A lot has changed in the Coachella Valley and the desirable travel and tennis destinations of areas like Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta and Indian Wells over the past 25 years. But one thing that has remained consistent and unchanged is the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert and its tennis programming.
Even before the popular resort first opened in 1987, Peter Burwash International was in place opening for tennis business in December of 1986. Ten months later Jim Leupold would arrive as the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort Director of Tennis, meaning he will celebrate 30 years there in the fall of 2017. “When I came here I thought this would be a nice place to stay, and I guess it was because I’m still here,” Leupold said.
And he is still providing PBI expert tennis teaching to locals and resort visitors along with head professional Dave Kensler (since 1992) and the other year-round full-time teaching pro Chad Ruthig.
The resort has 15 hard courts, three Har-Tru clay and two grass courts. Leupold estimates that in the past two years alone he has had approximately 25 people who have sought out the resort specifically to play on the grass courts, which are so hard to find in Southern California.
“It really is a bucket list thing,” Leupold said. “So many people do it for the novelty. And because it’s a public facility, people can come and play by the hour.”
The charge is $32 for 60 minutes. If you can grab three friends that means you can play doubles on the grass for less than a movie ticket.
Of course you’ll want to call ahead during this time of year and make a reservation as the resort fills up during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and remains busy until the end of March, just after the massive BNP Paribas Open heads out of town.
For the tennis lover looking for a four-day travel adventure, PBI World Tennis Camp is definitely something to consider. This year’s camp is four days and will take place Jan. 19-22, and includes 20 hours of on-court instruction, with an emphasis on doubles.
The cost of the camp is $795 and it is not required that you stay at the resort, but you do get a 30 percent off the normal room rate if you choose to stay on the property.
The camp includes a Grand Slam Round Robin, which also takes place each Monday and Wednesday during peak-season time, meaning you rotate playing on hard, clay and grass courts.
Also during the camp, and each Saturday during the busy season, there is a PBI Tennis Show and Festival.
Leupold has been to 20 countries around the world doing the show, which he describes like a “Harlem Globetrotters of tennis,” and the show has been performed in close to 100 countries.
Leupold added that PBI is the only group that does the weekly show every Saturday from Christmas to April free of charge.
“It’s a bunch of skits choreographed to music on how we complicate tennis,” Leupold said. “It’s all the funny ways to complicate the game, and then instruction on how to teach you how to play the game correctly. You hear things like, ’Man, I haven’t played in 25 years but you made it look like so much fun I’m going to start playing again.’ Or, ‘I’ve never played before but I’m going to start now.’ It’s a really neat thing. It makes tennis a lot of fun.”
Leupold grew up in the small New Mexico town of Deming and played for NAIA powerhouse Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, leading the team to a No. 9 season-ranking ranking.
Although he didn’t divulge the information in an interview, the JW Marriott Desert Springs website states that Leupold is a one-time world record-holder for the longest rally. He also neglected to mention that he was MSU’s first-ever Academic All-American, was JW Marriott Desert Springs Hospitality Manager of the Year and named PBI Professional of the Year in 1994 and 2011.
Check out this great tennis tip from Leupold on the approach shot here: http://www.pbitennis.com/tfl-video/approach-shot
- No. of Courts: 15 hard court; three clay and two grass
- Website: Click HERE.
- Phone: (760) 341-2211.
- Address: JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa 74-855 Country Club Drive Palm Desert, CA 92260.