Beaufort County is getting six new public pickleball courts. Here’s where, and when – Hilton Head Island Packet

Temporary lines at the Southside Park tennis courts on Battery Creek Road in Beaufort mark the dimensions of a pickleball court. Beaufort County is planning to turn one of the Southside tennis courts into two pickleball courts to meet growing demand.
Temporary lines at the Southside Park tennis courts on Battery Creek Road in Beaufort mark the dimensions of a pickleball court. Beaufort County is planning to turn one of the Southside tennis courts into two pickleball courts to meet growing demand. Karl Puckett

Beaufort County is paying for six new outdoor pickleball courts in Beaufort, Bluffton and Shell Point to meet growing demand for public courts dedicated to the increasingly popular sport.

In pickleball, players whack a Wiffle ball with paddles on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net.

One tennis court each at Southside Park in Beaufort, Shell Point Park and Bluffton Recreation Center will be turned into two pickleball courts, said Chris Ophardt, a Beaufort County spokesman. Tennis will continue at a second court at each location.

The $75,000 in funding comes from leftover money from last year’s Parks and Recreation Budget, he said.

Work is expected to begin in a few weeks on what will become the first six dedicated pickleball courts operated by Beaufort County Parks and Recreation. Currently, pickleball players use private courts or put down tape on tennis courts to mark the smaller dimensions needed for their sport.

“Parks and rec had gotten enough public comment and requests they decided to go ahead and do this,” Ophardt said.

About $25,000 will be spent turning a single tennis court into two pickleball courts at each of the three locations.

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Temporary lines at the Southside Park tennis courts on Battery Creek Road in Beaufort mark the dimensions of a pickleball court. Beaufort County is planning to turn one of the Southside tennis courts into two pickleball courts to meet growing demand. Karl Puckett

Alice Howard, who represents District 4 on the County Council, said a pickleball task force has been advocating for more courts.

The public outdoor pickleball courts at Southside Park and Shell Point will be the first north of the Broad River, she said.

The county’s comprehensive recreation plan calls for even more pickleball courts, Howard said.

It’s not just older people who are playing the sport, but younger generations, too. Howard noted a number of private clubs have converted tennis courts to meet growing interest.

“I don’t play pickleball yet,” Howard said with a laugh, “but I have a lot of friends who play pickleball.”

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong and is played indoors and outdoors, singles and doubles.

USA Pickleball, the sports national government body, says the sport is exploding, with some 8,500 pickleball locations nationwide, with the spread attributed to popularity at community centers, physical education classes, YMCA facilities and retirement communities.

The Association of Pickleball Professionals was launched in 2019, and the APP had 18 scheduled tour stops with $700,000 in prize money in 2021.

The city of Beaufort, where Southside Park and the tennis courts are located, is planning improvements for the park. In a survey of residents, pickleball was picked as an amenity that they would like to see added.

“We’re one of the few communities that have not addressed it,” Beaufort Councilman Neil Lipsitz said of pickleball’s popularity growth. “It’s great it is being looked at.”

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Karl Puckett covers the city of Beaufort, town of Port Royal and other communities north of the Broad River for The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet. The Minnesota native also has worked at newspapers in his home state, Alaska, Wisconsin and Montana. Support my work with a digital subscription