A boom in paddle-tennis play at Hawthorn Woods CC warranted a facility expansion to accommodate members and guests.
Once the weather cools down in the Chicago area, member interest in paddle tennis heats up. For Hawthorn Woods (Ill.) Country Club, an increased surge in the sport over the last five years prompted management at the suburban club to take notice—and action.
“Our program grew steadily during that time and eventually, we had more demand than available court time,” says General Manager Joe Titus.
Come the fall, Hawthorn Woods’ members are inclined to trade in their tennis racquets for paddles, prompting the club to think about expansion opportunities. As a result, capacity was doubled by adding two more courts to the club’s existing two paddle tennis courts, in an area that also includes a warming hut.
While the extension of the paddle tennis area began in the summer of 2018, construction was not completed until the fall of 2019. “It took a little longer than expected, because of high demand for paddle-construction contractors throughout Chicagoland,” explains Titus, noting an overall lack of suppliers specializing in this niche.
The project also expanded the pool area, which involved relocating surrounding fences and constructing a stone-paved walkway and patio. “This brought cohesion and symmetry to the spaces,” Titus says.
Doing Double Duty
Situated between the club’s Har-Tru tennis courts and aquatics area, each of the four paddle courts are approximately one-third the size of a tennis court, with nets that are about two inches shorter than a traditional tennis net.
The new court design features a surface with metal decking planks, containing a proprietary paint/epoxy compound and sprinkled with a coarse sand while wet. The result is a sandpaper-type surface that when cured affords a more secure play environment.
Underneath the courts are multiple industrial-strength gas heating units, designed to blow hot air for preventing moisture and ice. (“It is mostly a safety feature, like the gritty surface,” notes Titus.)
The courts are enclosed on four sides with chicken wire which, Titus specifies, are “pulled tight to a specific tension, as the sides are an integral part of gameplay.” Six high-intensity LED lights allow for games to be played after dark—a definite advantage once daylight saving time ends.
When the evening temperature drops and players need a breather, the 1,200-sq. ft. warming hut just off the courts provides some respite. Outfitted with a restroom, bar and seating for up to 24 guests, this spot is also used for pool parties and other tennis-event functions.
The paddle tennis courts themselves play double duty, serving as pickleball courts in the offseason. “We snap a chalk line for the ‘kitchen’ [an area that can not be played from] and the court is ready for pickleball,” says Titus in explaining the simple conversion technique.
While Hawthorn Woods’ facility does not traditionally accommodate racquet sports events, the club hosted the Winter Warrior Men’s Grand Prix National Ranking Tournament in March of 2021. Conducted by the American Paddle Tennis Association, the event attracted three of the top five teams in the country and was held entirely outdoors.
Participants and visitors had limited use of the facilities, and masks were required when social distancing was not possible. Approximately 55 spectators took in the event, with one match lasting nearly three hours.
Going forward, the club will utilize similar safety measures when hosting future events and for regular member play. In addition, the number of players and spectators permitted in the warming hut will be limited. “We have restricted guest play at times and have prohibited doubles play when state guidelines required us to do so,” says Titus.
HAWTHORN WOODS COUNTRY CLUB
Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
Contractor: Total Platform (courts); Mitchell Brick & Stone (walkways and patio)
Heaters: L.B. White Guardian units
Lighting: NextGen LED shoebox lights