range from $515 for a weekend session to $915 for a full week. Included is lodging, meals at the cafeteria on campus, five hours of instruction, a 4:1 student/teacher ratio, video taping, and one to three private lessons. Swarthmore is just 12 miles from downtown Philadelphia.
Harry Hopman's at Saddlebrook Resort
5700 Saddlebrook Way
Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
813/973-1111 x4200, 800/729-8383, saddlebrookresort.com/
Founded by Harry Hopman, legendary Davis Cup coach, the Harry Hopman Tennis Academy at Saddlebrook Resort has been called "arguably the best tennis resort in the nation." Players receive a minimum of five hours of daily tennis instruction, with never more than a 4:1 player/teacher ratio. A series of drills challenge the player to react instinctively to the ball, "without changing each individual's basic method or style of play." Location is on the grounds of a fine, four diamond resort, with four star restaurant, where guests also have access to two 18-hole golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, The Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, a 500,000 gallon "Superpool," and a unique "Walking Village." A five-day Tennis Academy package including use of a one or two bedroom suite, five hours of daily instruction, video workout, fitness and agility exercises, fresh fruit and juice breaks, and video analysis, breakfast, and admission into the spa begins at $488 per person based on double occupancy from May-September.
Rancho Valencia Resort
5921 Valencia Circle
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
858/756-1123, 800/548-3664, ranchovalencia.com/
Costly and upscale, Rancho Valencia is meant for the traveler who enjoys tennis, but wants to explore other sporting and recreational activities as well. It has operated since 1989, a facility of 18 tennis courts, a friendly staff, personalized instruction, healthy but gourmet meals, and spacious rooms. As explained to me by its management, the tennis division here prides itself on having no rigid "philosophy" of tennis. Instead, they stress "working with the skills you arrive with to enhance your own game." At the same time, staff will give you better options (another stroke, better service, groundwork) to take your game to the next level. A "Love Package" of two nights and three days, per person double occupancy, is priced at $1,805, which includes accommodations, all breakfasts and one dinner, Swedish massage, and instruction.
Topnotch Resort and Spa
4000 Mountain Road
Stowe, VT 05672
In the shadow of Mount Mansfield, less than ten minutes from the ski lifts, this racket mecca features eight hard courts and a staff of skilled pros from around the world. In addition to drills, game matching and personal lessons, Topnotch's Tennis Academy offers sports psychology seminars, aerobic tennis classes (for those looking to lose weight) and video tape analysis. There are occasionally professional exhibitions as well. When off the court, guests have access to Topnotch's extensive spa facilities and of course, Stowe itself, one of the most charming resort towns in Vermont, with dozens of fine restaurants and shops as well as extensive nature and ski trails. A "Grand Slam" package runs at $443 per room, per night, while a "Tennis Challenge" is $337 a night.
Grand Slam Tennis Tours
112 S. Main St.
Stowe, VT 05672
Founded in 1990, Grand Slam Tours has helped over 6,000 tennis enthusiasts get seats and arrange accommodations and air to the major tournaments (Grand Slam and non). The company caters to all ages, families, as well as seniors and singles, and takes pride in its "hands-on approach," supplying a customized newsletter each morning to guests listing the play order, and giving suggestions for restaurants and sight-seeing. Trips are hosted by knowledgeable local guides, and seating locations for the matches is "unbeatable."
Steve Furgal International Tennis Tours
11808 Rancho Bernardo Road
San Diego, CA 92128
858/675-3555, 800/258-3664, tours4tennis.com/
Anne and Steve Furgal founded International Tennis Tours in 1986 when Steve, a tennis pro, decided to encourage more travelers to enjoy the sport he was so passionate about. The company splits its efforts between high end custom tours under the name "International Tennis Tours," and an economy business under the name "Top Spin Tennis Tours;" both provide hotel accommodations and tickets to major tennis events. The firm's "Best of the Best," a Wimbledon tour, includes cabins on the QE2 to London, the best seats to Wimbledon, limousine service to and from the match, London theatre tickets, entrance to Madame Tussaud's, and deluxe accommodations. International Tennis Tours is now the official travel partner of the US Tennis Association.
Championship Tennis Tours, Inc.
