What happens when badminton, tennis and ping pong have a few too many at the recreational office party?
Once upon a badminton court in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Wash., a bored congressman got together with a businessman and they started gleefully thwacking a perforated plastic ball around.
Then, as any lawmaker does, they created some rules and named the game after a dog.
Voila! Pickleball was born.
Why? Isn’t it just lazy tennis?
Welp, according to the sounds of laughter and genuine fun by those who actually play pickleball, it’s a sport your whole family can enjoy with a smile on their faces. Yes, there are leagues and pros and even elite pickleballers —but for the family, just go find a place to play.
You can learn more about pickleball with USA Pickleball, because of course there’s an association and governing body for a sport that uses a perforated plastic ball and a paddle. The site also offers tips for beginners, but if you click that link, get ready to go down the pickleball rabbit hole.
There are serious tips like: “Keep your paddle high, near your chest; your reaction time will be quicker.”
Be careful, you just might get addicted —it’s like golf, but happier.
If you’d like to discover pickleball for yourself, you can find plenty of fun spots in the Pensacola area where you can gleefully thwack that little perforated ball across the pickleball nets. There’s a great social media site where you can connect with the pickleball community. So, check out the Pensacola Panhandle Pickleball group on Facebook. They can update you on places to play, tournaments or even places where you can get rated and develop your skillsets.
In the meantime, here’s a listing of some local spots to thwack:
The Malcolm Yonge Center has been temporarily closed for an undetermined period. When it reopens, it has three, free indoor courts. The lines are permanent, and portable nets are available. Players have access to restrooms and lights.
Come play pickleball at Hollis T. Williams Park in Pensacola! There are three outdoor courts. The lines are overlaid on a tennis court, so the net is a little taller than a normal pickleball net. The courts are free.
Pensacola Athletic Center is one of the most popular places to play pickleball in Pensacola. There are four outdoor dedicated hard courts with permanent lines and nets. Players have access to food, restrooms, water, wheelchair accessibility, and lights. The rub? A PAC membership is required to play.
Navy Federal opened a 28-acre facility in the Beulah community in northwest Pensacola as a shared connection for Navy Federal team members and the community. There are two pickleball courts, and you also can enjoy walking paths, athletic fields, a yoga lawn, fitness equipment and a pavilion. Some amenities are first come, first served, while others are available to reserve online. This inclusive center can be reached from Navy Federal’s Greater Pensacola campus and Nine Mile Road. There is plenty of on-site parking. The Recreation Center will be open 7 days a week from 6 am–9 pm.
Armstrong Park (as pictured at the top of this blog) boasts 3 pickleball courts. All are free to go play on. There is also one tennis court.
And there you have it — a guide to the delightful world of pickleball in the Pensacola area. So, grab your paddle, find a court, and get ready to embark on a journey of laughter, fun, and maybe a few unexpected twists and turns.
Just remember, as you dive into the world of pickleball, keep in mind you’re playing a game named after a dog… It's not just a game; it's a chance to unleash your inner goofball on the court.
Happy thwacking and may your serves be as precise as your sense of humor!
Sean Smith is a native of Liverpool, England, but has been Gulf Coastified since he moved to Pensacola in 1992 after serving as a weather specialist in the Air Force. A journalist and writer for more than 20 years, he loves to share his affection for the natural beauty of Pensacola and the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.