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Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Omni Amelia Island Plantaton, Amelia Island, Florida
©Roger Cox

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Cliff Drysdale Tennis School

Amelia Island, Florida

By Roger Cox, Editor

Amelia Island has roughly the same dimensions as Manhattan Island—13 miles long by 2 miles wide—but any similarity ends there. Situated off the extreme northeast coast of Florida, this southernmost of the large Atlantic barrier islands has fewer inhabitants than a square block of the Big Apple, many of those in the tiny historic town of Fernandina Beach at the northern tip. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort cuts a 1,350-acre swath across the center, from the dune-lined Atlantic to the tidal marshlands bordering the Intracoastal Waterway. Forest and shade abound, and so does bird life.



Overview

The resort has always paid more than the usual attention to its tennis. For 29 years, the 23 Har-Tru courts at its Racquet Park were home to the annual Bausch & Lomb Tennis Championships, a major stop on the women's tour (the event has since been dropped from the calendar). Attractively and spaciously laid out among the moss-bearded live oaks, the courts border a large pro shop and a splendid indoor fitness center—complete with a lap pool in a greenhouse-like enclosure. Wicker chairs await on the outside decks, providing a place to relax and watch the action on the nearby courts. One of these is the Stadium Court, an intimate venue framed by a few rows of terraced seats. It is available for any guest who wants to play on the same court where the pros used to compete each spring.

Otherwise, Amelia stands out for its multiple dimensions. Lodging options include the 404-room Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, a hotel that Omni refurbished and expanded both to provide better lodging for the adjacent conference center and to give vacationers the option of full hotel services as an alternative to a condominium rental. The resort also has three golf courses within its borders —all of them certified Audubon bird sanctuaries. Kids can look forward to their own island, home to a well-run children's program. There is also an excellent nature program, miles of bike lanes to supplement its free on-property shuttle, Segway tours (those one-person motorized pair of wheels), and a gourmet market and a dozen or so shops in the village at the entrance and adjacent to The Spa. That attention to tennis is only one aspect of its appeal.

Tennis Features

Pro Shop: 904-277-5151
Email:

When Omni hotels took over the resort, they immediately sought to revitalize the tennis and to do so brought in the Cliff Drysdale Tennis group both to run the day-to-day tennis programs for adults and juniors and to stage tennis camps. You'll find my take on aspects of this new program on my blog under A Day in the Drysdale Tennis Camp and more about the staff and programs below.

Tennis Staff & Programs. The Drysdale group installed New Zealander Scott Colebourne to run their programs. Colebourne had previously jumpstarted the tennis at Stratton Mountain in Vermont after the Drysdale group took over that operation in 2009. Within days of arriving in Florida, he moved to dramatically increase the activity, beefing up the game matching and introducing daily themed instructional clinics followed by a drills session. There are also Cardio sessions and social round robins, both of which run three times a week, as well as Quickstart programs for kids under 12, after-school junior programs, and a summer junior day camp. As a guest you can also take advantage of the staff's game matching services and participate in round robins. Finally, Colebourne has introduced a selection of 2- and 3-day tennis packages both for individuals, couples, and families and for teams—both with the option to customize—and on selected dates runs special Ladies Only retreats and Mixed/Couples retreats. And to strengthen the entire operation he brought in Sal Barbaro, who had previously been a camp director at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch.
Courts & Fees. Racquet Park has 23 Har-Tru courts (3 with lights) laid out through a forest of live oaks. Many of the courts are thus in shade—a significant benefit during the hot, steamy summers. One of these is a sunken stadium court, which has a few tiers of seats. Court Fees: $15/person/day.

