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.
Director of Racquets Rhett Russell oversees the complex, now that the resort's 17-year veteran Renee Broxson has opted to retire. A graduate of the University of Alabama—he grew up in Gulf Shores—he went on to direct tennis programs in Alabama and Georgia before bringing his 20+ years of teaching and coaching to the Hidden Dunes Tennis Center. Under his guidance, vacationers can expect to find the same level of game-matching for which the resort has long been known, as well as a roster of round robins, socials, tournaments, junior clinics, and parent/child instruction and matches. He's acutely aware of the resort's reputation for high-quality tennis activities and his goal is at once to preserve and enhance it. "Players come to Hidden Dunes Resort for the personalized service and attention," he acknowledges. "We'll continue that focus and add compelling programming. I plan to bring my 'Drills, Skills & Thrills' program, which is appropriate for all skill levels as well as introduce a Cardio tennis program and Game 105."
The court complex includes not only a pro shop and clubhouse, but also a General Store. 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.
Pro Shop: 850-269-2590
Court Complex. 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:
Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort
9815 Hwy. 98 West
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.