Golf isn’t the first sport to spring to mind when you think of pickleball and what its related pastimes could be. However, Connor Hance and Drew Baird, co-owners of Enhance Pickleball based in California, would tell you differently.
The former tennis stars from UCLA were flabbergasted when the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) reached out to enquire about their interest in participating in the 2024 PGA Show, mainly because they were so new to the scene, having only launched their company in 2022.
A Unique Opportunity
This event, a significant exhibition of the latest developments in golf featuring over 1,000 exhibitors at the Orange County Convention Center, has provided the duo with a unique opportunity to demonstrate their DinkMaster training aid.
Baird, reflecting on their journey from Los Angeles to Florida for their inaugural trade show, told David Droschak from firstcallgolf.com, “We’re still getting our feet wet, and this is actually our first trade show.”
“The PGA sort of explained the opportunity. Obviously, a lot of golf clubs have tennis, and now they have pickleball, so I think it made a lot of sense for us. It certainly has turned into a country club sport.”
A Notable Impact
The impact of pickleball on the golf show was notable, with the sport making its most prominent appearance to date. While only three pickleball companies attended the 2023 PGA Show, this year witnessed over a dozen showcasing various equipment such as rackets, balls, clothing, and training aids.
Celebrity and professional play on two constructed courts, featuring NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry and former LPGA major champion Sherri Steinhauer, further emphasized the sport’s crossover appeal.
Even golf legend Tom Watson expressed his regular engagement in pickleball
Barry emphasized the sport’s advantages, stating, “What don’t I like about it? You get great exercise, but you don’t have to beat yourself up. Tennis was way harder on my body.
“The explosion of the sport has been phenomenal. I was told three years ago they expected 30 million people by 2030. It’s 2024, and there’s over 45 million. It’s the fastest-growing sport I’ve ever seen. I love it. I would play four or five times a week if I could get the games.”
Golf Clubs Adding Pickleball Courts
The trend of converting tennis courts to pickleball courts or constructing new facilities to meet member demand has become prevalent in many golf courses and country clubs.
Selkirk Sport spokesman Tait Engebretsen observed the intertwining of golf and pickleball at the PGA Show: “If you go join a golf club, you walk in, and you can golf with anyone — you join a foursome, you meet new people.
“There’s a community involved in golf, and it’s the same thing with pickleball. You can go to any random city, find a court, and there’s going to be 80 people playing and 40 of them are waiting. You show up by yourself, and you are welcomed, just like going to the golf course.
“And no one cares how good you are, how bad you are, if you’re a pro, if you’re not, they just want to play. And that’s why the golf community and the pickleball community have so much in common.”
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Tennis Can Be Confusing
Hance, a former PAC-12 championship team player at UCLA, noted that tennis at lower levels can be confusing and less enjoyable. In contrast, pickleball provides immediate enjoyment for even just semi-decent athletes.
They also discussed their Dink Master invention, which is designed to help pickleball players refine their short game at home, along with noise-blocker panels customized for golf clubs to minimize paddle-to-ball sound.
Hance added, “We weren’t expecting this at all. “A lot of people are learning right now, so our YouTube content essentially is the No. 1 way that they’re learning pickleball,” Hance says. “And I don’t think it’s like golf or tennis, where they’re paying for lessons as much because pickleball is a lot easier to learn. So they can just watch a few YouTube videos, and they’re ready to roll.”
Hance disagreed with the notion that pickleball is predominantly played by seniors: “Just like with golf, there is an emerging younger audience,” he says.
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