It hardly seems the spot for a major tennis facility . . . small community on the southern tip of Utah. Known for its desert tortoise, wide open range and retirement living. Promoted as a winter sun spot and a year-round golf stop, but little, if at all, for its tennis.

And yet on the outskirts of this southern community is Utah's only center for higher tennis learning - The Vic Braden Tennis College at Green Valley . . . 15 outdoor tennis courts, four indoor courts and 13 teaching lanes where students can return up to 900 tennis balls a hour.All, says school director Dave Nostrant, for people serious about improving their tennis game the Vic Braden way.

Braden is among the most respected tennis scholars in the country. He has written books, made videos, authored articles and added insight into TV matches. He has tennis colleges in California, West Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and St. George.

People, notes Nostrant, come to Braden programs from all over the country to become better tennis players. Many choose to come to St. George.

Partly, he says, because of the program, but also for the slower-pace lifestyle and scenic surroundings.

Few of the students come from within Utah despite the strong tennis ties in some of the state's more northern communities. One reason is that many are unaware of the center, something Nostrant is well aware of.

"We market ourselves nationally, but haven't done much here in Utah. We should and we will," he says.

The center offers two-, three- and five-day schools. Cost is $100 a day. Food transportation and lodging are extra. Schooling, reports the schools brochure, is "intense but fun."

For the first 21/2 days, instructors work on stroke development, mornings and afternoons, on the courts and in the classroom.

The rest of the week is spent developing strategies, reviewing and playing.

"All intended," says Nostrant, "to show people how they can improve. Usually, players have to get worse before they can get better. We get so many people that are ready to step up to a new level, but it's hard for them to break old habits. You show them something new and different and they struggle.

"When they leave they know the right from the wrong . . . And how to practice what they've learned. Then it's up to them to go out and practice. At least they'll know what to practice and why."

Instruction ranges from advanced to first-time players.

A special feature are the three color-coded courts used for instruction. Color keys and dotted lines give students clearly visible target areas and proper court coverage areas.

The center opened in 1986. Intentions at that time were to make it one of the world's largest centers with more than 40 courts - almost triple the present number - planned and whatever support structures would be necessary to make it one of the top tennis colleges.

Nostrant says expansion is still being planned. He would, for example, like to see a variety of playing surfaces available, which means clay and grass courts would have to be added.

Other features include swimming pools, basketball courts, golf course, and fitness spa.

For now, though, he is working with what he's got . . . a modern tennis complex, a proven tennis program and country as easy and pleasing to the eyes as any in the world.