By Roger Cox, Editor
Smoke Tree Ranch dates to 1936 and the early days of Palm Springs, but until very recently this 400-acre spread up against the San Jacinto Mountains had been a private community. The only way to visit was to know one of the so-called "colonists" who lived there. Now, however, some of its one-and two-room cottages are available for rent during the Nov. 1-Apr. 30 season.
That's noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of them that renowned coach Jose Higueras, who's been tapped to oversee all of the USTA's Player Development coaching efforts, is based there. "I think it's a great place to train," he said when I asked him what lured him to Smoke Tree. Sam Querrey and Donald Young both practiced there during the 2009 BNP Paribas Open, he told me (there are also seven hard courts), so you don't know who you might spot. And although Higueras does not give private lessons, he does stage occasional special clinics at the Ranch, especially over holiday weekends, and custom designs clinic packages for groups of 8 to 12.
As a place to stay, this is very different from the other tennis properties in the Valley. Its one-story cottages and houses line narrow residential streets that fan out into the desert from a central clubhouse, where guests and some colonists gather for meals. In addition to tennisâ€”there are three pros for private lessons in season--there's a junior Olympic pool, a three-hole golf course, several kids' playgrounds, hiking trails into the mountains, and horseback riding stables right at the edge of the property. It's all very quiet, low-key, and family-oriented.
The main tennis complex consists of a pro shop/general store
bordered by five hard courts. An awning across the back
patio affords action on the two closest courts. There are
three pros on staff. Most of the instruction
is private lessons, though there are ladies' days each
week and clinics, supplemented by occasional junior clinics,
informal tournaments, and social round robins. There are also
two Har-Tru courts, two additional hard courts, and a paddle
tennis court just across the road near the junior Olympic
swimming pool and bowling green.
Courts & Fees. There are 7 hard (2 with lights) and 2 clay courts.
Spa & Fitness
Golf Courses. There is a three-hole practice course.
Fitness Center. The tennis clubhouse has a tiny fitness room housing a couple of cardio stations and half a dozen ProFormance exercise stations.
And ... There is a kids' playground outfitted with a treehouse, swings and slides, a sandbox, and jungle gym. Stables just outside the property provide the option of horseback riding into the desert hills beyond.
There are organized children's programs over busy weekends and holidays.
The cottages, which range in size from studios to one bedroom, none taller and a single story and all scattered through a desert landscape along streets without names. These can be combined to create suites as large as five bedrooms. Most have wood-burning fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, Internet access, patios, wet bars or kitchenettes, patio and lawn areas, and complimentary parking.
The Ranch House Dining Room, furnished with hickory chairs, is the focal point of much of the ranch's socializing, and thus many guests opt for a Full American Plan and take all their meals there. The atmosphere is informal—to the point that guests pass through the kitchen to pick up their evening meal—though by tradition men as asked to don jackets on Friday and Saturday evenings. Guests can dine indoors beneath a beam ceiling or outdoors beside a rock fire pit.
If you like the sound of Smoke Tree Ranch, also check out:
Studio, one- and two-bedroom cottages are available, as are breakfast and Full American Plan dining packages
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Early November to late April.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority website or contact them at 69-930 Hwy. 111, Suite 201, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Phone: 760-770-9000 or 800-967-3767 or Fax: 760-770-9001.