Clubs are answering the call for ‘Tennis, anyone?’—and pickleball, paddle, racquetball, squash and even badminton as well—with a resounding “yes” as they map out space for expanded facilities.
Golf isn’t the only game in town anymore within club and resort properties. Tennis, and the increasingly popular pickleball, are gaining steam at clubs across the country, with court time in high demand, particularly during the summer months. And paddle/platform tennis, racquetball and squash continue to hold their own, especially as winter alternatives, in areas where they have developed strong followings.
As clubs ramp up all of their racquet amenities to appeal to more members in search of non-golf offerings, a number of courts, and the buildings that house or surround them, are getting well-timed makeovers.
In Full SwingAt Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club in Gulf Shores, Ala., Mother Nature prompted a new racquet club update. “Hurricane Sally [in September 2020] was the catalyst for our latest renovation,” explains General Manager Chad Leonard of the weather-maker that upended the existing structure. While the space had been previously redesigned in 2007 and 2019, a complete refresh, from top to bottom, was unveiled to members in May 2020.
Situated on the north side of the property, Peninsula’s racquet club is in a prime location for maximum usage. “With views of the golf course, lake and swimming pool, it makes for a great place to play tennis,” notes Leonard.
Upon entering, members will find a seating area that beckons players to grab a cup of coffee or enjoy a post-game gathering with friends. Just off to the right-hand side is a fully stocked tennis pro shop, followed by fitness and aerobics rooms that wind around to the locker rooms.
Once on the court, players can practice their serve on one of eight new Har-Tru courts that required 10 tons of building material. “We used this opportunity to bring them back to pristine playing conditions by resurfacing and laser-grading them,” Leonard says. Four pickleball courts were added to the layout, running on the north and south perimeters and between tennis courts #6 and 7.
A sub-irrigated watering system was also a key element in the courts’ new design, enabling uninterrupted play that eliminates the need for mid-day watering. Thanks to the mild, southern coastal Alabama climate, the courts are in full use year-round.
While Peninsula G&RC does not have any formal arrangements with local tennis teams, the club promotes youth play through high schools in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach communities. Summer camps at the club were put on hold this year, with plans to reintroduce them in 2022 with a combination of golf, tennis and swimming.
Because the newly refurbished racquet facility opened its doors on the pandemic’s downward spiral, Peninsula Y&CC did not have to endure any changes to its tennis setup; courts were not restricted and were used at full capacity (32 plus spectators). “Membership is booming, and the overall morale of our members and employees is through the roof,” Leonard enthuses.
Tennis and Beyond
To offer more non-golf amenities to its membership, Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., recently underwent a multi-phase improvement project that included a significant upgrade of its racquet facilities.
“The overwhelming desire and need was to expand the building to offer more outdoor covered seating with views of all courts,” says General Manager/CEO David Porter of the mission set by a member focus group. While construction was due to take place in 2020, the pandemic caused a rescheduling to the first quarter of 2021, and the project was expected to be completed by the end of July.
In the interim, the club went forward with refurbishing its ten existing Har-Tru courts. An outdoor area, designed with concrete flooring, contains a firepit with six lounging chairs fashioned from wicker and outfitted with durable cushions (see photo, pg. 26). Metal dining tables and chairs, selected for their ability to withstand Alabama’s high humidity, provide additional seating.
“We are evaluating the demand for putting up a seasonal bubble over a bank of three courts,” adds Porter.In addition to solid membership usage, the racquet facilities serve as a training site for an elite group of high-school players. Each season, Greystone typically produces two students who earn a Division 1 tennis scholarship.
The club is also batting around the idea of offering badminton at its facility. Porter characterizes badminton as a “very challenging sport that in America has been viewed as a backyard and beach game. [But] it is an Olympic sport that we feel can differentiate us from other clubs.”
While Greystone’s revamped racquet facilities have been unveiled during the pandemic’s downswing, the layout remains conducive to social distancing, with six feet spaced out between each set of lounge chairs and dining tables. “Comfortable furniture that is spaced out was a priority, because we have now seen a situation with COVID-19 that can possibly return at some time,” Porter notes.
