Photograph courtesy Flickr/honey-bee
In L.A. you can practically roll out of bed and onto a public tennis court no matter where you live. The city’s recreation and parks department alone maintains more than 60 facilities—the majority are “open play” (free and available on a first-come, first-served basis), while the eight largest complexes are run on a pay-reservation system ($15 per year for a resident card ). Surrounding municipalities also have invested in the game, with most charging fees that still cost less than a 13-shot mocha from Starbucks. We looked at spots with six courts or more, which increases your chance to play. Parklike surroundings, well-tended nets and surfaces, and general camaraderie make these some of the most satisfying places to swing.
The 14 courts at Cheviot Hills, nestled in the tranquil, woodsy recreation center next to the Rancho Park golf course, constitute the most heavily used facility on the city’s pay-reservation roster. We’re partial to courts 11 and 12, which abut the golf course and are partly shaded by giant eucalyptuses. Each court is fully enclosed by high fencing, which cuts down on errant balls from the neighbors. The pro shop is amply stocked with snacks, offers balls at bulk prices, and even has a Ray-Ban concession. » 2551 Motor Ave., West L.A., 310-836-8879.
The ornate gates, stately peppertrees, and white-fenced driveway leading to the Rolling Hills Estates Tennis Club might intimidate, but drive on. This is a charming and unpretentious recreational haven. The eight courts, part of the Ernie Howlett Park that includes equestrian action, are rarely crowded. While it’s more affected by the elements than other destinations (three courts were covered in mud after a rainstorm), the bucolic setting compensates for the rustic state of the equipment. » 25851 Hawthorne Blvd., Rolling Hills Estates, 310-541-4585.
Each of the 16 courts at Weddington Golf & Tennis () is wrapped in a heavy green screen that guarantees absolute privacy, not a bad thing if you’re flailing around after a long layoff or recovering from a failed sitcom. There are also sturdy metal chairs and umbrella-shaded tables—amenities that take some of the sting out of the weekend rates that, at $17 per hour in the morning and $19 in the afternoon, are roughly double what you’ll pay elsewhere. The view of the hills enfolding Fryman Canyon enchants, and on sunny days the greenery at the adjacent nine-hole golf course has a cooling effect. » 4141 Whitsett Ave., Studio City, 818-769-5263
You can almost see the dolphins from Palisades Park, considered by many to be the jewel in the city’s reservation system. The upper four of the eight courts were resurfaced in January and are immaculate. This site is also home to the Pacific Palisades Tennis Center, which features an extensive schedule of classes for all ages that includes LiveBall, a deceptively draining workout in which up to seven players at a time rotate through a fast-paced drill. Approach from Frontera Drive to best reach the court parking; along the way you’ll cruise by mansions so lovely, you’ll think you’ve entered an Architectural Digest layout. » 851 Alma Real Dr., Pacific Palisades, 310-573-1331
Only true gamers need apply at Alta Vista Racquet Center, which is overseen by the Redondo Beach Department of Recreation and Community Services at Alta Vista Park. A reservation card ($12 annually) is required to set foot on the popular courts. Time slots for the coveted weekday evening and weekend hours are snapped up quickly through the phone-in system, but the cheerful patrons who come lugging the latest gear don’t care. At $5 an hour for good playing conditions (think clean courts shielded from the wind), it’s worth the effort. » 715 Julia Ave., Redondo Beach, 310-318-0670.
Strike It Rich
The Burbank Tennis Center looks and feels like a desert country club, from the pinkish stucco exterior to the ring of palm trees to the sunbaked mountain backdrop (those are the Verdugos you’re seeing). A sunken tennis stadium next to the large café offers an outlet for those who like to put their prowess on display. The two clay courts and ten other hard courts have nicely shaded viewing areas (a welcome respite—it can get hot) and tournament-style scorecards, so everyone knows who’s really winning. » 249 E. Amherst Dr., Burbank, 818-843-4105.