Ratings

(294 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
4½-Ball Rating Tennis Staff
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Game Matching
4½-Ball Rating Junior Tennis
4-Ball Rating Tennis Complex
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Cuisine
4-Ball Rating Lodging
4-Ball Rating Spa & Fitness
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4½-Ball Rating Other Recreation
4½-Ball Rating Setting
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Kids' Programs
4-Ball Rating Romance
4-Ball Rating Solo Travelers
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Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Amelia Ratings
( 138 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
4½-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating
Junior Tennis
4-Ball Rating
Dollar Value
4½-Ball Rating

Ratings

(294 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
4½-Ball Rating Instruction
4½-Ball Rating Tennis Complex
4½-Ball Rating Lodging
4-Ball Rating Spa & Fitness
4-Ball Rating Dollar Value
4½-Ball Rating Kids' Programs
4-Ball Rating Solo Travelers
4-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Game Matching
4½-Ball Rating Junior Tennis
4-Ball Rating Cuisine
4-Ball Rating Other Recreation
4½-Ball Rating Setting
4-Ball Rating Romance
4-Ball Rating


Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Amelia Ratings
( 138 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
4½-Ball Rating Instruction
4½-Ball Rating Dollar Value
4½-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Junior Tennis
4-Ball Rating

Elite Tennis Travel

LBK 2017

Other Recreation

Beach. This broad corridor of grass-tufted sand extends along the length of the island, though it is at its most beautiful within the resort, where it borders natural dunes that rise as high as 50 feet in places. All of the construction took place behind the primary dune line, with strategically placed boardwalks over the dunes providing access to the beach and Atlantic.

Golf Courses. Amelia now has 54 holes of golf, all of them certified as Audubon sanctuaries. Coquina shell cart paths predominate (asphalt has been used only when necessary to prevent erosion), and the fairway edges have been flared to prevent runoff from entering adjacent lagoons and creeks. Only organic chemicals known not to adversely affect bird life are used and colorants are avoided entirely.

Long Point: Tom Fazio's scenic if tight course winds through marshes, thick oak and pine forests, and oceanfront dunes. Par: 70. Length: 4,927-6,775 yards.
Oak Marsh: The first course and still most demanding course at Amelia Island Plantation, Oak Marsh was designed by Pete Dye—his signature bulkheads outline numerous greens—and is notable for its natural rough and use of existing features. Water hazards riddle 14 of these holes. Par: 72. Length: 4,983-6,580 yards.
Ocean Links: Designed by both Pete Dye and Bobby Weed, the latter noted for his TPC courses. It runs parallel to the beach. Five of its holes border the ocean as they wind along a ridge of dunes. Expect small greens, narrow fairways, shifting winds, exhilarating scenery, and a far greater challenge than its modest length suggests. Par: 70. Length: 4,341-6,108 yards.


Spa & Fitness Center. The Spa & Salon, a 13,000-square-foot island of tranquility designed by noted spa architect Bob Henley, backs up to Red Maple Lake not far from the reception center. Taking its cue from Lowcountry style, this low-slung building has gray clapboard walls, lighter gray trim, and a tin roof. Inside Douglas fir pillars support rough redwood beams in a simple but handsome entrance foyer and then floors paved with slate from China lead north and south to treatment rooms, some of which open onto balconies on the lake. Treatments include massage, hydrotherapy, facials, herbal wraps and more supplemented by retreats and personal growth programs.
The fitness center, whose location in Racquet Park makes it extremely convenient for tennis players, contains a broad selection of Cardio equipment, Cybex stations, and free weights. There's also an indoor lap pool and whirlpool in a greenhouse-like building with windows on the courts. Both men's and women's lockers have sauna, steam, and whirlpools. Personal trainers are available and so are classes in aerobics, Pilates, and body sculpting.

And ... In addition to everything else Amelia has more than 7 miles of biking and nature trails, superb guided nature tours, kayaking, and horseback riding.

Children's Programs

The resort runs an award-winning children's program called "Kids Camp Amelia" for children ages 4 or potty trained to 10. It operates year-round. The younger the child, the lower the counselor:kid ratio. Kids are divided by age group (3-4, 5-7, and 8-10) and entertained with a variety of activities, including tennis. Full-day sessions cost $70/day, with discounts available for extended stays.

