Pickleball! Buckhead is catching on to America’s fastest growing sport

Pickleball pros Milos Vasovic and Phil Gresk at the Cherokee Town Club. Photos by Rob Knight

Pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport, and that trend has taken hold in the Atlanta area. Buckhead residents are picking up the paddles in neighborhood parks and country clubs, and pickle ball-specific facilities are popping up around the city. The “pro tour of pickle ball”, the PPA Tour, even has a stop in Atlanta in May. 

Atlanta has been slow to pick up the sport compared to other parts of the country, but now pickleball is picking up steam. Milos Vasovic, Director of Rackets at the Cherokee Town and Country Club, said, “I feel like [Atlanta] is becoming more part of the up and coming pickleball world, and I think it’s going to grow for sure.” 

We explored this seemingly new phenomenon to find out where it came from, who’s playing, and where our readers can get in the game!

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is a racket sport that is played with solid paddles and a perforated plastic ball. The paddles resemble oversized ping pong paddles, and the balls are similar to a Wiffle ball with smaller holes. A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, but similar to a badminton court at 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. The net is a bit lower for pickleball as well. 36 inches at the posts and 34 inches in the middle, versus 42 inches and 36 inches respectively for tennis.

A pickleball court is the same size for single or doubles play. Many facilities that offer pickleball and tennis simply apply pickleball lines in addition to the tennis court markings, and use the same net placement. It is also easy to play 2 pickleball games at once on a tennis court by adding a court on each side of the tennis court’s net.

Pickleball history

Pickleball was conceived in 1965 by Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell. The men returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA after a round of golf to find their families looking for something to do. They explored the badminton court on the property, but couldn’t find enough rackets. After scrounging ping pong paddles and a Wiffle ball, the families began to play over the badminton net. The net was soon lowered to 36 inches, and pickleball was born. 

The name pickleball was coined by Joel’s wife Joan. She said the game reminded her of a mismatched rowing crew, referred to as a “pickle boat”. There is also a story that the game was named for Joel Pritchard’s daughter’s dog “Pickles,” but apparently the dog was in fact named after the sport.

The sport grew among Pritchard and Bell’s friends, and became more widespread throughout the 1970’s. 1976 saw the first pickleball article in Tennis Magazine and the first known pickleball tournament in Tukwila, Washington. The United States Amateur Pickleball Association was formed in 1984, and the first official rulebook was published. By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states. 

Who plays pickleball?

Pickleball has been around for almost 60 years, but the sport really started to gain notoriety after 2010. According to the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) in 2022, there are 36.5 million pickleball players in the U.S., and the sport’s average growth rate is 158.6% over the past 3 years. The sport that has been popular in retirement communities in Florida for years is getting younger all the time. Recent statistics say the average pickleball player is 38 years old, and the fastest growing segment of players is 18-34 years old.

Mike Gottfried is the CEO of PCKL, an Atlanta-based pickleball equipment company. He was introduced to the sport in 2013 by his parents at their club in Florida. His parents and their elderly friends loved it, but he thought, “Okay, this is just old people tennis.” 

Fast-forward to 2020 when Mike and his friends were looking for something fun to do while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2021 he was playing pickleball 2-3 times a week, and soon he put his consumer product and marketing experience to work building a pickleball brand. Since starting PCKL, Mike has been pleasantly surprised by the growth of the sport. He saw opportunity in the market, but he says, “I never expected the sort of wave that I saw coming to be the tidal wave that it is in terms of the growth of the sport and the number of people playing, but here we are and pickleball is seemingly everywhere.” PCKL was recently named the official tournament ball for the Amateur Pickleball Association and the Southern Pickleball Association.

Milos Vasovc says there is more crossover between pickleball and golfers than there is with tennis players at the Cherokee Town and Country Club. Of the 110 players in the Club’s pickleball league, only 40% also play tennis. The club’s golfers are his target audience for pickleball. Milos says that many tennis purists see pickleball as too easy, but it offers golfers and other club members an entry into racket sports that doesn’t have the steep learning curve of tennis. “I always tell people when you play tennis, you’ve got to give yourself three years to become okay.” Milos says, but with pickleball, “everybody can play in 10 minutes.” He credits pickleball’s underhand serve and smaller court with helping to make the sport easy for beginners. 

