The Landings is a private community established in the early 1970s on Skidaway Island, approximately 25 minutes from downtown Savannah, Georgia. Its developer, internationally renowned landscape architect Hideo Sasaki, envisioned streets resembling tree limbs, homes that blended with forest growth, and plenty of green space. The age range of residents runs the gamut from young families to empty nesters.
The community’s Golf & Athletic Club has a storied tradition of its own. Golf legend and course designer Arnold Palmer created Marshwood, the club’s first course, in 1973. The following year, memberships were available for purchase as The Landings eventually added five more courses designed by luminaries Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills, and Willard C. Byrd.
Since then, the club has added 31 tennis courts, eight bocce courts, and 15 pickleball courts. Members can also access five swimming pools, four clubhouses, eight restaurants, and a wellness center.
The Landings was designated as the first Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community in the state of Georgia. It’s currently the largest member-owned private club in the country. Even children are welcome, with 1,100 kids under 18 currently enrolled.
Narrowing the Gap
The Landings is one of numerous golf, tennis, and athletic clubs nationwide that have jumped on the pickleball bandwagon, and its membership reflects the sport’s upward trend. As of 2015, the club contained four pickleball courts. They added three more in the spring of 2016 and four more in both 2018 and 2022.
Pickleball has greatly changed the makeup of athletic memberships at the club. Lorfano estimates that participation in golf and pickleball is split 50/50.
“We are predominantly a golf community,” Lorfano explained. “With six golf courses, that’s one of our major draws. But we also have 50% of our members that like to do everything else but golf. It wasn’t always like that. We were more 65/35 (with golf).”
The biggest driver of pickleball participation at the club is the creation of an in-house league, according to Chris Kader, the club’s director of court sports. The league plays three seasons a year and averages over 120 members each season. Individuals of different skill levels form teams that play appropriate level-based matches every week.
“We simply took an interest in the game, learned it ourselves, started instructing and then created an in-house league. Bringing groups of members together to share an experience and be social… the rest is history.”Chris Kader, Landings Director of Court Sports
The club has a total of 9 PPR Certified professionals on staff to conduct weekly clinics. Several well-known professional players have made appearances to help with the clinics and certification process, including Ben Johns, Christine McGrath, and Kyle Yates.
A Peaceful Existence
A number of tennis and athletic clubs around the country are experiencing resistance to the addition of pickleball from its members. No such problem exists at The Landings.
“The benefit is that we see people in the court sports world now that we would never have seen before,” Kader explained. “More golfers are playing, and more ‘non-tennis’ people are playing than tennis converts.”
For other athletic clubs thinking about adding pickleball, Kader has some advice they should pay close attention to:
“Just do it and get the courts built yesterday,” he said. “What are you waiting for?”
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