As we travel around the country we often hear, “Ohhhh, you’re from The Villages.” Given the inflection in their voices, I am not always certain exactly what they mean. So in this post, we will tell you everything you need to know about pickleball in The Villages.
If you have looked at The Villages website or watched their DVD’s, you come away wondering, “Is it really that big?” The answer is: NO! It is actually bigger! The last official number I could find was that The Villages covered 32 square miles, but that was in 2011. Since then they have bought additional land, that I have tried to show above. (Note this is not official, just my observations as a resident.) We know for a fact that:
- The Villages crosses into three separate counties;
- It has two zip codes;
- In excess of 110,000 (mostly senior) residents;
- More than 50,000 golf carts and over 100 miles of golf cart trails;
- The median household income is around $94,000 a year, nearly twice the Florida median income.
#1 Place to Live for Pickleball
Some Village people like to quote Masters Athlete Magazine, that named The Villages “The #1 Place to Live for Pickleball.” However, I did some research and that magazine no longer exists…so let’s look at the facts:
- Today, there are 196 pickleball courts, spread across 29 recreation centers in The Villages. (Please note, this number will increase as additional recreation centers are completed.)
- Pickleball is typically the highest participation sport in The Villages Senior Games. This year 433 athletes competed in the pickleball events.
- More than 70 volunteers provide beginner pickleball classes to over 5000 residents and guests each year. From April till October, 10 classes are offered each month. In season, January through March, more than 30 classes are offered each month. I personally know people in Scotland, Thailand, the Netherlands and England that learned pickleball in The Villages and then took it back home.
- A pickleball rating’s clinic, each with up to 42 players, is held each month in The Villages. Over 1700 players’ ratings are maintained in The Villages Pickleball Community database.
- Free drill clinics are held four times every week by 5.0 rated players.
- Team pickleball and dozens of pickleball leagues are held throughout the month.
- There is an official Villages pickleball tournament each month.
- Though the vast majority of players are (3.0-3.5) there are currently over 15 Village senior residents currently rated 5.0.
- There is a Villages Pickleball Club which hosts an exhibition each year showcasing the best talent across the country.
If You Come to Visit
As in every pickleball community, there are “Villages’ pickleball” customs that one learns. If you are visiting friends or family, they should get a Guest Pass for you. This allows you to use the recreational facilities throughout The Villages. Carry it, and photo id, with you as from time to time members of the recreation staff will check to make sure everyone is “legal”. As all residents pay an amenity fee each month which funds the dozens of pools, courts and executive golf courses…this is a reasonable thing to ask.
From 7am-10am each morning, the courts are set aside for “Open Play”. Open Play means that anyone can go to any court and play. In reality, players tend to gravitate to the recreation center that most closely reflects their skill level. Since most recreation centers have 6 courts, and there can be a line, you get in line and wait your term. After completing one game (typically to 11), four players exit the court and the first four in line get on. At Saddlebrook Recreation Center, for example, you will find 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 players in line together. Unlike some communities, there are not 3.5 courts or 4.0 courts. If you are at that recreation center, and standing in line, you play with the three other people around you.
Certainly, there are instances when people act like idiots. There are of course some players that feel they are just too good to play with just anyone. Unfortunately, you will find that behavior in any large community. But the vast majority of times, people will want to get to know you and invite you to play.
If You Rent
If you rent, for a week or month or a season, you will be provided a Resident ID. Since you are staying for a longer period, you will likely be able to participate in leagues or groups. After 10am, some courts are reserved for league play, clinics, beginner pickleball instruction, or simply groups of neighbors that want to play together. Despite the dozens of such scheduled activities each day, there is ALWAYS a court available somewhere. If it’s open, grab your Simon or Tutor or a friend and practice till dusk. (Note, none of The Villages courts are lighted for night play.) Baskets of balls are available on every court and wooden paddles are available in the equipment shed if you forgot your paddle.
Renting in The Villages (check VRBO or this site) can be very cost-effective or fairly expensive. In the summer months, you can rent a 3/2 home for a month for about $1000. If you want to just come for 3-7 days, the developer offers a “Lifestyle Preview Program” that currently is $99/night. You get a brand new 3/2 home, a golf cart, bicycles and lots of goodies. You must check in at the sales office to get your key, but that’s about it. There is not a required 2-hour tour. Many people who visit this way never meet a salesperson.
If you rent in-season, you might be able to find a manufactured home in the “historic section” for $2000/month….but $3500-$5500/month is more common. Renting is perhaps the best way to determine if this is the place for you to pursue your pickleball dreams.
Pickleball in The Villages
We wrote previously that we felt fortunate to have The Villages as our pickleball home base. As we said then, size really does matter. As always, if you have any questions about pickleball in The Villages, please contact us or comment below.