Pickleball is the sport of the year, LeBron James’s latest pet project, and the healthiest way to shake off those post-pandemic cobwebs, no matter how old you are. Most picklerballers play at public parks or in their driveways but one California resort is giving pickleball the luxury treatment.
Carmel Valley Ranch, already a top 50 tennis destination, recently unveiled a pickleball program complete with pickleball pros, pickleball workshops and dedicated pickleball courts. The picklepalooza is part of ongoing enhancements at the 500-acre property in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains on the Monterey Peninsula.
Played with perforated polymer balls and rectangular paddles on a court roughly 1/4 the size of a regulation tennis court, pickleball is simple to learn, gentle on the joints and easy on the ego, too. I like to say it’s like playing “field ping pong.” If you can swing a paddle—dink!—you’re a pickleball player.
But Carmel Valley Ranch knows there are levels to conquer. With four brand-new pickleball courts and a full roster of pickleball programs, the resort helps pickleball players at every ability sharpen skills, from serving and net play to advanced spins and slams. Among the offerings: Dinking Divas, a pickleball drills clinic with warm-ups and a focus on fundamentals before some live play with mixed groups. The Ranch also has bi-monthly mixers, mostly for locals but open to all, that bring doubles players together to mingle and make friends with fellow pickleball obsessives. Players are matched by skill level.
Head tennis instructors Chris Myrold and Ben Gottenberg, in partnership with Peter Burwash International (PBI), bring the same high-quality instruction to pickleball as they do to tennis teaching. Carmel Valley Ranch guests can book private one-hour lessons, at $40 an hour, or play in group sessions.
In June 2019, Carmel Valley Ranch unveiled a property-wide refresh that included a new Market & Creamery, new culinary spaces; redesigned suites loaded with smart-room technology; updated meeting and event spaces; and an overhaul of the golf clubhouse on the Pete Dye-designed bentgrass 18-hole course. The Ranch also expanded its experiential programming that now includes cheese-making classes, falconry, salt blending, beekeeping and herding.
But it’s pickleball that’s getting the buzz at the moment. The activity continues to be America’s fastest growing sport, growing in 2021 to 4.8 million players in the US, according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Single Sport Report on Pickleball. USA Pickleball reports a 14.8% growth from 2020 to 2021, following a 21.3% growth in 2019, with an 11.5% average annual growth rate over the past 5 years. Although it’s often considered a retirement sport, the average age for all players continues to drop, to 38.1 years old in 2021, a decrease of 2.9 years from 2020Growth of total participants from 2020 to 2021 was the fastest among players under 24 years of age, according to USA Pickleball.
Carmel Valley Ranch is set on the “sunny side” of the Monterey peninsula amid scenic foothills, lavender fields, vineyards, and old-growth oaks. The resort features 181 suite in a gorgeous oasis shared with mule deer, great horned owls, turkey vultures and majestic hawks. Honestly, California doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.