America’s latest racket craze is pickleball, a hybrid of badminton, tennis and whiffle ball. In 2021, pickleball tallied 4.8 million players in the U.S. (a 14.8 percent increase from the prior year), according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, and it continues to grow.
Pickleball’s origins begin in 1965 when a group of bored preteen friends on Bainbridge Island in Washington went searching for entertainment. Their families created a fast-paced paddle game with the ease of whiffle ball, the grace of badminton and the energy of tennis.
Flashforward more than 55 years and pickleball has moved out of the Pacific Northwest, crossed from Palm Springs to Palm Beach and around the world. Today’s pickleball is more than a game — it’s great social exercise with cool gear, competitive tournaments and dedicated leagues. Another sign of its popularity: hotels all over the U.S. and beyond are embracing the sport by offering courts, clinics, camps and much more.
Is it tennis? Badminton? Padel? No, pickleball is its own game. Played indoors and out, players ding and bash in singles, doubles or Canadian doubles. Thanks to an underhand serve and stocky, solid paddles made of carbon fiber, a pickleball game moves quickly and has an even faster learning curve.
Players serve and hit volleys on a court the same size as one used for doubles badminton (20 by 44 feet) and striped like a tennis court with service squares, a kitchen (volley area) and mid-court off-the-ground net.
Kick back and paddle up
We’ve lined up some top resorts where you can catch a pick-up game, master your skills or simply learn how to play pickleball with a backdrop of majestic mountains or seaside sunsets.
For those serious about getting into the game, there’s no better place to learn than The Boca Raton, a beautiful 356-acre Florida resort with four courts and a coordinated program of weekly clinics, private lessons and court rentals. Another winner is The Mansion at Ocean Edge, where you’ll play in six new courts with the help of USPTA Certified instructors. And if you go solo, the coastal Cape Cod hotel can match you with a teammate.
Arizona has long been considered a pickleball oasis, especially for players who love their game accompanied by a great view. Work up a sweat surrounded by the jaw-dropping Red Rocks of Sedona at Enchantment Resort. Set against the dramatic Boynton Canyon, two courts are open to guests. But if you want more in-depth instruction, join Enchantment’s weekend-long Nike Pickleball Camp, where an IPTPA pro will help hone your grip, stroke development, serve and strategy, and you’ll get 10 hours of court time. Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, A Gurney’s Resort & Spa boasts four courts with mountain vistas. After the game, take in a Technicolor sunset at the Scottsdale hotel’s Jade Bar.
For a change of scenery, head further west to Montage Healdsburg for a gorgeous wine country landscape (and tastings!) with family games and lessons. The Sonoma hotel provides a complimentary “Intro to Pickleball” course Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. along with private pickleball classes for resort guests 8 years and older. Otherwise, go south to The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Caribbean escape that offers two courts, private lessons and a La Prairie Spa for some recovery and relaxation.
If you want to try something different, visit The Watergate Hotel’s pop-up pickleball offering through Labor Day on the Moretti Terrace, an excellent place to watch the sun set along the Potomac River in D.C. Open to guests and the public, the fun begins when it gets dark, with a glow-in-the-dark court and illuminated rackets and balls. Then enjoy a post-match drink and bite at The Next Whisky Bar, where the fun continues with a pickleball-themed menu.