The editor of Coastal Point reminded me recently that not everyone who comes to enjoy our wonderful beaches knows about pickleball, so I thought I would explain pickleball in comparison to the great game of golf. Let’s start with the ball. The golf ball is almost half the size and twice the weight of the pickleball. Golf is played on large fields, while pickleball is played on a small, flat rectangle measuring only 20-feet-by-44 feet. And since doubles is the most common format, you could say it is 10-feet-by-15 once you take away the kitchen.
Yes, I said kitchen. While golf has its famous 19th Hole, pickleball has a kitchen on every court. Players can’t go into the kitchen while an active point is being played but can order donuts and coffee between points. Speaking of kitchens, a pickleball paddle is like a frying pan composed of modern day space age materials. Now in golf, they use a variety of sticks with smaller frying pans attached to the bottom so they can hit that golf ball from spot to spot. Golf bags are helpful for managing those 14 sticks, while a 14-inch string bag is all you need for your paddle, sun screen and bottle of water.
And when you use those frying pans properly, there is nothing quite as exciting as driving that small golf ball perfectly 220 yards up the middle, unless it is a 440-inch pickleball drive up the middle against your two opponents.
In golf, they take 18 styrofoam coffee cups and hide them in their very large field. In fact, they hide them so well that they put flags in them so golfers can see where they are located. Now the objective for the golfer is to hit that very small ball into each one of those small cups on that very large field. A perfect score by someone with big biceps would be 18 holes-in-one, but it normally takes anywhere from four to eight attempts per hole to get around the field. In fact, the game already assumes you are going to need three misses before you sink the ball on the fourth try. As a result, it takes more than four hours while everyone wanders around the field looking for their golf balls. Little wonder they name their sticks pet names like Bertha, Taylor and Callaway because they spend more time each week wandering around the field with them than with their own spouses.
Here is where golf and pickleball diverge. One game of pickleball will take 15 to 20 minutes, and then everyone runs off the court, all enthused like a defensive football squad after an interception, to sign up for another court. Meanwhile in golf: “Bertha, did you see my ball?”
Scoring is another big difference. In golf the objective is to hit as few shots as possible over the minimum of 18, while in pickleball, the objective is to simply hit ONE more ball on each point than your opponents until you get to 11 points. Keeping score is fairly straightforward in golf beginning with numeral one and counting the number of shots into those 18 styrofoam cups: Numeral 1....numeral 116, 117, ...124. But not so in pickleball. The score begins with 0-0-2 and then wanders all around from there. Don’t ask me to explain 0-0-2 because that takes another article.
Pickleball normally costs anywhere from $5 to $10 for anywhere from two hours to all day, while golf is considerably more expensive, from $100 upwards. Of course, golfers have the opportunity of wearing those flashy fashion colors, while some pickleballers are still wearing their threadbare college gym clothing six decades later.
Whereas golf normally finishes with a drink, pickleball typically begins with a dink. And while pickleballers mostly hit everything with a forehand shot, golfers yell “Fore” to avoid hitting others in that between-the-eyes spot.
They are both enjoyable and good for your health and general well being. A round of golf is about 10,000 steps, as is a good pickleball session of two hours. I hope I have helped explain pickleball, and hope you enjoy yourself and play both golf and pickleball while you are visiting our beach resorts.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.