Against the stunning backdrop of Charleston’s island town and Daniel Island Park, the Daniel Island Club’s Tennis Pavilion is the headquarters for what has become one of the Club’s most popular recreational and social pastimes. Housing a full-service pro shop and surrounded by eleven courts, the Tennis Pavilion is situated a short stroll from the Club’s pools, outdoor grill and fitness center within the resort-like setting of the Park Club.
But as comprehensive and attractive as the setting is, it’s the Club’s tennis professionals that make the tennis program here an exceptional offering for members. The team is led by Director of Tennis Ben Cook, a South Carolina native who has made it a priority to surround himself with people who love playing – and sharing – the game. A decorated player himself, Cook has run the Club’s tennis program since 2008. We asked him to describe in his own words what the program is like and why it’s such a draw for members.
Q: The Daniel Island Club has an active tennis program. How many leagues and teams call the Club home?
A: Over the course of 2017, we had 21 teams in the spring months, nine for the early USTA summer mixed doubles seasons, 14 for the late summer USTA combo seasons, and 22 for the fall USTA seasons… so a total of 66 adult league teams will play out of our club in 2017. I look for that to possibly increase next year with the addition of more courts.
Q: On a competitive spirit scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being “just for giggles” and 10 being “out for blood” – where would you rank the Club’s reputation?
A: We have some teams that treat it as pure recreation, entertainment or social time out, so I would rate some teams as a 2 to 4. On the other hand, we have a few teams that take it very seriously, and I would say they are a 12 or 13!
Q: What are the options for tennis instruction at the Club?
A: We provide instruction from the Tiny Tots (ages 5-6) up to members that play in Over 65 leagues. We teach young players that range from entry level to those playing in college. Adults range from the 2.5 level all the way up to 5.0 level players. We provide instruction in a wide range of formats: private lessons, semi-private lessons, adult group or team clinics, and junior clinics. Our instructors focus on finding ways to relate to each individual student and then tailor their instruction in a way that the student can understand.
Q: What are some of the more notable tennis tournaments and events hosted by the Daniel Island Club?
A: First and foremost, we try to offer events that will provide enjoyment for our members. We offer a calendar full of socials, holiday-themed events, competitions, etc. We really don’t go after economic impact events like other facilities in the area may do, but we certainly will help their cause and provide courts if they need. For example, we have helped Family Circle Tennis Center, Wild Dunes, LTP, and other facilities with some of the city’s bigger tennis events.
Q: What does the Daniel Island Club offer to the nervous novice? The longtime leisure-ist? The (practically) perfect pro?
A: We have a wide range of personalities and styles on our professional staff, so the “nervous novice” can select a pro fitting his or her personality to help them become comfortable with the game. We have professionals that played collegiately at South Carolina, Florida, Texas, BYU… so if a player is competitive and looking for a high-end hitting or training session, we can do that as well. I tell member prospects all the time, don’t worry about fitting in here from a tennis perspective, no matter what level you are. Our professional staff will make that easy for you.
Q: How is news on current members shared with the Club community?
A: We do a weekly email blast to all Club members that includes relevant tennis information. I also distribute “Ben’s Baseline Report,” a weekly communication that keeps our players up to date on the latest scores, tournament wins and outstanding performers.
Q: For those not fluent in tennis, please describe the performance differences between the various court surfaces.
A: Come early 2018, we will have 12 or 13 clay courts. Clay is generally easier on one’s body and as players get older it is certainly preferred. Our two hard courts are more of a truer bounce surface, but the pounding on one’s body can take its toll as the tennis becomes more physical. To the best of my knowledge, we have the only grass court in South Carolina. It gets a lot of use during the Wimbledon fortnight, but most recreational players do not prefer the unpredictable play or the skidding type bounces. But it’s a great novelty court that I personally love to play on.
Q: You’ve spent nearly ten years at the helm of Daniel Island Club tennis. What are the most significant changes you’ve seen here in that time?
A: When I started in 2008, I told our Club manager that we would need more courts in five years, and he looked at me like I was crazy. It took us a few more years, but we are currently making a big investment in our program by building five more courts. We also have expanded our professional staff with a crew that has impressive backgrounds as junior players, collegiate players and seasoned club professionals. We are no longer a cozy, quiet, little tennis operation. Instead we are a significant operation that contributes greatly to what makes the Daniel Island Club so special.
Q: Most days as Director of Tennis are likely pretty terrific, but what makes for a near-flawless day for you?
A: That’s easy. Give me a 75-degree day and morning courts packed with member and ladies USTA league tennis play. That afternoon, bring out a wide range of junior players in instructional programs and even more member play. Finally, the evening would have men’s USTA and member play out under the lights. So, there, we just ran about 175 members and guests through our gates in one day… and they had really good experiences.
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