By Roger Cox, Editor
Sometimes changes to a property are so extensive and wide ranging that it no longer makes sense to evoke what was. This 53-acre resort was the famous John Gardiner Tennis Ranch on Camelback Mountain but it has since headed in an entirely different direction, replacing many of the courts with a 12,000-square-foot spa, renovating and redecorating the hillside casitas—which are far more posh and tastefully decorated than ever—rebuilding the clubhouse, and completely reconceiving the restaurant (called "elements") and its menu.
This hillside property has been thoroughly reimagined, with the Zen-influenced spa as the centerpiece. It's an undeniably appealing property, smaller and more intimate than is typical of greater Phoenix, and yet rich in amenities—not only the spa but an inviting infinity-edge pool beneath the Praying Monk figure on Camelback mountain, a handsome fitness center and movement studio bordered by a lightly salinated lap pool, and award-winning cuisine from the kitchen of celebrity chef Beau Macmillan.
Pro Shop: 480-607-2340
Amidst all these changes, tennis adopted a minor role, its facility scaled back to a mere five courts. Two veteran Gardiner pros do, however, remain on staff: director John Abelardo and senior pro Horst Falger. A visit to the pro shop brings back memories of the Gardiner era. The walls inside are covered with photos of the late John Gardiner and the politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and bold-face tennis professionals who were once part of the fabric here. It's an era Abelardo and Falger are eager to reminisce about. But they've also adapted with the changes, offering daily clinics for anyone who shows up and custom-designing multi-day programs for groups and teams. And because this is the Sanctuary now, those programs may include some unexpected ingredients. "When you're having mimosas and a chair massage before your clinics, it's a little different experience," says Abelardo referring to a program they'd put together for a group of women. The expertise from the Gardiner era is still here, even though tennis is no longer a common language of every guest. Like the resort, the tennis courts now afford a more intimate experience. No one spends the entire day at the courts anymore. Falger sums up the tennis experience this way: "You're not here for a long time," he says. "You're here for a good time."
Lodging at the Sanctuary consists of 74 one- and two-bedroom casitas, designed so that the second bedroom of a two-bedroom unit can be locked off and rented as a deluxe room. The 74 original units have been thoroughly gutted and remodeled. All now have a contemporary decor with Southwestern accents, ultrasuede couches, rich woods, and large baths with pedestal sinks, tubs, and separate slate showers. The one- and two-bedroom models have living areas with fireplaces, exposed beam ceilings, full kitchens, and long outside decks. In addition, there are 24 chic new spa casitas that range in size from 650 to 1,500 square feet. Each of those opens onto a patio, half of which have an outdoor steeping tub. There is also a four-bedroom house, formerly owned by Ken Rosewall, that's notable for having a tennis court on its roof.
Simple, almost Zen-like place setting and views across the Paradise Valley make "elements", the restaurant at the Sanctuary, an inviting place to dine, and executive chef Beau MacMillan's way with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients makes the experience even more memorable. MacMillan, who defeated Bobby Flay in an Iron Chef America competition, crafts farm-fresh American cuisine with Asian accents. The menu changes monthly to reflect the season harvest. elements also has a well-chosen wine list, and more than a score of the selections can be ordered by the glass.
If you're looking for a luxury resort with a spa, you should also check out:
The resort has deluxe, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom casitas located either adjacent to the spa or on the side of Camelback Mountain and private homes as large as five bedrooms. Rates below include breakfast for two people.
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Year-round, though most comfortable from October to May.
Travel Instructions. The Sanctuary is eight miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).