The world’s most luxurious tennis club, where amateurs get to play on hallowed turf
As Wimbledon begins, could a new ‘global lifestyle community’ offer weekend tennis players the full Grand Slam experience?
It’s like a scene from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel: the players, all in whites, dashing across the manicured lawn tennis courts,
watched by a scattering of spectators who recline under parasols and an ancient rhododendron. The setting is Stoke Park, the
majestic Buckinghamshire country club that hosts the annual Boodles tennis tournament, a regular Wimbledon warm-up for Novak Djokovic.
But this sun-drenched weekend isn’t a tournament for pros; instead it is one of the first events held by the All Court Tennis Club, an organisation that describes itself as a ‘global lifestyle community for active and passionate tennis players.’ The three-day event at Stoke Park sees dozens of their amateur members, of various standards (although most good enough to play
alongside former pros in doubles without blushing), compete in a team tournament climaxing in a Sunday afternoon final and a
case of Moet for the winners.
Over the three days there have been barbecues, flowing gin-tonics, kids’ tennis coaching, and an al fresco dinner next to the
mansion’s fountains; after dinner, there’s a charity auction with the top prize a chance to practise with the Australian Open doubles winner Joe Salisbury. A smattering of former ATP-ranked players are in the dressed-up, suntanned crowd of entrepreneurs and corporate titans.
“I wanted to hold tennis events that feel more like big weddings,” says Adrian Calvert, the tennis-mad ex-lawyer who set up All Court two years ago. The club has an explicit aim to revive a ‘golden age of amateur tennis – where style still matters’. “A traditional club gives its members access to one location and one group of players,” he adds, “It’s often quite functional in its outlook. What we do is different.”
This sociable network allows members to hit competitively on famous courts usually reserved for megastars of the sport, and also provides them with a specialist concierge service (“a tennis passport”), mirroring the insider access sold in other cultural arenas by concierge services such as Quintessentially or The Cultivist.
“We give you different experiences on different surfaces, around the world, with a dollop of luxury,” is how he puts it. The club must be offering something unusual: among those playing at Stoke Park are members from Queens, the All-England, Campden Hill and the Cumberland in Hampstead – all of them presumably not short of picturesque courts to play on, and yet enticed by the upstart approach of the ACTC.
Calvert came up with the idea after travelling extensively for his former job as an energy lawyer, based in Brazil. A keen player since his teens, he realised that he’d built up a loose network of tennis coaches, clubs and friends along the way. “I travelled extensively, but always with a racquet,” says the Australian, who now lives in West London. “I loved the concept of amateur tennis players being able to parachute in anywhere and plug into a tennis community.”
For his members under lockdown, that means the services of a local ‘chapter’ in their home city, who can organise access to tennis clubs that might otherwise be closed to them – given the notorious waiting-lists for the most famous institutions – and procure tickets to pro tournaments. Currently there are local chapters in Mumbai, Singapore, London, Milan, Madrid, New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Sao Paolo. As travel restrictions lift, members will be able to arrive in, say, Nevada, and immediately book into a club and play with fellow ACTC members.
But most alluring is the calendar of events – which like this month’s Stoke Park bash have been plotted in around covid restrictions – in glamorous tennis venues globally. Members have recently flown in for weekend tournaments and masterclasses at the famed clay courts of the Monte-Carlo Country Club, or the Puente Romano resort in Marbella (where Bjorn Borg was once resident pro), and can book for events in Dubai and Miami later this year. The first ‘watch and play’ event is set for the Turin ATP Finals in November, where members will be able to see the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle it out
for world rankings, followed by more leisurely amateur play at the chic riverside Royal Club Torino.
So far, with covid interrupting the launch of the club, membership numbers stand at around 600, but Calvert is keen to emphasise that all standards of play are welcome: “Our members get to play against people of their own level, and we spend a lot of time curating that.” He is also recruiting a women’s tennis ambassador to encourage more female players to apply for membership. Access to concierge services, and events at fancy international venues comes at a price – fees to play the special events are between £200 to £550 per head, excluding hotel and travel costs – but the ambition is scale, not narrow exclusivity, a tendency for tennis in general that some might argue has held it back.
“I want to build the premier tennis lifestyle brand,” Calvert says, “Given that the love of tennis spans many continents I don’t see why this can’t grow.”