A woman hits a dink shot while playing pickleball.

(© Ron Alvey - stock.adobe.com)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Pickleball may not be the new national pastime yet, but it’s continuing to grow in popularity among Americans of all ages. However, some may still be wondering, what the heck is pickleball?!

Despite the odd name, there are no pickles involved. The rules basically feature a combination of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. The paddles resemble those of ping-pong, but the game is supersized on an almost tennis-size court.

In recent years, the sport has seen a massive boom in popularity. Google searches for “how to play pickleball” are up 284 percent from January 2020.

Conducted by Offers.Bet, a survey of 1,000 Americans reveals nearly one in six people currently play pickleball, and one in three are planning to try it out in 2023. This may be because of the recent change in the sport’s demographics. While many originally considered it a sport for older generations, 77 percent now feel anyone can pick up a paddle.

Many pickleball enthusiasts are somewhat new to the court. In fact, 83 percent of current pickleball players started playing in 2020 or later, possibly while searching for new hobbies during the pandemic.

Why is pickleball so popular?

The poll finds the top reason for joining the pickle crowd is for fun (96%). The court sport is relatively easy to learn, with 93 percent of people agreeing with this sentiment.

Similarly, 96 percent feel it’s an affordable way to stay active. Players only spend an average of $32 monthly on gear, renting a court, or memberships to leagues.

Another main reason for picking up a paddle is because of the social nature of the sport (39%). It builds community and is a new way to make friends.

If given the opportunity, two in three Americans would jump at the chance to go to a venue similar to TopGolf, but for pickleball. That includes 59 percent of those who expressed interest that don’t even play the sport.

Both players and non-players alike would be interested in going to watch a tournament. While 12 percent have had an opportunity to see a tournament, 41 percent hope to see one in the future!

The sport has become so popular that more than one in three respondents even want pickleball to become an Olympic sport.

Pickleball with paddles
Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Where is pickleball most popular?

The most pickleball-obsessed city in the nation is Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. This could be due to the 2023 addition of a pickleball-based entertainment venue complete with courts, food, and bars.

Other enthusiasts should check out the pickleball scene in Salt Lake City, Utah (#2) and Grand Rapids, Michigan (#3).

Overall, the top cities searching for pickleball are in warmer climates. That includes four cities from Arizona (Tempe #4, Scottsdale #11, Gilbert #20, and Chandler #22) and Florida (Port St. Lucie #6, Tallahassee #10, St. Petersburg #14, Orlando #18).

Cities with the least number of “picklers” are Lubbock, Texas and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Pickleball cities
(Credit: Offers.bet)

Pickleball vs. Tennis

Tennis and pickleball players seem to butt heads in this newly competitive climate, with about one in three Americans playing tennis, 28 percent of those also play pickleball. Now, both crowds are fighting for space more than ever.

As pickleball continues to pick up the pace in growing interest, 72 percent of people wish there were more places to play in their communities. This leads the majority (66%) turning to tennis courts to get a match in. Thirty-three percent of those who have played in tennis territory have experienced the racket-clad athletes getting mad about it.

Tennis still remains top tier to many with 61 percent of people feeling tennis is elitist. That being said, many believe pickleball is more beginner friendly (77%) than tennis (23%).

Pickleball is not going anywhere, though. In fact, 81 percent of Americans see the sport continuing to grow. So, to tennis players everywhere, don’t be surprised if your neighborhood courts see a pickleball invasion. This is just the beginning.

Survey methodology:

To determine the most pickleball-obsessed cities we compared the results of the 150 most populous cities in the United States according to the Census Bureau. Offers.bet analyzed the Google search volume of 921 terms related to pickleball including “pickleball courts near me”, “what is pickleball game,” and “beginner pickleball near me” over the period of January 2020 to January 2023.

In February 2023, researchers also surveyed 1,029 Americans to get their feedback about pickleball. 50% identified as male, 48% as female, and 2% as non-binary. Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 85 with an average age of 39. 50% were Millennials, 12% Baby Boomers, 23% Gen X, and 15% Gen Z.

About Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds' Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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