David Welles, the founder of the Yobow massage gun, took up pickleball in March of last year near his suburban Chicago home.
Welles, who had been an obsessive nearly-daily golfer, decided to give pickleball a chance.
“I found a group of guys and we were playing at this park,” Welles told The Pickler. “And then the weather got nicer, and suddenly all the courts were full and there were 40 people waiting to play.”
“You’d wait, then get to play one game and then you had to rotate out. I couldn’t do it. I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going to have my own pickleball court.’”
By June of last year, Welles was playing on a court carved out of a quarter-acre of woods he owned as part of his Deerfield, Illinois, home.
And he’s not alone. As pickleball enthusiasm grows and public courts are strained to meet the unquenched demand, some players are looking at their homes and finding out what it takes to build a pickleball court on their property.
“I guess it’s the new backyard swimming pool,” said Gary Dannenberg, a Milton, Wisconsin, contractor who accidentally found himself in the pickleball court installation business.
“After I got divorced, I met a woman who was into pickleball, and I said, ‘What’s pickleball? What a silly name!”
Before long, he was an avid player.
“And then you replace all your friends, and make new ones that play pickleball,” he said.
That turned into using his contracting skills to build a court at his own home, and in the process, finding out from the local pickleball community that there was enough demand to start his own pickleball court construction business.
“Because of my pickleball business, I can only play about three or four times a week now,” Dannenberg said.
Nate Parsons, who owns Home Court Advantage, an athletic court installer and supplier, says that the home pickleball court business is taking off.
“Last year, we did 10 to 12 backyard pickleball courts in Florida from Orlando south,” he said. “This year, we’re already scheduled to do 35.”
In Illinois, the numbers are even more dramatic: From 20 courts last year to 52 so far this year.
“The only negative to putting a court in your backyard,” Parsons said, “is you get 100 friends you never thought you had coming over to your house.”
SportProsUSA is a New-Jersey based court installation company that specializes in residential basketball courts. The business is changing, said Shannon Grizil, the company’s vice president of marketing.
“Now, about 50 percent of the calls we get are for pickleball courts,” she said.
Installing backyard pickleball courts can be tricky, due to varying weather conditions that affect the surface, local noise and zoning ordinances, and a variety of products and methods offered.
For starters, you need the room. An ideal footprint for a pickleball court is 64 feet by 34 feet.
Asphalt is cheaper and doesn’t create any saw cuts in the surface, but steel or fiber-mesh reinforced concrete lasts longer. And there are some newer products, such as interlocking modular flooring tiles, to consider.
After you throw in lights and fencing, it’s not hard to spend more than $50,000 on a backyard court.
Those with their own courts say it’s worth it.
“It was a splurge for us, but I try to play at least five times a week,” said Mari Parsons, who lives in the Central Florida town of Oveido. “It’s certainly nice to just walk out your door and play.”
Joe Mertzlufft, a computer repair technician in Colombia, Missouri, made his court with a color design that featured a black kitchen and a gold court, to mimic the University of Missouri team colors.
Isn’t a black kitchen hot?
“You’re not supposed to be in the kitchen anyway,” he said.
He uses his home surveillance camera to record the action on his backyard pickleball games.
“Then when there’s a great rally or there’s some close line call, we mark the time,” he said. “Then after the game, we look at the surveillance video to see it again.”
A testament to the growing popularity of backyard pickleball courts is the “Backyard Pickleball Court Owners” Facebook group, which has more than 4,400 members.
On it, pickleball owners display their courts while discussing things like getting an umbrella home insurance policy to cover other people getting injured on the courts, and asking guests to sign liability waivers before they play.
“After a torn Achilles and a broken wrist in a little less than two years on my court, I think it’s time to have people sign waivers,” a court owner posted.
There’s also a lot of talk about being a good neighbor.
Eric Tuten, who lives in Eastern Pennsylvania, posted a welcoming message online to announce to his neighbors that his backyard pickleball court was open to them, too.
“For those who know or don’t know, we’re the home with the pickleball court in our backyard,” Tuten wrote.
“Some of you are maybe curious about the sport, others may be annoyed by it. If in the latter group, all I can say is you should try it.”
“I want to offer the opportunity for those curious and interested to learn the basics of the sport and to play some,” he continued. “No charge!”
“If you and/or your kids are interested, please feel free either to let me know below or to message me and we can decide on a day and time to learn and play. Let’s play some pickleball!”
Parsons said that since she built her backyard pickleball court in Central Florida, a few of her neighbors have asked her to teach them the game.
“So now I have a regular Monday session where I teach four women how to play,” she said.
Welles said the most important thing is to make sure the local government code enforcement officials approve the project.
“Because the minute that one of your neighbors complains about the noise, and they will, if you don’t have a permit, they’ll make you tear up your court,” he said.
Welles said the occasional complaints from his neighbors are about the lights and the sound of players cursing on his court.
“I’ve got a jar now for fines for the cursing,” he said.