The explosion of pickleball and continued steady growth in traditional tennis is driving the need for more efficiently designed and full-service racquet facilities.
Clubs are creating quite a racquet—literally. With vast improvements being made to indoor and outdoor spaces, courts are getting resurfaced, older nets are being replaced by sturdier models, and the overall playing experience is reaping the benefits. Facilities looking to bolster their reputation, either as a world-class training space or simply as a practice arena for members and local leagues, are smart to invest in this increasingly popular part of club life.
Upping Their Game
At The Moorings Yacht & Country Club in Vero Beach, Fla., a comprehensive overhaul in racquet facilities resulted in both renovated court space and first-time offerings. Last year, the club converted three of its tennis courts and added four brand-new pickleball courts. “The demand for pickleball prompted us to start the racquet sports renovation,” says Ursula Gunter, The Moorings’ Director of Membership and Marketing. The pickleball courts were built as a direct result of member demand, Gunter notes..
Adjacent to the clubhouse and fitness center, The Moorings’ former Har-Tru courts with above-ground watering are now hydro courts, offering a safer, more consistent playing surface. “They are appropriately saturated throughout the day and do not have dry and/or muddy areas that can cause injuries,” explains Gunter.
In addition to member safety, the automated watering of these courts helps to reduce labor costs. Hydro courts use 60 percent less water than those with above-ground watering, Gunter notes, which also adheres to the club’s Green Initiative.
But perhaps the hydro courts’ greatest advantage—a quick turnaround following a rainstorm—benefits its members most of all. “Currently, any amount of overnight rain will take courts #1-3 out of play until at least 11 a.m., which greatly hinders prime-time play and confuses morning reservations,” notes Gunter.
As part of the entire renovation process, an outdated golf course maintenance building was torn down to accommodate the resurfaced courts and create a pad for the four pickleball courts. The club is currently in the midst of updating six additional tennis courts. “The new surface will make Har-Tru courts much more playable, safer and easier to maintain,” Gunter adds.
While The Moorings does not have the ability to host any sanctioned professional events, its stadium court is utilized for single-court events. Thanks to the recent conversion, the club will also be able to use its adjacent court #1, which offers a prime viewing location.
Whether hosting an event, practice or member games, the club is taking the necessary precautions to play safely. In addition to posting guidelines on all court entrances, a sanitation team disinfects the entire racquet sports facility on a daily basis.
Attractive amenities aren’t the only advantage of the renovated tennis and pickleball courts at The Crosby Club in San Diego, Calif. “[They] see a lot of use every day, and the update is not only pleasing aesthetically, but also improves the playability of the courts,” says Athletic Director Matt Seideman.
Last January, the club’s three tennis courts were resurfaced with brand-new windscreens, paint, nets and fence work. The addition of pickleball courts were also part of the project, giving an extra boost to the club’s sports center.
Court designs were selected to benefit different aspects of play and maintenance. Tennis courts feature a hard-court construction with a cushion underlay that Seideman credits for being “great on the joints when running and lunging, compared to traditional, concrete-based hard courts.” Hard courts also offer the benefit of durability and ease of maintenance.
In contrast, the pickleball nets are heavy-duty with steel, screw-in posts, in case the nets need to be removed temporarily.
To differentiate each playing zone, The Crosby Club opted for a distinct coloring scheme for various sports. Tennis courts tout a powder-blue inside zone, with a green outside zone for separate “in” and “out” areas. Pickleball courts are represented by dark- and light-blue zones (see photo, pg. 28)—spaces which, according to Seideman, can help players “differentiate between the back court and kitchen areas, or the ‘no-volley’ zone. ”
Along with the tennis-court resurfacing and pickleball-court construction, the area has also been beautified by a new patio area, where players can take a break or wait for an open court. “A viewing ledge was installed for a small audience [to] stand and rest their arms while seeing some exciting point play,” Seideman adds.
Thanks to this generously sized racquet facility, The Crosby is able to host inter-league competitive play with neighboring facilities, including the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club and Rancho Bernardo Swim and Tennis Club. An online court booking system helps to balance group matches with member access and has proved to be especially useful during the pandemic. “The great thing for both tennis and pickleball is that they are within safe ranges of distancing, six feet apart for both doubles and singles play,” notes Seideman.
To further promote safe play, the club has put down more court markings, recommended that members supply their own tennis balls, and now requires that personal items such as waters and towels be brought from home.
