How Pickleball became the one percent favorite sport

On a recent sunny Sunday morning in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades neighborhood, a crew of celebrities, Hollywood CEOs, and glamorous Southern California ladies gathered for a green smoothie and sweats at the Riviera Country Club. But it wasn’t golf that brought this group together, and it wasn’t tennis, squash, or even Pilates—it was the pickle ball. Some players have playgrounds in their homes, but, as a social sport, pickle ball is best played in a club setting. And while there were many Hollywood types in the ballpark that morning, there was no talk of business — just some good old flying bangs and chops and dunks.

Think of a pickle ball as a miniature form of doubles tennis, played with a jerky ball on an asphalt court a quarter the size of a tennis court. The fence is a little lower, there’s less runs, and you’re physically closer to both your teammate and your opponent, which inherently makes it a lower impact sport and it’s big on court banter. It’s less physically demanding – although some enthusiasts are prone to injury – and doesn’t require years of technique that other country club sports can. Easier to get into, it has a weird name, and the ball makes a satisfying sound when it hits the pavement – and the sport spreads like wildfire.

Pickleball, a tennis-like sport with a funny name, became popular among wealthy athletes in Hollywood and the Hamptons. Pictured, the baseball courses at Troubadour Golf and Field Club outside Nashville, Tennessee.

Discovery Land Company

“A lot of people have discovered pickles during the pandemic,” says producer Ashley Underwood, who is married to Larry David. The duo are part of a regular pairs crew on Sundays playing pickle ball on the Riviera, including Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel and his wife, Staud’s costume designer, Sarah Staudinger. Underwood is currently working on a documentary project on the sport, so in addition to being a player, she has interviewed professionals and amateurs from all over the country. “If you start talking to people who play pickle ball, it’s not uncommon for people to say, ‘This sport saved my life,'” Underwood says.

To those unfamiliar, Blackpool doesn’t seem the epitome of elegance – its name fails to refer to the lavish golf club bunkers, or the social hierarchy of tennis. Sports terminology is littered with words that range from the cliched (“kitchen,” the space near the grid) to the aforementioned gouache (dink, a kind of shot).

Then there is the question of the name. While the game originated on Bainbridge Island, Washington in the 1960s—and the state of Washington is currently considering making the game its official sport—the exact origins of its name are unclear; Some say this is because one of the founder’s dogs was called “Pickles.” Once people get past the name issue and try the sport themselves, they generally get addicted pretty quickly.

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The Pickleball site is said to have originated in Washington state in the 1960s. Today’s courts can be found at Round Hill in Jamaica and the Nantucket Hotel. The Breakers, in Palm Beach, is said to be planning to open the courts soon.

Digital Spoon / USA Pickleball

Since national-ranked player Matthew Manas, 33, began offering clinics and classes on the Riviera last April, the basketball game has become one of the club’s most popular offerings. For many clubs across the country, from the Riviera all the way to Westmore Club in Nantucket, baseball has been a pandemic-era pastime that afforded some social time on the field, a way out, and much-needed exercise without the technical need. Demands, for example, golf or tennis.

“The barrier to entry is much lower than tennis. You can pick up a racket and enjoy your first lesson,” says Manas. He now organizes clinics and matches for celebs, and last summer a client flew in to train for some matches at Walker Point in Kennebunkport – where the Bush family allegedly converted one of their courts from a tennis court to a blended ball court, rumored fans Jeb and George W.

“I love pickle ball, but I wish it was called anything else,” says actor Matthew Perry, who plays several times a week. Perry is just one of many celebrities who are fond of the sport. last fall Late Night with Seth Meyers, Amanda Peet shared a story about making her tennis elbow play pickle ball; Dr. Brian Brown has a team in Austin; footnote Creators Doug Ellen, Brian, Veronica Grazer and Jim Berkus from United Talent Agency are all hooked on it. There’s a rumor that Leonardo DiCaprio won’t be shooting a movie early until he plays his morning pickle ball. Greta van Susteren and her attorney husband John Qualley have converted an unused indoor pool in their Washington, D.C. home into a courtyard that they now use four or five times a week.

