HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- When Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island put up a handful of signs last summer offering the popular game of pickleball at its tennis center, staff had no idea that less than a year later visitors would be requesting full pickleball vacations and filling up its courts. One of the first tennis resorts to adopt less physically-demanding styles of tennis, which is found in both pickleball and POP Tennis, Palmetto Dunes doubled its pickleball courts and added POP Tennis courts earlier this year to prepare for the busy spring and summer seasons. Guests who book vacation rentals through the resort also receive two hours of either tennis, pickleball or POP Tennis time with each night of their stay or choose from one of two pickleball vacation packages.
Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center director John Kerr describes pickleball, which has been featured on CBS’ Early Show, as the “fountain of youth for injured tennis players” and says it is one the fastest growing sports in the U.S. with almost 2.5 million players. To his surprise, it’s been hugely popular with families visiting the resort, whose children often play the game back home in gym class, as well as with retirees. “It’s a great family activity because the learning curve is much shorter than tennis,” says Kerr. “Nobody is a beginner for very long and soon they are smiling and laughing. The grandparents can compete with grandkids on court, making it a multigenerational activity.”
Described as tennis meets ping-pong, pickleball is played with oversized ping pong paddles and a softball-sized plastic perforated ball on a court on-third the size of a regular tennis court, requiring less athleticism. The goal is to volley the ball over a net that stands 34 inches. Points are scored only by the serving team and games are normally played to 11 points, winning by at least 2. Four games can be played simultaneously on one tennis court, and Palmetto Dunes has doubled the number of pickleball courts available from four to eight.
To accommodate demand for pickleball vacations, the resort now offers two pickleball vacation packages. The Pickleball Family Stay & Play package includes three nights in a Palmetto Dunes villa, a one-hour pickleball clinic, lunch for four at the resort’s Big Jim’s restaurant, bike rentals and two hours of court time per day with pickleball equipment. The package starts at $90/person/night for spring bookings. Vacationers can also choose the Pickleball Advanced Stay & Play package , which includes all of the above with the addition of a drop in round to play with other advanced players and an intermediate clinic/round robin combo instead of the one-hour clinic. The Advanced package starts at $140/person/night for spring bookings.
Another tennis alternative that is gaining steam and was featured in June on The Today Show is POP Tennis, which is also played on a smaller court with a slower ball. It largely differs from regular tennis in that all serving is done underhand, removing the challenge of the overhand serve, which Kerr says is the most difficult stroke in tennis. The name comes from the “pop” sound the smaller racquets make on contact with the low compression ball. To accommodate POP Tennis players and to enhance the center’s junior programs, the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center in January added four 36-foot junior-specific clay courts and one 60-foot junior-specific clay court, which are also the shorter court sizes adopted by POP Tennis.
Guests of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort can participate in any of the 26 weekly pickleball offerings, including lesson clinics and round robins. Pickleball and POP tennis equipment is also available for purchase at the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center pro shop to take home after vacation. There are even annual pickleball memberships available for serious players.
About Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is a 2,000-acre resort destination located in the middle of Hilton Head Island, S.C., bounded by 3 miles of Atlantic Ocean beach on one side and a sheltered Intracoastal Waterway marina on the other. Named to the top 25 World’s Best Family Getaways by Travel + Leisure in 2013, the resort features three world-class golf courses, an award-winning tennis center, an 11-mile inland salt-water lagoon system for kayaking and fishing, and Hilton Head Outfitters for bike rentals, canoes, kayaks, fishing and much more. The Mediterranean-style Shelter Cove Harbour, Hilton Head Island’s largest deep-water marina, located right across from Palmetto Dunes, features waterfront shopping and dining and a wide variety of charters, including nature cruises, dolphin tours, sport crabbing and fishing. For information about activities or reservations, please call 877-567-6513 or visit www.palmettodunes.com.