Across the country, when snow starts to fly many people put away their tennis racquets and golf clubs and hibernate for a few months. That’s not the case for those who enjoy platform tennis, however.
Similar to tennis (scoring is the same) platform (or paddle) tennis is played with an 18-inch paddle and spongy ball on a smaller court, with a 12-foot-high taut fence that allows balls to be played off the wall and remain in play. Between the lights and heating elements beneath the surface, it has become a popular sport to play throughout the winter months.
At Southward Ho Country Club, in Long Island, N.Y.’s Bay Shore community, Gordon Digby, CCM, PGA, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer, says platform tennis keeps the club quite active.
“On any given night we can have up to 50 players,” Digby says. “We are fortunate in that we have an old mansion that serves as our pool house and converts into the platform-tennis clubhouse in the winter. It includes a bar area, TVs, couches, and viewing areas that include fire pits, and it helps us attract new members who convert from temporary membership into a full membership.”
With four platform tennis courts—the fourth was added this past fall—Southward Ho converts approximately 10 tennis and pool members to year-round memberships because of the sport, Digby says. And it also produces a tangible increase in the club’s winter F&B revenues, mostly through drinks.
Aside from some housekeeping support in the mornings to clean up after an evening of paddle, Digby says Southward Ho hasn’t had to increase staff to accommodate the activity.
“Our Director of Racquet Sports, Chris Post, is a full-time employee, and he handles most of the tournament preparation and teaching,” he says.
Wayzata (Minn.) Country Club (WCC) has two platform courts and “absolutely” sees a bump in F&B during the paddle season, according to Membership Director Marget Seehof.
“While all racquet sports have commonality in the upper Midwest, platform—or paddle as we call it—is played primarily from November 1 to April 1,” Seehof says. “Our members at WCC are very fit and outdoorsy, and we play paddle all winter long.”
While paddle tennis enhances Wayzata’s membership offerings, it’s far from the only winter activity at the club, which is known for offering a year-round calendar. The Wayzata Winter Wonderland complex boasts four skating rinks, six miles of snowshoe trails, two sledding hills and a trap-and-skeet facility.
“This component of our business is definitely a value-added selling feature,” Seehof says.
Michelle Ray, Director of Member Relations at Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club (BCC), says platform tennis has had an effect on both membership numbers—by adding members who’ve learned about the sport through friends—and F&B revenues.
“We have seen a bump in our private party F&B sales, as our paddle house is a great spot to entertain and host events,” Ray says. “We haven’t had a tangible bump in F&B performance on the a la carte side yet, but we have modified our hours of operations during our standard close-down period, to allow for dining options during paddle season. We hope this will increase F&B sales moving forward.”
The popularity of platform tennis at BCC has resulted in its racquets professional extending his season, which was previously Memorial Day to Labor Day, to now be involved at the club year-round.
Moving forward, Ray notes, the club may also expand its racquet offerings to add badminton, which uses the same size court as paddle and pickleball.
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