America’s fastest growing sport is definitely popular with the population. But lately, pickleball — a cross between tennis, ping-pong, and badminton — has become borderline bougie.
For example, don’t expect to visit the Hamptons this summer without encountering a waiting list for the three new spots at Dune Deck Beach Club.
“If you walk into any of our clubs between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., the seats are full,” said Mike Meldman, founder and chairman of Discovery Land Company, owner of exclusive Hamptons Beach Club Residences.
Hamptonites who can’t wait (or can’t afford Dune Deck’s $350,000 annual membership dues) play at Barn in Westhampton, Sportime in Amagansett and Around the Post Pickleball, LLC in Hampton Bays.
Pickleball has infiltrated other tony zip codes as well. All Discovery luxury resorts – from Barbuda to Portugal – now have pickleball courts.
And on the West Coast, country clubs are converting warp-speed tennis courts into pickleball courts. “Hillcrest Country Club is adding spots, Brentwood Country Club is adding spots — all the major country clubs here are adding spots,” said Matt Manasse, dubbed the “Pickleball Coach to the Stars” by Vanity Fair.
Last year, Manasseh was named the first-ever pickleball coach at the Pacific Palisades, California’s prestigious Riviera Country Club. Nowadays the former professional tennis coach plays with famous players like Larry David, Matthew Perry and Drew Brees.
Pickleball isn’t just new in the jet set, it’s in fashion.
“The outfits definitely get nicer with the women with money,” said Manasseh.
His customers are begging Gigi Hadi-approved luxury streetwear brand Madhappy (whose investors include LVMH and Tommy Hilfiger) to make a pickleball line. Alice + Olivia, meanwhile, welcomed the memo creating WASP-y luxe white.
“I decided to create pickleball outfits after seeing the sport’s explosive popularity during the pandemic and realizing that none of my friends knew what to wear,” said Stacey Bendet Eisner, the company’s founder and CEO.
Pickleball accessories are also becoming chic.
“I loved the Tory Sport tennis bag but honestly it was just too preppy,” said Lauren Bruksch, CEO and founder of Fenix Sportier.
For example, the former Barbie marketing director at Mattel recently launched her own line of luxury pickleball accessories. Fenix Sportier bags are hand-stitched in the USA by a gentleman who used to work for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. Bruksch calls their One Bag — which retails for $1,750 — the Bentley of pickleball bags. “It takes you from winning with a drink to drinking at the bar.”
Their $150 visor is also a bestseller. She has clients who buy it in multiple colors after realizing they “can’t live without it.”
Mainstream mid-luxury brands are also dabbling in the pickleball business. Tommy Bahama markets its $110 IslandZone polo shirts as perfect for pickleball and “good for serves and volleys.” Vera Bradley collaborates with Baddle on a collection of paisley and floral print paddles starting at $150. It might seem like a lot, but it’s a bargain compared to the $333 Selkirk Labs paddle that Manasseh is currently eyeing. Well that’s a lot.
For comparison, Amazon’s best-selling pickleball kit — which includes two bats, four balls, and a carrying case — is just $63.
It’s now no longer BYOP at high-end resorts like Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands. Like the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman and California’s Pebble Beach, Rosewood Little Dix Bay practically buys pickleball gear in bulk. The resort even hired instructors to teach pickleball classes five days a week. It seems that Americans, especially the 1%, can’t get enough of the sport.
Perhaps nobody knows this better than Tony Mariotti. The RubyHome real estate agent grew up in the Pacific Northwest — where pickleball was invented in 1965 — and fondly remembers his family having a pickleball court in their driveway. He currently represents an $85 million Beverly Hills home.
One of its biggest selling points? An indoor pickleball court, of course.