Milos came to the Cherokee Town Club from southwest Florida, “the hotbed of pickleball.” One of his initial goals as the Director of Rackets was to grow the sport of pickleball in the community. He was hoping for 40-50 players in the club’s house league, but they ended up with 110 players on 6 teams. The league plays each Wednesday for six weeks, then the top 2 teams play a house league championship. This year the Cherokee Town Club will host a pickleball Grand Slam tournament, pitting their league players against club teams from Ansley Golf Club, Capital City Club, and others. 

8 of the 10 pickleball courts at the Cherokee Town Club have been added to existing tennis courts. 2 pickleball matches can be played on a single tennis court.

In addition to league play, the Cherokee Town Club will host a pickleball member and guest event for the first time. Milos said there will be programs for kids as well. “We’re going to start our first ever Junior pickleball program. We purchased 10 brand new movable pickleball nets that we put on the courts, so every facility looks a little nicer. And I purchased 50 pickleball paddles that we give away to the kids who participate in the program to help them get started and get involved in pickleball.” 

A social sport

Many of our experts mentioned the social nature of pickleball in one way or another. Mike Gottfried explains, “The game lends itself to our short American attention spans. The games are quick, they play to 11, win by 2.” He continues, “It’s social, it brings a lot of people together. So if you had a group of 4, 8, 12, or 16 people, you can rotate in and play, and not be sitting and waiting on the sidelines for hours and hours.” Of course some players are more advanced than others, but Mike adds, “I’ve seen it in all forms and formats, but I think the core of pickleball is still driven and oriented around fun.” 

Like bowling alleys and golf-entertainment concepts such as Top Golf, pickleball allows friends to get together around a sport where everyone can have fun regardless of their skill level. Several new pickleball facilities are coming to Atlanta from companies with experience in similar markets. The Painted Pickle is coming to Armour Yards this summer from the team behind the upscale Painted Pin bowling and entertainment venue on Miami Circle. The Painted Pickle will include 8 indoor courts, along with a restaurant and full bar. Alpharetta regulars may be familiar with the golf-entertainment venue Fairway Social. The company is working on the upcoming Pickle and Social in Gwinnett County.

Pickleball in Buckhead

There are several opportunities to play pickleball in and around Buckhead, including private clubs, public parks, and neighborhood courts. Homes in Buckhead with private pickleball courts are now starting to appear in the market. The following is a list of pickleball hot spots in and around Buckhead. If you know of a great court we missed, please drop your favorite in the comments. Also, please let us know if your neighborhood tennis courts are home to a pickleball community.

The Cherokee Town and Country Club

155 West Paces Ferry Road, N.W.. Atlanta, Georgia 30305-1365

The private Cherokee Town Club has 10 pickleball courts. The club league has a six-week season on Wednesday nights. The pickleball program includes staff pickleball pros, pickleball clinics, a junior program, and pickleball grand slam events.


Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA at Buckhead

1160 Moores Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30327

YMCA members enjoy 8 pickleball courts, clinics, open play, and league play. Pickleball pros are on staff to help with training and events.


Hammond Park

705 Hammond Dr, Atlanta, GA, 30328, USA

Hammond Park is in Sandy Springs, but this pickleball hot spot is worth checking out if you’re interested in the sport. The 8 public courts are regularly buzzing with activity, and you can always find a friendly game.

The Atlanta Pickleball Center

1359 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd NW suite b, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Atlanta Pickleball Center is the go-to indoor pickleball club in town. The facility features 10 indoor courts, league play, trainers, and lessons. Courts are available for reservations.


Ridgeview Park

5200 S Trimble Rd, Sandy Springs, GA 30342

This public park has gone all in for pickleball! The 6 dedicated outdoor courts have permanent lines and nets.

Chastain Park Tennis Center

290 Chastain Park Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30342

The Chastain Park Tennis Center has 1 court available for pickleball. Court reservations include the pickleball net.


Bitsy Grant Tennis Center

2125 Northside Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30305

The Betsy Grant Tennis Center offers pickleball reservations on their 4 platform tennis courts.


Peachtree Hills Park

308 Peachtree Hills Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, 30305, USA

Peachtree Hills Park has 3 outdoor tennis courts with permanent pickleball lines. Players have access to restrooms, water, and lights.

Shady Valley Park

2720 Shady Valley Dr NE, Atlanta, GA, 30324, USA

Public park with 3 outdoor asphalt courts. Pickleball lines are overlaid on the tennis courts.

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