By Roger Cox, Editor
The Shawnee Indians knew about these sulfur springs and their healing powers long before they were discovered by homesteaders in 1778. But it did not take long for word to spread and a collection of log cabins and tents to sprout around the waters in this serene mountain valley, setting the stage for what has evolved into a 11,000-acre resort in West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains. The centerpiece is a stately 582-room white-columned Georgian hotel, now a National Historic Landmark, and its entourage of 128 guest cottages and estate houses, striking in their Dorothy Draper and Carleton Varney decor of bold patterns and vivid colors. While the mineral baths remain a distinguishing element, the allure now extends to a vast array of recreational diversions, among them tennis, golf, bowling, and falconry. The big news for Spring 2010 is the opening of The Casino at The Greenbrier, a 8,900-square-foot collection of table games, slot machines, retail boutiques, and restaurants.
The decor and casino suggests that this is anything but a shy, retiring Southern belle; however, the resort does cling to some long-standing traditions. Dinner in the formal Main Dining Room is a sumptuous, multicourse affair served in an ornate hall. Gentlemen don jackets and ties at dinner (though there is also a less formal option of dining at the golf clubhouse).
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The resort has an extraordinary tennis history: It had a grass court as long ago as the 1890s and such tennis legends as Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, and Bryan "Bitsy" Grant played there. Today the attention to tennis seems more subdued, with a relatively small complex of 10 courts, one of them a 2,500-seat stadium, though because five of them are indoors, it is possible to play year-round.
Tennis Staff. Head teaching pro Jennifer Tuckwiller arrived at The Greenbrier in 2007. Immediately prior, she had played for West Virginia University and then, after graduating, became its assistant women's coach.
Tennis Programs. The Greenbrier offers a daily roster of stroke analysis clinics and doubles drills and strategy as well as summer by junior clinics. All of these tend to get bigger turnouts on weekends and during the summer. The staff also strives to find both adults and juniors games: "We try the best we can to match them up," says Tuckwiller, drawing on their local membership if there are no suitable resort guests. The resort also has painted permanent lines for two pickleball courts on one of the indoor courts..
Courts & Fees. The Greenbrier has five Har-Tru courts outdoors and 5 hard courts (one of the latter set up for two pickleball courts) indoors as well as a 2,500-seat stadium at Creekside, site of an annual tennis festival that has featured such tennis greats as featured tennis greats such as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Venus Williams, and Serena Williams. . Court fees: $46/hour, indoors or outdoors.
Spa & Fitness
Golf Courses. The Greenbrier has three courses: the original Old White Course, built in 1914 using designs by Charles Blair MacDonald; The Greenbrier Course, which opened in 1924 but was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1977 for the 1979 Ryder Cup Matches; and the Meadows Course, which opened in 1962.
Spa & Fitness Center. The Greenbrier grew up around its mineral-springs spa and has since enhanced and expanded those facilities for offer a broad range of spa services. Meanwhile, they have installed fitness equipment on the mezzanine overlooking the indoor courts.
And ... Tennis and golf aside, The Greenbrier boasts an extraordinary catalog of recreation. It includes indoor and outdoor swimming pools, horseback riding, bowling, carriage and sleigh rides, fishing on its lakes or the local rivers, croquet, a gun club for trap and skeet shooting and sporting clays, mountain biking, falconry, geocaching, and options for whitewater and kayaking trips, to name the most prominent options.
Among the other tennis resorts with The Greenbrier's grand style are:
For other historic resorts but with a different ambiance, look at:
Rates vary greatly throughout the year, so check the website for the times you want to visit. In general, they are higher on Friday and Saturday than during the week.
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Year-round, including tennis thanks to its indoor courts.
Travel Instructions. As of August 1, 2012, Silver Airways will begin offering once-a-day flights from Atlanta 's Hartsfield-Jackson and Washington, DC's Dulles airport into Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB). That will supplement service already available into Beckley, WV (on United) and Roanoke (on United, US Airways and Delta).
General Tourist Information. For general information about vacationing in this part of West Virginia, visit Greenbrier County Convention & Visitors Bureau or phone them toll-free at 800-833-2068.