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These days, “there are more pickleball players than tennis players,” says Discovery Land founder and CEO Mike Meldman—whose portfolio includes communities like the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana.

Discovery Land Company

While some see blackball as a hobby for the masses—there are stadiums in retirement communities in Florida and Texas, and competitions like the Margaritaville-sponsored US Open held in Indian Wells, California last fall—the blackball has found its way into largely backyards and country clubs. for one percent.

Luxury resorts across the country are converting tennis courts into pickleball courts at an astonishing rate. Big money investors are clamoring to take control of the emerging PPPAs. Private estates from Beverly Hills to the Hamptons are adding home courts. And while some fads come and go, it seems that blackball is here to stay. According to USA Pickleball’s annual Topline Sports, Fitness, and Leisure Engagement Report, more than 4.8 million Americans chose pickle bats last year — and despite the pandemic, the sport has grown 39.3% over the past two years.

These numbers will be baffling for any investor looking to capture the pickle market, as many luxury resorts have done. A staggering number of hotels are tearing down Har-Tru tennis courts and paving them asphalt – pickle balls bounce better on hard surfaces – and many of these are popular with affluent travelers: The Boca Raton Hotel laid four parts as part of a recent renovation of the Nantucket and Winnetu Hotel in Martha’s Vineyard They have ; Round Hill in Jamaica has built two; Auberge’s new Hudson Valley estate, Wildflower Farms, will include pickle courts, and The Breakers in Palm Beach is set to add some to the Breakers West Country Club later this year.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

It is said that Leonardo DiCaprio prefers not to start his shooting days on movie sets until after his morning pickle ball game.

Kevork Djansisian

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Journalist Greta van Susteren is rumored to have turned a swimming pool in her Washington, D.C. home into a pickle ball court.

MSNBC

“There’s a lot of interest from our members and resort guests,” says Jane Broderick, director of golf operations at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens. Interest has exploded over the past two years. We used to have six or eight people a day. We are now competing in the domestic leagues with only 120 players from our club.”

For tennis, pickle ball courts are a smart move for those looking to maximize the value of their real estate—they occupy about a quarter of the area in square feet. Discovery Land, the developer and operator of communities such as the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana and the Troubadour Golf and Field Club outside of Nashville, Tennessee, has included pickle courses in each of its projects, and will also include them in the near future in projects in Portugal and Scotland.

“If you go to any of our clubs in the morning…the buckleball pitches are crowded,” says Mike Meldman, founder and CEO of Discovery. When it comes to people buying multi-million dollar homes and paying a premium for country club-like amenities on their doorstep, Meldman believes we’re in a moment when “there are more pickleball players than tennis players.”

Pickleball has found its way into the backyards and country clubs where the one percent is.”

Outside in Long Island’s East End, sports are poised to be the favorite activity of this summer. This spring, East Hampton Indoor Tennis will install its first pickle ball court. Sagapunak-based Megan Oderkerk—co-founder of Hedge, a range of high-top sportswear from “courts to cocktails”—notes that Hamptonsians are drawn to the social aspect of pickleball, so it feels like a sport that requires more dressing than usually tennis.

“People want to look good doing it among friends, especially when there are cocktails afterwards on the porch,” says Ouderkirk. “What I’ve also noticed in the Hamptons specifically is that a lot of people are building baseball fields!”

Chris Hall, owner of construction company CB Complete in Hamptons, confirmed that there has been a clear increase in the number of Hamptons residents who have added home courts to their backyards. Even so, for homeowners looking to add a Buckleball stadium in time for Memorial Day, Hall warns that grading, perimeter fencing, and incorporating the design into existing landscapes can cost a pretty penny. “One should be prepared with a budget of $45,000 and up,” says Hall.

That might seem like a lot of money for a 20-foot-by-44-foot lot of pier. But to be the first to master the new status symbol sport among your friends, it may be a small price to pay.

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