By Roger Cox, Editor
In more than four decades of teaching and coaching, Dennis Van der Meer established himself as one of the foremost tennis teachers in the world. A former top player in his native South Africa, he went on to coach Margaret Court and Billie Jean King and then established his own teaching center on Hilton Head Island. In 1988, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports established a "National Master in Tennis" award and designated Van der Meer as one of the very first recipients. He passed away on Saturday, July 27, 2019. I first met him in the 1980s at a camp at the Van Der Meer Tennis Center and came away amazed by his upbeat teaching—sometimes punctuated by silly jokes—and his phenomenal ability at the end of a camp with 60 participants to conclude by calling each by name and recalling specifically the flaws in their game he was working on to help them improve. A kind, wonderful man who cared deeply about tennis and tennis players. He is missed. For more about him and his contribution to tennis, see the obituary in The Island Packet.
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Van der Meer's inspiration aside, what distinguishes this tennis center from virtually all the other camps and resorts viewed here is that it is solely a teaching facility with no lodging of its own. Apart from some juniors in its World class program who live at the center, every camper who arrives stays somewhere else. Although the center does make lodging arrangements—and in fact gets its students discounted rates at two local hotels—you're free to stay anywhere you like and book the programs separately. So unlike many other camps where students stay in the same accommodations and often dine together, at the Van Der Meer Center the campers disperse at the end of the day and only see each other again by accident or design until the next day's sessions.
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No matter which of Van Der Meer's senior staff runs the clinic, the teaching methodology is the same. Van der Meer has developed a highly programmed, step-by-step teaching method he calls the Official Standard Method of Instruction. It breaks each of the basic strokes down into a series of specific steps. Students start by mastering simple skills (like bouncing a ball off the ground with their racquet), which can then be combined to produce whole strokes. The idea is to create confidence by building on successes and thus minimize the frustration of learning a difficult sport. Van der Meer believes that his methods "can teach a beginner the basics of the game faster and more efficiently than any other method."
Tennis Programs. For multi-day adult clinics now take place at the Van Der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort, where there is lodging just steps from the courts. The Tennis Center focuses on daily daily clinics and drill sessions for those who want an hour or two of instruction or a demanding workout.
Courts & Fees. The complex consists of 28 hard and clay courts, 4 of them indoors. Court fees: None.
Beach. Some of the properties the Van Der Meer Center uses to house students have beaches; check with the resort for details.
Golf Courses. None. If you want to make golf part of your holiday, either book the Van Der Meer program at Shipyard Plantation or check out the other resorts on Hilton Head Island (see Tennis Resorts Online Mid Atlantic Map).
Although the Van Der Meer Center has no lodging of its own, it does offer discounted rates hotels and villas on the island.
If you're looking for another camp with an essentially all-day program, also check out:
Most of the longer adult programs take place at Van der Meer's Shipyard Racquet Club. The Tennis Center offers a variety of daily programs. Discounted lodging is available for players utilizing either facility. Call for current rates and say you were referred by Tennis Resorts Online.
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Year-round, though busiest spring and fal. If money is an object, you'll get the best rates in winter, when daytime temperatures on Hilton Head Island can be ideal for tennis, just don't expect to spend much time at the beach.
Travel Instructions. By Air: The Van Der Meer Center is 45 miles from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) in Georgia and 95 miles from Charleston International Airport (CHS). Major airlines serve both of those gateways. It is also possible to fly directly to Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), on commuter service from US Airways Express, via Charlotte, NC. Rental cars and shuttles are available at all three airports.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau website.