By Roger Cox, Editor
Ordinarily, the number of courts a resort has is a key to its passion for tennis. More is obviously better. But Hidden Dunes, a 27-acre beachfront enclave of condos and cottages in the Florida Panhandle, proves that every rule has its exceptions. Tucked away amid some trees near the front of the property is a complex of five clay and three pickleball courts. Guests who opt for Hidden Dunes seem to regard tennis as almost as essential amenity as the white-sand beach.
When you walk into the pro shop you will get a warm reception and an offer to find a way to get you on the court. Game matching is one of their strongest services because the staff draws not only on owners and guests but also on a stable of local players. Players are encouraged to call and let them know they are coming to town.
"It's a small quaint little place, " says long-time tennis director Renee Broxson, "and people like that it's laid back, relaxed."
Renee Broxson, a USPTA-certified professional, has been an integral part of the tennis center for more than 16 years. Prior to joining Hidden Dunes, she played for the University of West Florida, a team she went on to help coach. From there, her career took her to the Pensacola Country Club as its tennis director and then to Hidden Dunes. Her infectious passion for tennis permeates the club's atmosphere and programing and are big reasons avid players return year after year.
The court complex includes not only a pro shop and clubhouse, but also a General Store. Run by Lizzy VanCleave, the store stocks tennis clothes—including Hidden Dunes apparel—as well as beach rafts and games, sunglasses, sunscreen, rainy day games, ice cream, and drinks.
Broadly speaking, the vibe and activities at Hidden Dunes varies with the seasons. The tennis and pickleball center is busiest in winter (November through Spring Break) when the snowbirds come down and gather with their extended families. During that period, the weekly roster includes round robins and clinics geared to a mostly older clientele. In the height of summer,by contrast, there are drill clinics for both adults and kids. At any season, the resort welcomes groups and teams for custom-tailored tennis or pickleball getaways.
Tennis and Wine Weekends
Pro Shop: 850-269-2590
Courts & Fees. The five clay and three pickleball courts are arrayed around a tasteful wood-frame pro shop with patios and umbrella tables and an upper viewing deck covered by an awning. The courts have weathered wooden fence posts and see-through screens. One has some terraced seating set off by latticework.
Spa & Fitness
The choices include midrise condos on the beach, cottages with private porches, and 3- and 4-bedroom villas, many of the last on the lake.
If you like the sound of Hidden Dunes also check out:
The resort has 1-to-4-bedroom condos and cottages available for daily or weekly rentals.
Visit the website for current rates
Travel Instructions. By Air: Although there are regional airports in Fort Walton Beach (VPS) and Pensacola Regional (PNS), and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), roughly an hour's drive to the east in Panama City. Rental cars are available at all three.
General Tourist Information. Check out the Visit South Walton website.