Lodging

At eight stories tall, the 404-room hotel exists first and foremost to provide bedrooms for meeting groups drawn to the adjacent conference center, though it is also luring vacationers happy to trade a condo's space and the kitchen for easy access to room service, a mere elevator ride to a living-room like lobby lounge and two excellent restaurants, and the most central location in the resort.

Parked behind the dunes lining a 3-mile-long beach, the narrow, flowing 404-room hotel provides every guest with a full-width balcony and sweeping views of the Atlantic. The entrances to all the rooms are on the back side from open, covered walkways with views westward across the live oak and pine forests.

The alternative to the hotel is any of the extensive array of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom condos in various locations around the resort including oceanfront, the Racquet Park, and in wooded neighborhoods beyond. That includes a set of Tennis Villas immediately behind the courts. All of the condominiums are individually owned and decorated, so you can never be sure the owner's taste will jibe with yours.

Restaurants

Among the half a dozen choices, my top two picks are the Verandah at Racquet Park for its seafood and a Southern style market and deli called Marché Burette in the Village. For variety, it's worth the drive into Fernandina Beach to dine at the Beech Street Grill, at once delicious, informal, and very reasonably priced for the high quality of the food.

Calendar

Jan. 26-28, 2018: Cliff Drysdale Tennis Doubles Boot Camp
cliffdrysdale.regfox.com/ameliadoublesbootcamp  Phone: 904-277-5151

A very popular co-ed camp for couples, team, or individuals, this weekend program focuses on a broad range of doubles skills, among them Smart Shot Selection, how to Attack like a Tiger and Defensive Offense. The package includes includes 10 hours of tennis, welcome reception, pro doubles exhibition, and accommodations for 2 nights. Email: aitennispro@omnihotels.com for more information.

Feb. 16-18, 2018: Cliff Drysdale Tennis Doubles Boot Camp
cliffdrysdale.regfox.com/ameliadoublesbootcamp Phone: 904-277-5151

A very popular co-ed camp for couples, team, or individuals, this weekend program focuses on a broad range of doubles skills, among them Smart Shot Selection, how to Attack like a Tiger and Defensive Offense. The package includes includes 10 hours of tennis, welcome reception, pro doubles exhibition, and accommodations for 2 nights. Email: aitennispro@omnihotels.com for more information.

Feb. 23-25, 2018: Cliff Drysdale Tennis Doubles Boot Camp
cliffdrysdale.regfox.com/ameliadoublesbootcamp Phone: 904-277-5151

A very popular co-ed camp for couples, teams, or individuals, this weekend program focuses on a broad range of doubles skills, among them Smart Shot Selection, how to Attack like a Tiger and Defensive Offense. The package includes includes 10 hours of tennis, welcome reception, pro doubles exhibition, and accommodations for 2 nights. Email: aitennispro@omnihotels.com for more information.

See Also

Among the similar resorts along this coast are:

For something in the mountains look at:

Rates and Reservations

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Amelia offers a beachfront hotel and one-to-three-bedrooms condos. Tennis packages are also available.

Visit the website for current rates

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
6800 First Coast Hwy.
Amelia Island, FL 32034
904-261-6161
Toll-free: 888-444-6664
Web Link: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Amelia

A variety of packages are available. See the website for details.

Visit the website for current rates

Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Amelia
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
6800 First Coast Hwy.
Amelia Island, FL
904-277-5151
Web Link: Cliff Drysdale Tennis at Amelia

Travel Essentials

Seasons. The resort is open year-round, though the winter months do not invite a dip in the Atlantic. Their lower rates make them good bargains if you're interested in golf or tennis, however.

Travel Instructions. Amelia is 29 miles from Jacksonville International Airport, which is served by all of the major airlines.

General Tourist Information. For information about Amelia Island specifically, visit the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council website or contact them at 102 Centre Street, Amelia Island, FL 32034. Phone: 904-277-0717. For broader background about the attractions of Northeast Florida, visit the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau website or contact them at 3 Independent Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32202; 904-798-9148 or 800-733-2668.