Carmel Valley Ranch
By Roger Cox, Editor
The 500-acre pet-friendly property trails along an inland valley in the wooded Santa Lucia Mountains, above the fog that sometimes blankets the coast. The suites, all with fireplaces and terraces, perch high in the hills, with views of the valley or trees and easy access to the lodge, an excellent restaurant, the 10,000-square-foot Aiyana Spa, and an adult pool and rimless hot tub. An 18-hole Pete Dye championship golf course flows across the rolling terrain. Deer roam the property; red-tailed hawks fly above it. Hiking trails set off from the lodge and suites, up to the ridge, where there are views of the Pacific, and east into the 5,000-acre Garland Ranch Regional Park. And it's only a short drive to wineries, art galleries, the shops and beach at Carmel-By-the-Sea, and Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey.
Under its new owners, Geolo Capital, the Ranch has undergone a $35 million enhancement over the last two years. That included renovating the lodge and all 139 suites, adding the spa, and turning the area known as River Ranch, where the tennis courts are located, into an activity zone. Two courts were sacrificed to those improvements: the clubhouse court, which was replaced by a junior Olympic swimming pool and a kids' splash pool; and a second hard court, which became a multi-sport court. That leaves seven hard and two clay courts, supplemented now by a 5,200-aquare-foot fitness center (whose extensive roster of classes are all complimentary), a bocce court, and a cafe serving light fare for golfers and tennis players in what was originally an 1890s farmhouse.
Pro Shop: 831-626-2525
Despite the loss of those two courts, tennis has otherwise benefited from the increased traffic brought about by the changes at River Ranch. To take advantage, tennis director Clark Corey, who is one of Peter Burwash International's most experienced pros, has carpentered together a solid roster of activities and services, including clinics, Cardio tennis, weekly round robins, and attentive game matching to benefit both local members and hotel guests. Another pro with an impressive resume, Rick Manning, formerly with the now defunct John Gardiner Tennis Ranches, is Corey's No. 2. And Peter Burwash himself, who lives in Carmel Valley, teaches a few days each month when his always hectic schedule allows.
Although the changes brought new amenities to the tennis complex, they came with a modest downsizing from 11 courts to nine. One sad casualty was the loss of the sunken clubhouse court, now replaced by that swimming pool; while another was sacrificed to make room for the fitness center and a basketball court. At the same time, the seven hard courts were resurfaced in U.S. Open blue and the Ranch kept two of its Har-Tru courts, which remain relatively rare at California resorts. Tennis director Clark Corey is excited by the changes. "It's brought us a lot of new members," he told me. "Locals have decided that this is the place to play."
Tennis Staff. Peter Burwash International pro Clark Corey brings more than 30 years of international experience to the Ranch programs. He is assisted by Rick Manning, whom many of you will remember from his days at the helm at the now defunct John Gardiner Tennis Ranches in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Carmel Valley.
Tennis Programs. Much of what takes place here is geared to the needs of the resort's substantial local membership, individual resort guests, and corporate groups. With the various groups to draw on, the staff can usually find you a worthy opponent if you need one—and if they fail, they'll provide a pro for you to hit with. Otherwise, there are two mixed doubles round robins each week, weekly group clinics, private lessons, junior programs, and a variety of monthly social and competitive events.
Courts & Fees. The Ranch has 7 hard courts and two Har-Tru courts. Court fees: $25/hour for resort guests, but included in tennis packages.
Golf Course. Pete Dye designed the resort's 18-hole course in 1981 and it was redesigned in 2010. The front nine meanders along the Carmel River, but the back nine climbs into the forested upland, where holes 10 to 14 cling precariously to the hillsides and induce vertigo with drops as much as 350 feet from tee to green. To makes matters worse, heavy underbrush guard the margins of these back fairways. Length: 6,055-6,515 yards.
Spa & Fitness Center. The 10,500-square-foot Spa Aiyana debuted in 2010 at the Lodge. With a menu inspired by gardens, it incorporates fresh herbs, botanical extracts, and various oils into its treatments. There is a gaslog fireplace in the waiting area and another in the couples treatment room. There are actually two fitness centers: a small one near the lodge and accessible to guests 24/7 using their room key card; and the larger one at River Ranch, which in addition to having a full suite of workout equipment offers Pilates, yoga, spinning, body sculpting, guided hikes, and more, all of them complimentary for guests.
And ... Hiking trails lead into the Santa Lucia Mountains and horseback rides start nearby.
The resort now offers a variety of child-friendly programs, including a nature photography program that equips younger guests with cameras to take photos and share them during an interactive slideshow.
There are 139 suites in all, draped along the top of a ridge. Spacious and well appointed—sizes range from 650 to 1,200 square feet—they all have living areas with travertine fireplaces, wet bars, separate living rooms, complimentary WiFi, flat-screen televisions with BluRay players, iPod hookups, and bath amenities made with fresh-pressed lavender harvested on property. One set of rooms, which are larger and somewhat more private, trail along winding paths through stands of oak trees, which may somewhat obstruct their views of the valley; the other set, while somewhat smaller, occupy terraces on an open hillside that gives them more expansive views. Either way, these are some of the most supremely comfortable rooms anywhere.
The Lodge Restaurant has a well-established reputation for serving superb California cuisine inspired by the produce of Carmel Valley itself, the fresh fish caught off the coast, and herbs from the resort's own gardens. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Otherwise, there is light fare—sandwiches, salads, smoothies—at the River Ranch Cafe.
If you like the sound of Carmel Valley Ranch, also check out:
- The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Arizona
- Meadowood Napa Valley, California
- Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, North Carolina
Rates and Reservations
See their web site for current rates.
One Old Ranch Rd.
Carmel, CA 93923
Web Link: Carmel Valley Ranch
Seasons. Year-round though the best time to visit is from March through November.
Travel Instructions. By Air: The nearest major airports are San Jose, 80 miles to the north and San Francisco, 117 miles north. However, there is also a small regional gateway in Monterey Peninsula Airport, 13 miles from the resort. By Car: From San Francisco or San Jose, take Hwy. 101 South to the Monterey Peninsula Exit and Hwy. 156 West. Follow Hwy. 156 or Hwy. 1 South to Carmel Valley Road. Turn left and continue for 6½ miles to Robinson Canyon Road. Turn right and that leads to the resort entrance.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau website or contact them at P.O. Box 1770, Monterey, CA 93942. Phone: 877-MONTEREY.