Island Resort opened on the weekend of May 1, 1976, and a professional tennis exhibition was a part of the activities. Roscoe Tanner, Kiawah's touring professional and then-ranked in top 10 in the world, played Tom Gorman in a singles exhibition. Director of Tennis Roy Barth, and Local Pro Bob Joyner played in the doubles exhibition with Gorman and Tanner, whose career highlights included winning the Australian Open. The West Beach Tennis Club opened with seven clay courts and two lit hard courts.
Roscoe Tanner brought in fellow touring professionals twice a year for singles and doubles exhibitions. The touring pros included Stan Smith, Chris Evert, Cliff Drysdale, Marty Riessen, Harold Soloman, V.J. Armitraj, Tom Gorman, Dennis Ralston, Peter Fleming, Tim Wilkison, and doubles greats Tim and Tom Gullikson.
Seven more clay courts were added to the West Beach Tennis Club, making it a 16-court facility.
The East Beach Tennis Club opened in April 1982 with eight courts (five clay and three hard). Four more clay courts were added in 1984, creating a total of 28 courts on Kiawah.
Two additional courts were lit, while cabanas with Charleston benches and electric water fountains were put on every court at both Tennis Clubs.
Roscoe Tanner brought in Wimbledon Semi-Finalist, Pat Dupre and NCAA Singles finalist John Sadri. Multiple Grand Slams Champion, Chris Evert and her husband John Lloyd, and Kathy Horvath for a Preview to the US Open. A variety of matches were played back to back, four days before the start of the 1979 US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York.
This sanctioned event has grown from 70 juniors in 1984 to over 350 juniors from throughout the South through the present. Boys and girls from 10 to 18 years old compete each year in this popular event. The tournament was awarded the South Carolina Junior Tournament of the Year in 1995.
Senior players from nine Southern states are eligible to play in this USTA Southern closed championship. Age divisions include 30 years & over up to 80 years & older for men and ladies. The events include singles, doubles, and mixed doubles with a feed-in-consolation. The tournament averages over 200 players per year.
This eight-player "Masters" professional tennis event included tennis greats such as French and Australian Champion Ken Rosewall, French Open Champion Andres Gimeno, Wimbledon Champion Neal Frazer, Grand Slam Doubles Specialist Bob Hewitt, and US Open Champion Mal Anderson. The players were 45 years or older.
This traditional clay court national championship was held at the East Beach Tennis Club for 64 touring professionals. David Wheaton, from Minnesota, won his first major title at Kiawah Island. Former tennis greats Vitas Gerulaitis and Barry McKay were TV commentators for this exciting event.
Kiawah hosted the first round Fed Cup tie between the United States and The Netherlands in April, 1998, at the East Beach Tennis Club. The USA team overpowered the Netherlands with such international stars as Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles. Other team members included Mary Jo Fernandez and Lisa Raymond who played doubles. Legendary Billie Jean King was team captain and coach.
Kiawah Island's tennis operation reached the pinnacle of the resort business in 2004 by being ranked the # 1 tennis resort in the United States by Tennis Magazine. Tennis Magazine has ranked the top tennis resorts since 1994, and includes a rigorous five-part criterion.
Improvements to the grounds included new wood deck and shop entrance, new deck railing, new cement walkways, and beautiful landscaping. Shop improvements included new carpet, painting, and lighting.
The East Beach Tennis Club was renamed "The Roy Barth Tennis Center" to recognize 30 years of outstanding service by the resort's tennis director.
The respected website, TennisResortsOnline.com publishes an annual list of the top 70 tennis resorts in the world, and in 2006 Kiawah Island Golf Resort was named the world's best. The website's survey asks players to evaluate resorts and camps in 16 different categories and uses the reviews to compile a numerical ranking.
Since then Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been ranked #1 Tennis Resort in the world out of the top 100 tennis resorts in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.