Greystone planned to host an official grand opening for its upgraded court space during the first week of August 2021 for all members and a select group of prospective members, including an exhibition event with club pros playing against local pros, along with complimentary food and beverages and live music.
Even before that unveiling, the renovated racquet space was already making an impression on the club’s membership. Greystone’s ladies’ tennis league saw a 30 percent increase over the last year, from 90 to 126 players, reports Director of Tennis Kristijan Mitrovski. “We are seeing ladies staying at the club after their matches, sitting at our new tables, where before they did not spend as much time following their games,” Mitrovski adds.
Later in August, Greystone planned to break ground on its Lakeside Amenities Center, complete with four pickleball courts, a basketball court and beach volleyball court. And the basketball court was being designed to include an overlay of pickleball lines so four additional courts could be created as needed, using portable nets.
Situated across from the fairway of one of Greystone’s golf course holes, the Amenities Center is also intended to provide some synergy between the different sports. “Our long-term plan is to potentially reroute that hole, so we can bring aquatics, fitness and racquets all together,” Porter says.
In the Zone
An updated racquet facility has enhanced membership amenities at the Seville Golf & Country Club in Gilbert, Ariz., where the club repurposed its existing setup and added new features during the summer of 2019. Now known as the Sports Club, designers converted a full basketball court to three pickleball courts and removed two sand volleyball courts.
Three tennis courts, along with half-court basketball, batting cages and space for outdoor cardio boxing round out the area, while a new 10,000-sq. ft. turf field plays home to flag football, bootcamp classes and outdoor family activities.
Proximity to other high-traffic areas of the club is a notable benefit for Seville’s racquet-playing membership. “The Sports Club is conveniently close to the parking lot, which makes it easy to access swimming, working out, enjoying a variety of amenities and playing tennis and pickleball,” says General Manager Garret Kriske.
A nearby Starbucks café, grab ‘n go market, pro shop and water park—featuring resort-style pools, cabanas, waterslides, a kids’ lagoon and a 25-meter lap pool—provide visitors with a well-rounded assortment of family-friendly activities and dining options.
With pickleball courts being a key draw for members who have recently taken up that sport, a streamlined design featuring standard acrylic hard courts and regulation netting maximizes the playing experience. Six-foot divider nets were selected for their ability to slide open, creating a larger court area when necessary.
To create a design that is consistent with the rest of the Sports Zone, the area surrounding the courts features stadium seating from Camden Yards in Baltimore; this addition complements existing repurposed seating from other well-known sports venues, including the original Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas; Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.; Fenway Park in Boston, Mass.; and the former Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y.
In addition, the nearby sports field was constructed using high-quality synthetic turf and sand underlayment. “All of the materials were selected to provide an unrivaled experience and lasting durability for our members and guests, while enhancing the modern look of our facilities,” says Kriske.
During the pandemic, the racquet facilities at Seville adhered to strict safety regulations under all local and state mandates. Rental equipment and all high-touch surfaces were disinfected, and outdoor water sources were removed in favor of members brining their own bottled water.
But as Kriske notes, pickleball lent itself well to safe play and as a result was a popular option for members. “The nature of the [game] allowed players from the same household to play together, and the divider nets allowed people from different households to maintain social distance while playing,” he says.
Interest in pickleball and racquet sports as a whole has spawned a boom in membership at Seville, a ClubCorp property, with 94 new families joining the non-golf membership program since the completion of the Sports Zone. “Our new amenities also allow us to support our community with kids’ programming on our sports field,” says Kriske of the increased activity the club has seen in drop-in, free-of-charge after-school recreational sports.
Summing It Up
> Non-golf memberships are getting a boost from new racquet facilities offering tennis, pickleball and more.
> In addition to court updates, adding comfortable seating provides room for spectators and post-game socializing.
> Positioning racquet facilities close to high-traffic areas facilitates access to other club amenities.