The inclusive tennis program at Haig Point Club is creating a link from the private island community to the outside world.
Situated on Daufuskie Island between Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., and reachable only by a 30-minute ferry ride, Haig Point Club is enjoying a social and competitive surge in tennis activity that is linking the private island community to the outside world.
“Tennis is big in the Hilton Head area and it has given Haig Point—on an island without a bridge—a connection to other clubs, by allowing other tennis players to compete with our members,” says General Manager Randall Page.
The club’s friendly competition with other area clubs creates a sense of camaraderie that boosts social interaction at Haig Point. Page reports that the general membership (about 400) attends tennis competitions, integrating the social and athletic scenes at the club.
Haig Point ClubLocation: Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Year Opened: 1986
“I’m a firm believer that in the future, club members will look for diversity in activities,” Page says. “You can’t be one thing—we have an equestrian program, golf, outdoor activities, and staff members who are qualified to get members comfortable enjoying those activities. Tennis is leading the way for us, and a lot of that is to the credit of [Director of Tennis] Ron [Gwyn].”
Doing It All
As the head and heart of Haig Point’s tennis program, Gwyn, who started working part-time with the club in 1996, now oversees all program initiatives, teaches clinics and lessons, works in the tennis pro shop, and even strings racquets. Though he does have a crew for maintenance of the six Har-Tru courts, Gwyn is, quite literally, the tennis department.
“Getting into USTA [United States Tennis Association] leagues was really a catalyst for the growth we’ve had,” Gwyn says. “We started with just a couple of teams two or three years ago. One of our younger teams won state championships, and that created a lot of buzz. The leagues have been a big help.”
For Page, much of the value of the leagues and tournament victories comes from how they’ve helped to develop interest within a growing segment of the Haig Point membership: women. “Because women have won state championships recently in various levels, the tennis program has given some recognition to female athletes and the female side of the club business that you don’t always get with golf,” he notes.
Noting the pace-of-play issues that many golf operations are now addressing (see “It’s About Time”), Page adds that the flexibility of tennis, in allowing members to choose how long they wish to play, is also adding to the game’s attraction. “And it’s different from golf in that there is a competitive component because you’re playing against each other, rather than just the course,” he notes. “It’s a great, low-cost benefit and amenity, and it costs me nothing to do it.”
Back to Basics
While competitive tennis has revved up Haig Point’s program, its true bread-and-butter is an initiative that re-introduces the game to those who have wandered from it.
“One thing I started that I think has been key is a Back to Basics clinic,” says Gwyn. “It’s designed not for people who have never played, but for people who played earlier in their lives before having full-time jobs and putting tennis aside, and are eager to get back into the game. It’s a real entryway to get into the program.”
The “refresher course” is designed to be slower-paced to re-build skills, Gwyn says, and is ultimately a good feeder program for more advanced clinics and leagues. Of the approximately 250 members who participate in the program (more than half of the total Haig Point membership), the most active group in the tennis program is in the 55-60 age range.
|Award-WorthyOn a yearly basis, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) honors top-notch tennis programs with its Outstanding Facility Awards. The awards seek to encourage increasingly high standards for tennis facilities throughout the country. The USTA evaluates nominations based on:The Facility:
The Tennis Program:
FACILITY AWARD CATEGORIES
For 2014 awards, the timetable is as follows:
Source: United States Tennis Association
“I’m encouraged by the trend of the program’s growth among members who didn’t join the club to play tennis and are not tennis players, but have been invited to play,” Page says. “We have seen it expand in areas where a person doesn’t have to be a competitive pro to play—it has integrated itself into our community.”
To keep the program grounded, Gwyn works to incorporate food-and-beverage into all monthly tennis events, such as round robins. At the end of a match, the club will host a social with the visiting club’s team that includes a light menu. Once or twice a year, the departments will work together for a Caribbean dinner, consisting of jerk chicken and tunes by Jack Johnson.
“The F&B department has been great working with us,” Gwyn says. “Sometimes weather becomes a factor and we get rained out, but they will be flexible and work with us.”
And the Winner Is…
In 2012, Haig Point was honored with the USTA’s Outstanding Facility Award. The club’s unusual environment, Gwyn feels, likely played a role in the honor.
“One thing that makes us unique is that it’s so quiet—there are no cars on the island, so people use golf carts instead, and there are no trucks or buses going by,” Gwyn says.
On top of the island’s minimal noise pollution, Gwyn says, the club discovered that it’s cheaper to barge recyclables off the island, helping it to realize $20,000 in savings from its garbage-collection fee.
The tennis program’s physical footprint is likely to expand in the future, Page says, with plans in the works for two additional courts, as part of trying to make the property even more of a destination for members. The club also plans to build bleachers to further integrate the program into the broader community and enhance enjoyment of play.
Additionally, Gwyn is being encouraged to expand youth programs and integrate his program with other club departments.
“Over the next 10 years I see us growing,” Gwyn says. “I see the tennis program integrating more with the fitness program, [and specifically] with fitness instructors who know about tennis, cardio and yoga. And in addition to expanding the courts we’re also looking to add paddle tennis, so [the facility] is going to become more of a racquet and fitness center.
“I’ve been talking to other tennis pros and colleagues, and I’m starting to see tennis growth as a trend,” Gwyn notes. “Tennis is important; 10 or 15 years ago, it was ‘golf, golf, golf,’ but now it’s not the only thing. And it’s not just us—it’s a gradual shift in the industry.”