La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
La Quinta, California
By Roger Cox, Editor
Set in the courtyard of a 1940s hacienda and bordered by terraced beds of flowers, trees, and its own restaurant, the sunken clubhouse court at the La Quinta Resort & Club has always seemed like a symbol of the resort's commitment to tennis. Tennis there burst onto the national stage in 1978 when a consortium of former players led by Charlie Pasarell set out to build the finest resort tennis club on the planet. It became one of the first resorts to offer all three playing surfaces—hard, clay, and grass (though the grass is now gone)—and Pasarell and company made sure it rose to national attention by staging a professional tournament (originally sponsored by Grand Marnier) that eventually spawned into own stadium. Those were heady days.
From the very beginning, I've been one of La Quinta's staunchest partisans. Its Clubhouse Court is hands-down the most beautiful court at a resort anywhere, and the later addition of a spa next door and a courtside fitness center only seemed to add to the allure. At 23 courts—18 hard and 5 Har-Tru—it remains one of the larger resort complexes in the desert. The setting is magnificent, the rooms exceptionally comfortable, the cuisine excellent.
Yet for all that, La Quinta for tennis players has frequently fallen short of its promise. Once Pasarell and his tournament moved on, first to the Hyatt Regency Grand Champions and now to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the programming for avid players seemed to lapse. Game matching became erratic, the menu of daily tennis activities thin. But now there is every reason to hope that that is all about to change: in November 2008 former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman, who was himself one of the original consortium, took the reigns as tennis director with the goal of once again returning La Quinta to the ranks of the nation's foremost tennis destinations.
The original Spanish hacienda-style hotel and its 20 cottages opened in 1926 and immediately attracted Hollywood celebrities and California moguls, who braved 20 miles of bad road beyond Palm Springs to reach this retreat among citrus trees at the foot of the starkly imposing Santa Rosa Mountains. Since then the road has improved and the resort grown to 800 rooms. Yet this doesn't feel like a large hotel. The scale remains low—nothing taller than two stories—and the rooms have been cleverly arranged around numerous small gardenlike courtyards each containing a small swimming pool and hot tub (all in all, there are 41 pools and 53 hot tubs).
Although it is no longer difficult to reach the rest of Palm Springs desert and its many restaurants and galleries, there is little incentive to leave the resort. All the rooms are a short stroll from a flower-bedecked plaza of shops and restaurants, so why get in your car when you can stroll over to the Adobe Grill for fishbowl-size margaritas served in hand-blown glassware from Guadalajara or its superb dishes from various regions of Mexico, like grilled rack of lamb with roasted corn and date tamale from the Yucatan or Caldo de Mariscos, a southwestern bouillabaisse? Unless you're here in March and have tickets to the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament, you'll be perfectly content staying on property, playing tennis and relaxing at the spa or around one of the pools.
Pro Shop: 760-564-7655
The consortium that started the tennis club—Charlie Pasarell, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Bob Lutz, Tom Gorman, Marty Riessen, Roscoe Tanner, and Dennis Ralston—guaranteed by location and design that the courts would be a focal point of the resort. Tables from a restaurant and bar, now renamed Centre Court Cafe and filled with tennis photos, spill out onto the flower-filled patio overlooking the sunken clubhouse court. The complex is further anchored by a swimming pool, fitness center, and tennis pro shop. The effect encourages hanging out, before and after matches.
Tennis Staff. Newly named tennis director Tom Gorman (he came on board November 10, 2008) was one of the consortium that started this club, so his emotional connections to the complex run deep. Over its three decades, the club has attracted a Who's Who of celebrities and pros. "You name every player going back to Pancho Gonzales and they've played here," Gorman told me. As coach of the 1992 Davis Cup "Dream Team" consisting of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe, he has his own rich tennis history. Yet he's not coming here as a figurehead: "I want everyone to understand that I want to be on the court teaching," he said. He has three full-time USPTA-certified pros helping him, and will bring in others over busy holidays.
Tennis Programs. La Quinta's programs have languished in recent years and Gorman intends to change that. "I'm here to revitalize the program, to energize it," he asserted. "My immediate goal is to intermingle the members and guests." He's already put in place a women's doubles strategy session and a men's night and has plans for daily adult and junior clinics and Cardio tennis during the busy holiday periods.
Courts & Fees. There are 23 courts in all: 18 hard and 5 Har-Tru, 8 of them with lights for night play. Court fees: $25/hour on hard courts, $35/hour on clay.
Golf Courses. Golfers who stay here can test themselves on 90 inspired holes, including the TPC Stadium, Jack Nicklaus Tournament, and Greg Norman courses at nearby PGA WEST and the resort's own Pete Dye Mountain and Dunes courses. If they come up lacking, they can always check into the acclaimed Jim McLean Golf School.
Spa & Fitness Center. La Quinta 23,000-square-foot spa is remarkable for its elegant South of the Border architecture and abundant outdoor treatment rooms that manage to be both private and open to views of the sky, stars, and haunting desert mountains. Workout enthusiasts got a 4,000-square-foot fitness center adjacent to the tennis clubhouse. That handsome building has counterpane windows on both sides, with the cardiovascular equipment set to look out on the courts, and contains a full suite of LifeFitness machines and dumbbells as well. The center also has a lengthy roster of daily workouts, including yoga, Pilates, aqua-aerobics, stretch classes, and power walks.
Camp La Quinta takes children ages 4 to 12 for half-day and full-day programs as well as weekend evening programs, mainly during the major holidays.
There are 804 rooms, suites and villas mostly arrayed around gardenlike courtyards with swimming pools and outdoor whirlpools.
It is hard to match the physical beauty of La Quinta's setting, but you can find other resorts with similar amenities. Here is just a representative sample:
- The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Arizona
- The Broadmoor, Colorado
- Four Seasons Resort & Club, Texas
- The Phoenician, Arizona
- The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Florida
Rates and Reservations
Lodging ranges from the vintage casitas--a tiny one-bedroom cottage--to villas and several configurations of suites, from junior or what is really a small home. Most of the lodging clusters around a series of courtyards all with small swimming pools and hot tubs. Check with the resort's web site for rates on the dates you want to visit.
49-499 Eisenhower Dr.
P.O. Box 69
La Quinta, CA 92253
Web Link: La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Seasons. The resort is open year-round but confine your tennis vacation to the period from October to early May. High season typically begins in mid January and extends through April.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority website or contact them at 69-930 Hwy. 111, Suite 201, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Phone: 760-770-9000 or 800-967-3767 or Fax: 760-770-9001.