Nestled among New York state’s picturesque Catskill Mountains, Total Tennis is the only resort in the northeast US to host year-round full-board tennis camps for adults. Conveniently located under 3 hours from Manhattan, its 20 outdoor and 5 indoor courts let you channel your inner Wimbledon champion come rain or shine.
- Why Go: At $585 per person for two nights of accommodation, 3 hot meals a day, 10 hours of group instruction and a 30-minute private lesson, Total Tennis’ prices stack up well against New York’s ubiquitous $35 one-hour work out classes. Discounts kick in for indoor season (late fall through late April) and return guests get a generous $100 credit. Sign up to the resort’s email list for last minute deals and holiday specials. The action packed weekend and group setting makes this a terrific option for solo travelers.
- Mobilize: Located in Saugerties, Total Tennis is easily accessible from Manhattan by public transport. I took a Friday afternoon Trailways bus from Port Authority‘s South Terminal, paying $60 for a round trip. My direct trip to Saugerties took 2.5 hours each way, though many routes involve a quick transfer in Kingston. Total Tennis picked me up at the bus stop, from where it was a 10-minute drive to the camp. Guests drove in from all over New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts – most seemed to live within a 4-hour radius.
- Pack: Enough exercise clothes to not worry about laundry. There is nowhere to clean your own clothes, nor is there a same-day laundry service. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen as there is no shade on the outdoor courts at all. Bug spray is a must – little gnats spring up in wet and humid weather.
- Work Out: This is why you go! Tennis instruction takes place 8.30am to 11.30 am and then again 1pm-3pm, with a private 30-minute lesson tacked onto the end of one of these sessions over the course of your stay. Not all of this is court time: the afternoon session kicks off with the pros demoing a particular stroke for 15 minutes and mid-session Gatorade breaks occur both morning and afternoon. Neither is court time always a work out: instructors will interrupt drills and games to coach on technique and tactics.
On day one, the Tennis Director reads out the skills expected for the levels of beginner, lower intermediate, skilled intermediate, and advanced. Guests self-assess based on the description of stroke range and match experience assumed for each, are assigned to an instructor in groups of 4, and then on the first afternoon the Director huddles with the instructors to see if anyone should switch level. This is an imperfect system and seems to be much more driven by the guest’s assertiveness in moving than on the instructor’s feedback.
Top tip: if in doubt, particularly in the vague intermediate level, opt for the higher group and wait to be moved down a level. Demotion likely will not happen – but there is a definite reluctance to move anyone up and absolutely not past the first day. And if there is one sport where your game rises or sinks to the level of your opponent’s, it is tennis.
- Sleep: Accommodation is spotless and basic. The main lodge houses the most recently renovated of the resort’s 40 guest rooms, and can be booked at a very slight price premium to the other quarters.
The en-suite bathrooms are generally dated, though sparkling, and have little in the way of toiletries, only generic bars of hand soap and a Dial dispenser attached to the wall in the shower.
Total Tennis is not the place for spa-seeking luxury lovers. Rooms do not have TVs, phones or wifi coverage. The good news is that you spend very little time in your room during the day, are too exhausted by 10pm to notice the limited amenities and wake up to birds singing in beautiful, peaceful countryside.
- Eat: There is no shortage of food, most of it delicious. Self-serve breakfast offers pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs and a fruit & yoghurt bar, while lunch includes both a self-make salad bar with sandwich fillings and hot options of soup and proteins with vegetables. Dinner on the first night was organic roast chicken with broccoli, baked sweet potatoes and a fantastic chocolate truffle cake; another was sirloin and swordfish with pasta and steamed kale followed by visits to vats of ice cream.
Nothing is available onsite between meals, so if you are a die-hard fruit or granola bar snacker, bring your own. And prepare to be a social diner: tables are communal with sneaking a plate out of the dining room considered a strict no-no.
- Cocktail: The main lodge has a cash or charge-to-room bar every night and the communal barn sells drinks on Saturday night while DJ Goldie spins tunes-on-demand to accompany dancing or ping pong. Wine, beer and liquor are sold, but no actual cocktails. Saturday evening also has a free wine and cheese happy hour in the cozy bar area, with a collegial atmosphere thanks to the novelty of seeing your new work out buddies in normal clothes. You can bring your own wine into dinner for a $5 corkage fee.
- Shop: A small room by the lobby is open most of the day to provide stringing services, t-shirts, rackets and hats.
- Wind Down: Massages are available at $40 for 25 minutes – sign up early on arrival day as these book up quickly. A large outdoor swimming pool is filled in the summer and if you haven’t sweated enough on court, there is a small hot tub (surrounded by tennis netting) that holds up to 7 guests. If your competitive appetite remains unsated by the optional round robin tournaments held from 3.30-6pm, head to the games room in front of the pro shop to grab Taboo, Clue or one of a host of other board games.
- Skip On: The very few sub-par instructors. In two weekend trips to Total Tennis, my first instructor was mediocre with repetitive, boring drills – I should have kicked up a fuss and moved group. The second weekend was infinitely better with a wonderful instructor, Bryan, who was attentive, encouraging and a natural teacher – stretching guests such that all 4 in my group improved dramatically in just two days. Speak up to get the most of your time there.
© The Whistletrip