Tennis pro Stan Smith smiles while holding tennis balls and a racket on Hilton Head Island.

Hilton Head Island Is the Perfect Place to Learn and Play

Tennis legend Stan Smith has been a fixture on Hilton Head Island for half a century. In fact, this year marks the 50-year anniversary of the sports and fashion icon first moving to the island as a touring professional tennis player for The Sea Pines Resort

It’s safe to say Stan Smith knows a thing or two about both life on Hilton Head Island and tennis. In case you don’t know the story of Smith, here’s a quick rundown.

Stan Smith, Not Just the Name of a Shoe

Smith moved to Hilton Head Island in 1971, right around the same time his tennis career was taking off. In September of 1971, he won the U.S. Open tournament in Queens, New York. The following year, he won Wimbledon in London, the world’s oldest and most prestigious tournament. 

He also formed one of the best doubles teams of all time with his partner Bob Lutz. The pair won the U.S. Open in Grand Slam doubles four times between 1968 and 1980. They also won the Australian Open in 1970. Over the course of Smith’s career, he won 48 single titles and 56 doubles titles according to the Association of Tennis Professionals. His success is a big part of the rich history of the sport on the island

Stan Smith, the Fashion Icon

In the early ‘70s when Smith was winning the biggest tournaments on a global stage, he was approached by Adidas and that’s how his face ended up on the legendary white leather shoes with subtle perforations of the brand’s three stripes. While the shoes are no longer the go-to option on the tennis court, they remain a staple worn on the streets by everyone, including world-famous celebrities. A timeless classic, the Stan Smith shoe still looks very similar to how it looked in the early 1970s when Smith was bringing home titles to the Lowcountry. 

Smith is still active on the island where he runs the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy located at The Sea Pines Resort alongside B.J. Stearns. There are approximately 50 youth players who train at the academy and Stan Smith has noticed families are moving to Hilton Head Island to live year round. 

Tennis legend Stan Smith hits a tennis ball at Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head Island.

A Home for Student Athletes

In fact, Hilton Head Island is a great place for up-and-coming athletes and their families to not only visit, but plan extended stays. The island has great year-round weather meaning athletes can train and play outdoors while feeling comfortable and safe. With more flexibility in schooling, these student athletes can also focus on their studies. 

“The kids can play tennis four or five hours a day, or play golf the same amount, and do their homeschooling, or online schooling, or Zoom schooling here,” says Stan Smith.

Stan Smith has first-hand experience with homeschooling on Hilton Head Island since his four children were raised on the island and taught by Smith’s wife, Margie. 

“Margie and I homeschooled – Margie did all the work, I was a principal,” Smith says with a laugh.

Room to Play

There’s a reason Hilton Head Island has the nickname the Golf Island, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it Tennis Island as well. Both sports are a part of the island’s DNA, but their importance has really been apparent over the past year.

“People came here to be able to play tennis. What we found out, that’s very safe. Tennis and golf are very safe,” says Smith while highlighting players are 78 feet apart while playing singles in tennis.

With over 300 tennis courts across the island, you’re never far from a match. The island also accommodates players of all skill levels, from the casual vacationer who loves to play in the sun to the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow who are looking to perfect their game. The resorts you’ll find across the island have world-class facilities. The Sea Pines Resort, the home base of Smith’s tennis career, offers registered lodging guests two complimentary hours of tennis per day at the Sea Pines Racquet Club. The tennis center at Palmetto Dunes Resort features 19 clay courts including four courts with lights so you can play into the night. That means you can play a round of golf in the day, have dinner at one of the island’s fine restaurants, and play tennis all in one activity-packed day.

Hilton Head Island is a top golf destination with 23 championship golf courses, both private and public. The warm climate and a total of 54 courses in the Lowcountry means you’re never far from a round of golf and you won’t need to wait to play.

With courses designed by world-renowned architects, there’s always a challenge for golfers of all skill levels. Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III is a reconstructed and refreshed version of the historic Ocean Course, the first golf course on the island found at The Sea Pines Resort. Or visit the Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club where you can on generous greens and unforgiving bunkers of the Barony Course, the ultimate test for those who love a risk-reward approach to golf. Try your accuracy on Robber’s Row as you navigate through live oaks and magnolia trees on a course rich in history.

Vacation Homes

While not everyone will move to Hilton Head Island and never leave, and honestly we can’t blame them, there are many options for student athletes and their families. Many vacation homes are available for extended stays, meaning families can live close to sports facilities for months at a time. Vacation homes feature the amenities of home meaning you can really settle in and live like a local. It’s handy having your own kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. The local markets of Hilton Head Island make it convenient to find fresh and nutritious ingredients from the Lowcountry, important for fueling the active lifestyle of an athlete!

There are many different home and villa options. From a two-bedroom villa to a 10-bedroom home on the beach and everything in between. This can come in handy if you’re looking to designate certain rooms for schooling or as a remote workspace while still feeling at home. 

Tennis pro Stan Smith laughs on a tennis court holding a tennis racket.

Find Your Island Time

Hilton Head is America’s favorite island, offering 12 miles of pristine beaches and everything you need for the ultimate retreat. Enjoy easy days relaxing in the sun, sand and surf on some of the best beaches in the country.
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