America’s fastest-growing sport is definitely popular among plebes. But lately, pickleball — a cross between, tennis, ping-pong and badminton — has become borderline bougie.
Don’t expect to visit the Hamptons this summer, for example, without encountering a waitlist for the three new courts at Dune Deck Beach Club, open only to members.
“If you walk into any of our clubs between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. the courts are packed,” said Mike Meldman, founder and chairman of Discovery Land Company, owner of the exclusive Hamptons beach club residences.
Hamptonites who don’t want to wait (or can’t afford Dune Deck’s annual membership dues) are playing at the Barn in Westhampton, Sportime in Amagansett and Around the Post Pickleball, LLC, in Hampton Bays.
Pickleball is infiltrating other tony ZIP codes, too. All of Discovery’s luxury resort communities — from Barbuda to Portugal — now have pickleball courts.
And on the West Coast, country clubs are converting tennis courts into pickleball courts at warp speed. “Hillcrest Country Club is adding courts, Brentwood Country Club is adding courts — all the main country clubs here are adding courts,” said Matt Manasse, dubbed the “Pickleball Coach to the Stars” by Vanity Fair.
Last year Manasse was appointed the first-ever pickleball coach at the Pacific Palisades’ prestigious Riviera Country Club in California. These days, the former professional tennis coach plays with celebrity picklers like Larry David, Matthew Perry and Drew Brees.
Pickleball isn’t just newly fashionable among the jet set, it’s fashion.
“The outfits are definitely getting nicer among the women with means,” said Manasse.
His clients are all but begging the 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 luxury whites.
“I decided to create pickleball outfits after seeing the explosive popularity of the sport during the pandemic and noticing that none of my girlfriends knew what to wear,” said Stacey Bendet Eisner, the company’s founder and CEO.
Pickleball accessories are also getting posh.
“I loved the Tory Sport tennis bag but, in all honesty, it was too preppy basic,” said Lauren Bruksch, CEO and founder of Fenix Sportier.
So, the former Barbie marketing director at Mattel recently launched her own collection of luxury pickleball accessories. Fenix Sportier bags are hand-sewn in the US by a gentleman who used to work for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. Bruksch calls her One Bag — which retails for $1,750 — the Bentley of pickleball bags. “It takes you from winning with a dink to having a drink at the bar.”
Her $150 visor is also a bestseller. She has customers who buy it in multiple colors after realizing they “can’t live without it.”
Mainstream mid-luxury brands are dabbling in the pickleball business, too. Tommy Bahama is marketing its $110 IslandZone polo shirts as perfect for pickleball and “well-suited for serves and volleys.” Vera Bradley is partnering with Baddle on a collection of paisley and floral-covered paddles starting at $150. It may seem like a lot, but it’s a steal compared to the $333 Selkirk Labs paddle Manasse is currently eyeing. Now, that’s a lot.
For perspective, Amazon’s No. 1 best-selling pickleball kit — which includes two paddles, four balls and a carrying bag — costs just $63.
Meanwhile, at high-end resorts like Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the BVI, it’s no longer BYOP. Like the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman and Pebble Beach in California, Rosewood Little Dix Bay is practically buying pickleball equipment in bulk. The resort has even hired instructors to teach pickleball clinics — five days a week. It seems Americans, especially the one percent, can’t get enough of the sport.
Perhaps no one 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. Currently, he’s representing an $85 million home in Beverly Hills.
One of its biggest selling points? An indoor pickleball court, of course.