7301 East Helm Dr., Suite A1
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
480/429-7700, 800/468-3664, tennistours.com/
Championship Tennis Tours offers packages and individual tickets to all the Grand Slam and Masters series events, 12 worldwide yearly, A truly international company which maintains offices in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, Championship tennis has excellent onsite staffing and is able to customize its tours to satisfy its varied clientele. Unlike most operators, they do not include airfare, thus enabling the traveler to stay on for an additional time after the match is over.
WorldWide Tennis Tours
2337 Oak Glenn Circle
Duluth, GA 30096
770/497-9494, 800/760-9009, geocities.com/worldwidetennistours
Founded in 1988 by Kenny and Marina Hirsch, WorldWide Tennis Tours specializes in packages for both junior and senior enthusiasts. They organize trips to all the major tennis events, and include, as passengers, a wide range of ages, from 16 to 80. They pride themselves, they say, in personalized attention and do their best to accommodate everyone, to provide good seats to events, and to seek out pleasant but affordable lodging. In addition to trips to the major tennis championships, a specialty of the agency is the "Junior Tennis Tour," on which young American enthusiasts visit seven different European cities and engage in matches with local players. Days on tour are divided between tennis in the morning and early afternoon, and sightseeing in late afternoon. Often travelers get to stay with the families of their opponents, an authentic experience of the country. The cost for a Monte Carlo Open is $895 a person.
Tennis resorts with other activities
Whistler Racquet ClubWhistler, British Columbia
During the summer, the ski lifts at renowned Whistler Blackcomb in Canada's British Columbia carry a mix of hikers, mountain bikers, sightseers, and seasonally displaced skiers, the last headed for the year-round slopes of Blackcomb Glacier. Down in the pedestrian village, savvy tennis players have discovered a great unsung tennis bargain at the ten-court Whistler Racquet Club. Former Top 50 touring pro Marjorie Blackwood and her codirector and National Master Doubles Champion Peter Schelling run weekend clinics that pack a wealth of information into the mostly morning sessions, leaving afternoons free for other pursuits. The ten-hour Friday to Sunday sessions start at CAD$285 (US$197) and through the club you get great discounts at local hotels starting at CAD$105 (US$72) in July and August and CAD$89 (US$61) in spring and fall.
Waterville Valley ResortWaterville Valley, New Hampshire
A picturesque setting of red-clay courts in a forested valley exerts a gravitational pull on Waterville's guests, drawing them to adult and junior clinics in the morning, social round-robins in the afternoons, and free play or lessons anytime. There is a choice of lodging, from inns to five-bedroom condos, much of it near a compact village of shops and restaurants, plus a pond, a nine-hole golf course, and biking and hiking trails. Rates from June 20 to October 12 start at $109 per night for a room with two queen-size beds and come with an activity pass that provides unlimited free tennis, complimentary midweek greens fees, access to the fitness center, and more for everyone in the room. Go during "value season" (April 8 to June 19) and it's just $85 per night.
Litchfield Beach & Golf ResortLitchfield Beach, South Carolina
Although it's located on the 60-mile beach known as the "Grand Strand," Litchfield has none of the honky-tonk cheesiness of its sister, Myrtle Beach, 18 miles to the north. Instead it wows guests with 17 active clay courts in a park-like setting, 54 holes of golf, and gentle prices. Players can sign up for a three-hour morning tennis school ($65) or join well-run-and usually well-attended-round-robins in the afternoons. At the height of summer, an inland hotel suite has nightly rates of $109. Wait until mid-August and that same suite is $79, and by mid-October it's just $59. And you can shave $5 to $10 off all those rates by opting for the nearby Litchfield Inn, on the beach south of the resort but with full resort privileges.
Sea Colony ResortBethany Beach, Delaware
Route 1 slices through the middle of Sea Colony, dividing its beachfront towers from quiet residential neighborhoods of villas and homes. One of those neighborhoods surrounds a complex of 34 hard and clay courts-four of them indoors. Even in summer this lively venue distracts scores of players from sea and sand by serving up free court time, a lengthy menu of daily tennis activity-including sessions for juniors-conscientious game matching, and a fine stable of teaching pros. In fall the emphasis shifts to a series of weekend camps run by Dave Marshall, the resort's accomplished tennis director. Summer rates for a one-bedroom condo off the beach start at $693 per week (there's a seven-night minimum). After September 2, however, there's a nightly rate of $102 (for a two-night minimum), which goes down to $72 beginning October 14. Marshall's Friday to Sunday fall camp costs $150 for ten hours of instruction and supervised play.