Van der Meer Tennis
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
By Roger Cox, Editor
Of all the resorts on Hilton Head Island, Shipyard Plantation has always impressed me for its serenity. Drive through either entrance gate and you find yourself on a winding two-lane road bordered by woods or golf fairways and unobtrusive complexes of low-rise condos. The road eventually ends at the 23-court Van der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort and a beachfront hotel called the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island. Its location puts most of Hilton Head Island's shops, restaurants, and attractions within easy reach while ensuring a measure of tranquility once you return to the plantation.
The plantation itself covers a 800 acres. Unlike Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes, which border long stretches of beach, most of Shipyard lies inland. At its northeastern corner, however, a rectangular parcel of land connects the rest of the plantation to the beach. It's there, just behind the dunes, that you'll find both the Sonesta hotel and the resort's beach club.
The ownership of Shipyard's recreational amenities and its lodging is fragmented, which makes it modestly more complicated to sort through the options if you're planning to stay there. The condos are handled by many different island real estate agencies, each of which may have struck a different deal with the golf club and tennis club to ensure their guests special privileges.
Tennis players have it somewhat easier since they can call the Van der Meer organization and take advantage of special package prices the racquet club has cut with island hotels and villas, inside and outside the plantation.
Pro Shop: 843-686-8804
Billie Jean King was the touring pro for Shipyard Plantation in 1974 when the racquet club was built. Almost two decades later her onetime coach and former business partner Dennis Van der Meer bought the racquet club and made major enhancements, including the addition of three indoor courts, the general upgrading of the others, and enhancement of the stadium.
Tennis Staff. Although Dennis Van der Meer himself very occasionally runs a clinic here, most of the clinics are run by Dr. Louis Cap and other members of the Van der Meer professional staff. A Master Professional and PTR National Tester and Clinician, Cap played the European Circuit in the 60's, and in addition to his lengthy teaching and playing career, Louie has a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and has completed 25 consecutive Boston Marathons.
Tennis Programs. The Van der Meer organization has moved all of its multi-day adult programming to this Shipyard venue. Throughout virtually the entire year now, there are midweek and weekend clinics ranging from 10 to 20 hours in length. Different sessions are designed to appeal to different players, from basic clinics for a wide range to abilities to drill-and-play, advanced, or world-class drill sessions for NTRP 3.5 and above. Certain other periods are devoted to doubles or senior play. Adults who want daily (as opposed to multi-day) programs can still get those at Shipyard, which offers Cardio tennis and from May to October a weekly pro exhibition or a broad range of clinics Van der Meer Tennis Center, which is also where the junior programs take place.
Courts & Fees. A handsome weathered wood-and-stucco pro shop beneath a towering live oak tree anchors this 20-court complex. Walkways impregnated with shells provide access to the courts, most of which have been laid out in pairs with refrigerated water fountains and shaded pavilions in between. One of these courts is a bleachered stadium. Altogether there are 14 clay courts and 6 hard, three of the latter in an indoor building whose blue roof and facade of stucco and columns hints at the other architecture within Shipyard. Court fees: $15-$18/hour except for those on Van der Meer clinic packages.
Beach. Only one tiny strip of the Shipyard property borders the beach, and that occurs in the extreme northeast corner just behind the Sonesta Resort. Low dunes tufted with grass separate the beach proper from a line of palm trees and the hotel and beach club. Blue umbrellas stud the sand, which is otherwise cluttered with beach tricycles and chairs.
Golf Courses. Shipyard has 27 holes of golf.
Fitness Center. The only fitness center is a small one at the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island. It has an indoor swimming pool (too short for laps), perhaps a dozen total cardiovascular and weight-training machines, plus a few freeweights and a postage-stamp-sized aerobics room.
And ... There are bike trails through the property but not much else in the way of other recreation.
The Sonesta has a children's playground, and it also runs something called Camp Castaway, an adventure camp for children ages 3-12.
The Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island has just undergone a major renovation. Although I've not yet been back to see the changes firsthand, the photos on the website suggest that the previous nautical decor has been supplanted a much sleeker design, from the lobby to the rooms.
The Van der Meer organization has teamed with The Vacation Company to offer villas and luxury homes, some on the beach and within walking distance of the tennis complex. Ask about special rates when you book you clinics.
If you like the sound of Shipyard, compare it to:
- Cliff Drysdale Tennis at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Florida
- Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina
- Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort, South Carolina
- Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, South Carolina
- Sea Pines Resort, South Carolina
- Wild Dunes, South Carolina
For something in the mountains, look at:
Rates and Reservations
The Van der Meer organization has arrangements with a variety of Hilton Head lodging properties, in and out of Shipyard, at generally attractive discount prices. Check with them for current prices. Prices of selected clinics appear below.
Jan. 3-Dec. 31, 2014
Clinics (instruction only): 10 hours, $310; 16 hrs, $410; 18 hrs, $425.
TotalTennis University: May 19-23, 2014
31 hours: $525
TotalTennis University: Aug. 4-8, 2014
31 hours: $525
TotalTennis University: Oct. 13-17, 2014
31 hours: $525
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Web Link: Shipyard Plantation
Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Visit the website for current rates
130 Shipyard Dr.
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Web Link: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Book Online: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Seasons. Tennis can be played year-round at Shipyard; however the beach loses its appeal from late November into early March, since the weather during that period can be chilly. On the other hand, some of the best bargains in lodging rates (and discounted clinics) also occur in winter.
Travel Instructions. By Air: Shipyard is 45 miles from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) in Georgia and 95 miles from Charleston International Airport (CHS). Major airlines serve both of those gateways. It is also possible to fly directly to Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), on commuter service from US Airways Express, via Charlotte, NC. Rental cars and shuttles are available at all three airports.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau website or contact them at 1 Chamber Dr., P.O. Box 5647, Hilton Head Island, SC 29938; 843-785-3673 or toll-free 800-523-3373.