Providing members with comprehensive racquet amenities has helped the Boca Grove Golf & Tennis Club in Boca Raton, Fla., cement its reputation as a premiere facility. Over the last three years, the club erected two pickleball courts in 2017, a new tennis pro shop in March 2018 and four additional pickleball courts in June 2020.
This steady stream of renovations was largely driven by an overall need for more space. “Our tennis pro shop shared a building with fitness, and both amenities were outgrowing their footprint in that building,” explains General Manager Jennifer Jolly.
The now-completed tennis complex is located across from the main clubhouse, creating a convenient destination for members and families using the locker rooms and dining facilities. In addition to the center’s 10 Har-Tru courts, there’s what Jolly refers to as “the jewel of our facility”—an imported Italian red-clay stadium court.
“Before the French Open, a lot of [professional players] came to practice on the red clay, including Andy Murray and Kevin Anderson,” Jolly says, noting the court’s ability to offer more cushion and produce a higher, slower bounce. While the cost of installation is double that of a green clay court, maintenance is similar.
Pickleball has also proved to be a hot commodity for Boca Grove, driving the need to turn one of the club’s underutilized hard courts into additional court space. “It seems that people who used to play tennis several years ago and suffered injuries have come back to playing pickleball,” observes Jolly. “In the afternoons, in fact, we have several golfers who come over to play.”
Given the versatility of the court space and style, Boca Grove has been able to serve as a practice center for area schools, as a tournament space for nationally ranked junior players, and as a destination for several top pros training for events. “Kevin Anderson holds a charity event here every December,” she adds.
To help bolster its world-class reputation, Boca Grove is planning to erect a sports and wellness center, complete with resort-style pool, children’s splash pad and two-story fitness facility that includes locker rooms, restrooms, pool café, kids’ camp and fitness classrooms. Before this project is completed next summer, the club is focused on maintaining a safe environment for players during the COVID-19 pandemic. During tennis clinics, two players are permitted on one side of the court. Designated seating is more than six feet apart, and members are required to bring their own drinks and towels.
A Breath of Fresh Air
At Tunica National Golf & Tennis in Tunica Resorts, Miss., the four indoor clay courts were long overdue for maintenance updates. While the tennis complex had been named Facility of the Year by the USTA in 2004, over time, the HVAC system and dehumidifiers needed to be replaced to improve operational efficiency. Renovations were completed in July 2019.
Tunica National’s enhancements are part of the KemperSports Green to the Tee program, which focuses on sustainable maintenance practices. “Over the years, this program has guided our decision to replace all parking-lot lights with LED lights, which has created substantial savings on our monthly electric bill and maintenance costs,” says General Manager/Director of Golf Bob Wolcott.
To date, this implementation has also made tremendous strides in labor reductions; where the resort had typically replaced light bulbs at least four times per year, the staff has not had to change a single bulb in the last two years.
With such a high success rate on the exterior premises, Tunica National decided to make similar changes in the clubhouse and tennis facility. Swapping out 1,000-watt metal halide bulbs in more than 50 fixtures across the tennis-court area with LED lights was made possible with a grant from the USTA.
“Now, we are using less energy and we have removed the electrical ballasts for the lights, which also helps to create a quieter experience for tennis,” notes Wolcott.
Back to its Roots
At Sand Valley in Nekoosa, Wis., tennis players can experience the game in a setting that resembles the early days of the sport. Known for its grass-course tennis court design, the resort boasts 15 natural-surface courts against the backdrop of sand dunes, creating a spacious oasis for discriminating players.
Amassing a 3.6-acre footprint, the grass tennis courts are located near the golf practice range and just off the first tee of Sand Valley’s first golf course, which opened at the same time in 2017. Made up of a combination of ryegrass and fine fescue, the courts create firm playing conditions that harken back to the purest form of traditional tennis.
“Our ryegrass/fescue courts have a similar grass mix to the courts at Wimbledon, the oldest and most famous of tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments,” says General Manager Michael Carbiener. “From our perspective, grass-court tennis is ‘tennis as it was meant to be.’”
To maintain the courts, general upkeep requires two to three mowings a week, and lines are painted twice per week. Nets are rotated across all 15 courts to evenly distribute their wear and tear during the peak season for play.
Before the colder weather sets in, a preventative snow-mold fungicide treatment is applied, to counteract the effects of long-term damage. “Fescue is highly resistant and tolerant to snow molds, but ryegrass is very vulnerable,” notes Carbiener. Since the courts were constructed, Sand Valley’s grounds have been snow-covered for close to 100 days.
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