Pickleball Fever

Paddle sport’s popularity on the rise at the clubs

BY LOUIS MARROQUIN — Summer 2019

t ClubCorp clubs across the country, members are embracing a new pastime: pickleball. For this fast-growing sport with the funny name, players use oversize paddles and plastic wifflelike balls in singles and doubles matches combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. About 3.1 million people play pickleball in the U.S., according to a report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, and a 2018 ClubCorp amenity survey lists 37 clubs as having indoor or outdoor pickleball courts. Why so popular? “It’s an easy game to learn, it’s very social, and playing it connects you with people you wouldn’t normally connect with at your club,” says Patrick Guion, director of tennis at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., which has 175 active pickleball-playing members and a dedicated pro and plans to expand from four permanent pickleball courts to eight this year.

Here’s how a few other clubs are beefing up their pickleball agendas and facilities:

With more than 200 active pickleball players, Anthem Golf & Country Club near Phoenix just added a pickleball pro and plans to convert its stadium tennis court into four permanent pickleball courts in June. It offers a full lesson program and 10 open plays each week. Though participants have skewed older in the past, director of racquet sports Chris Brewer says he’s seeing an influx of players in the 35-to-45-year-old range.

At Chantilly National Golf & Country Club in Centreville, Va., about 30 members take part in pickleball activities, which include open play on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, informal instruction clinics, and social events.

The Clubs of Kingwood near Houston offer weekly open-play days on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and this summer has monthly tennis and pickleball mixers planned to introduce more members to the sport. 

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