HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (May 2021) — National Tennis Month is celebrated in May and it just so happens to also be the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center’s 45-year anniversary.
May’s coinciding celebrations hearken back to a time when Hilton Head Island, S.C., was hailed as the “Tennis Capital of the World.” The bourgeoning island nestled in the picturesque South Carolina Lowcountry boasted more tennis courts per square mile than anywhere in the world, offering more than 300 tennis courts during its heyday.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palmetto Dunes, Sea Pines and Port Royal Plantation all began building large tennis clubs, including stadiums and seating capacity for tournament play. Sea Pines later hosted the “Family Circle Magazine Cup” tournament for nearly 30 years.
Palmetto Dunes hired tennis legend Rod Laver as the resort’s Touring Professional. “The Rocket” was considered by many as the greatest tennis player in history, because he won the Grand Slam — all four major tournaments in one calendar year — on two occasions in the 1960s. And so, riding Laver’s immense name recognition, the Rod Laver Tennis Center at Palmetto Dunes was christened in 1976.
Another tennis legend, Roy Emerson, joined Laver at the tennis center in 1977, when the name was changed to the Laver-Emerson Tennis Center. Emerson – or “Emmo” to friends and fans – is the only male player to have completed a career grand slam in both singles and doubles. His 28 major titles are the all-time record for any male player.
Laver and Emerson were considered great adversaries. Laver once said, “My old friend and rival has plagued me every step of the way because he never considers losing.”
John Kerr, the Palmetto Dunes Director of Tennis since 1996 — when he started as Tennis Head Professional in 1990 — recalls, “Rod Laver was very involved at the Tennis Center hosting camps and doing the Monday Night Exhibitions.”
The name eventually changed back to the Rod Laver Tennis Center in 1978 and in 1991 became the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, with “and Pickleball” being added in 2018 — as pickleball courts and enthusiasm for the new game has rapidly gained steam.
Today, the Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center draws tennis and pickleball lovers from all over the world offering 19 clay tennis courts, 24 pickleball courts and a full range of clinics and activities from the island’s most popular teaching professionals.
Come join the fun at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in May as we celebrate National Tennis Month — and our own 45th year of legendary racket sports at Palmetto Dunes.