- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - The newest sports craze sweeping through retirement communities across the country has reached Cobb County, with lessons and open court time available at local recreation centers and parks.

It’s called “pickleball.”

Enthusiasts and instructors had a pickleball exhibition recently at the Fullers Recreation Center off Robinson Road in east Cobb County.

Shouts of “I got it” filled the air along with the “pong, pong, pong” sounds of a hollow ball being batted back and forth by two ladies swinging paddles at center court.

Bill Hess, an ambassador for Cherokee County who competes in pickleball tournaments, said the new sport is designed for all ages and athletic ability.

“You can get to a level where you can play it and enjoy it very quickly,” said Hess, who has taken weeklong vacations to Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico with his wife to participate in the sport.

The average pickleball game, which takes 15 to 17 minutes, is played until a team scores 11 points or more.

The winner must finish ahead of opponents by two points. Only the serving team can gain a point.

The 20-foot-by-44-foot court is the size of a badminton court, with a net 34 inches high, 2 inches shorter than a tennis court net.

Pickleball uses a plastic ball with holes, much like a whiffle ball but with less bounce, to strike against paddles, similar to pingpong paddles, made of wood and various composites with a fiber, plastic or aluminum core.

Lynn Paul, 66, who has lived in east Cobb for 13 years, said she has been playing tennis for 20 years until pickleball piqued her interest.

“I like the fact that it can be played almost anywhere,” Paul said.

For instance, she highlights that within the next month, Cobb County’s Shaw Park, off Canton Road, will have a flat surface painted with lines and fenced in for pickleball courts.

But the game is also just as easily played inside gymnasiums, meaning there are no rainouts or months for an off season.

Paul said pickleball also keeps her active and socializing because it is quick to learn and the type of people attracted to pickleball want more of a friendly competition.

Story Continues →