Almost as soon as the campers have taken the court, Michael McFarlane, the resort's owner, begins kidding tennis director Caerwyn Evans about his Australian accent. Evans more than holds his own, returning patter for patter, as the two of them lead campers through a spirited on-court warmup. The warmup soon ends, segueing into team competition, but the light-hearted banter continues, infusing the day's work with a pervasive sense of fun.
Shadow Mountain opened in the late 1940s with a single court, but over time it grew to be one of the celebrated places to play in the greater Palm Springs desert, expanding to 16 courts, three of them clay. It had a reputation for superb game matching, with legendary hostesses like Karen Haase, a personable former top-ranked junior who still puts in several days a week behind the desk. It also became known for its Desert Tennis Academy, though it was McFarlane's arrival in 1997 that set the stage for it to become one of the nation's highly regarded camps. He infused the program with new life, attracting avid players eager to spend as many as five hours a day doing drills, honing strokes, and battling competitors. He fashioned a flexible, start-any-day curriculum that runs three hours each morning with the option of an additional two in the afternoon.
"We get a lot of high-level players who tell us that they want to focus on improving what they do best," McFarlane told me. "We make sure they get to hit a ton of balls."
Shadow Mountain sits in a residential neighborhood a few blocks south of the celebrated boulevard of shops and restaurants called El Paseo. A high wall hides it from view. Beyond that wall is an unprepossessing collection of flat-roofed, two-story condominiums ranging in size from studios to three bedrooms. At the core of the resort is a large figure-8 swimming pool and the 16-court tennis complex. Life at Shadow Mountain revolves around those two amenities (though the resort now also owns the adjacent golf course).
Pro Shop: 760-346-6123
Tennis Staff. Caerwyn Evans brings impressive credentials—and an engaging personality—to Shadow Mountain's tennis program. An elite junior in his native Australia, he went on to coach internationally, eventually ending up at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden—site of the BNP Paribas Open—before taking over the Desert Tennis Academy in 2013 and subsequently the entire tennis program.
Tennis Programs. The Desert Tennis Academy offers two programs: a three-hour morning session and a two-hour afternoon singles or doubles session. They can be booked either together or separately. The emphasis is on stroke production and video analysis. "We hit a lot of balls but all have a purpose to them," Evans told me. Although advertised at a 6:1 student:pro ratio, these frequently run more like 4:1 or even 3:1, which means the camps can be fairly intense when that's what students want.
Beyond the camps, Shadow Mountain has superb game matching under its tennis hostesses, among them Karen Haase, who's been there more than two decades. It also runs a couple of social mixers each week, sometimes paired with dinner or wine or beer tastings.
If you're looking for a workout, but not necessarily in a camp setting, checkout their new 90-minute "Liveball" clinics. Evans describes it as "a fast- paced doubles game that's like one continuous point! It can be compared to or as a substitute for Cardio tennis." These are scheduled as many as four times a week. Evans is a certified Cardio and TRX Cardio trainer.
Finally, Shadow Mountain also has a Junior Desert Tennis Academy. Though intended for locals, it runs year-round and can readily accept the children of vacationing families. Court Complex. The main bank of 10 hard courts (6 with lights) has been laid out in fairly orderly fashion in banks of three or four running not north-south—the preferred deployment—but northwest-southeast. The other six, three of which are clay, appear to have been shoehorned in wherever there was room. One of those even runs east-west. But though the layout suggests that the complex received secondary treatment, it is in fact a focal point of the resort. The courts flow from a two-story tennis clubhouse, which rises at one end of the figure-8 pool. It contains not only a full-service pro shop but also a small fitness center (make that very small) and the resort's only restaurant: the Courtside Cafe on the second floor overlooking the courts and pool. Its walls—and those in the main lobby—display historic black-and-white photos of the resort dating to the 1940s. Court fees: None.
Desert Tennis Academy Ratings
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Desert Tennis Academy Ratings
( 7 Reviewers)
Golf Courses. The resort owns the adjacent Gene Sarazen-designed 5,418-yard, par-70 Shadow Mountain Golf Club, which is otherwise private, and can thus book tee times there. It can also make arrangements to play elsewhere in the Coachella Valley.
Fitness Center. Located in the Tennis Clubhouse, this small room has a handful of cardiovascular machines and one Body Master weight-training station. There are also saunas and a massage room.
And ... Apart from the large figure-8 swimming pool and its adjacent Jacuzzi and firepit, there are three additional pools, one paddle tennis court, a pickleball court, a basketball court, a grass volleyball court.
The resort has one small, unpretentious restaurant, the Court Cafe and Bar. Located on the second floor of the tennis clubhouse, it has windows overlooking the teaching court and outside decks with tables overlooking the figure-8 pool. It serves breakfast and lunch daily—omelets, salads, sandwiches, smoothies—as well as craft beers. For evening dining, there is a Passport program that provides discounts at selected restaurants, many of them just a few blocks away on El Paseo Drive.
If you're looking for another haven for avid players, also check out:
If you're looking for other resorts that specialize in programs for groups and teams, also check out:
Shadow Mountain Resort & Club
45-750 San Luis Rey
Seasons. Although Shadow Mountain is open year-round, summer temperatures in the Palm Springs desert reach triple digits and that figure-8 pool will look much more appealing than the tennis courts. So for tennis, the season runs from October into early May.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Visit Palm Springs website.