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Pickleball passion

Pickleball passion thrives in Lake Country

Story by Brandon Mackie, photos by Leigh Lofgren

If you’re in Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, or Milledgeville, you can’t miss the opportunity to experience the increasing popularity of pickleball! Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis and can be played in both indoor and outdoor settings. Its leisurely pace and low-impact nature make it suitable for players of all ages and skill levels.

The 2023 APP Pickleball Participation report states that 14% of Americans participated in the sport at least once in the past year. Additionally,, a source for locations with pickleball courts, reports that there are over 10,000 places to play both indoors and outdoors across the country.

Pickleball is popular in Lake Country

Pickleball is rapidly gaining popularity in Middle Georgia’s Lake Country, with an influx of new players taking part and enjoying the opportunity to stay in shape and meet people while having fun.

Avid players for about seven years, Greensboro’s Victor and Sara Betancourt competed in the mixed doubles division of the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida in April 2022. After competing and beating a group of 22 teams, the Betancourts came home with gold medals, according to a press release.

There are other local players who also travel to play in tournaments elsewhere, and many more groups in each of the area’s gated communities that play regularly each week.

Ellen Paulish serves as partner Steve Franks moves forward at the Baldwin County Rec Dept. Photo by Greenberry Moore, staff

The local growth is in part thanks to the availability of recreational facilities and the support of the community. Pete O’Neal, director of Greene County Recreation Department, said the county is now home to “hundreds of pickleball players.'' According to him, it is the “fastest growing sport in the country and a great source of exercise for all ages.” The Greene County Recreation Department offers open pickleball gym time each morning, with anywhere from 10 to 30 participants each morning. “The only problem is that it is a very addicting sport!” Pete added.

Pickleball is also a great option for those on a budget; equipment rental costs are low, and purchasing equipment is much more economical than for other sports. Free classes for newcomers are widely available, making the game accessible for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Looking for a place to play? Pickleheads and Lakelife gathered the details on local pickleball courts:

Popular public courts

Putnam County Recreation, 140 Recreation Rd., Eatonton, GA, 706-485-8565

Pickleball play is available in the gymnasium Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Beginner instruction is offered 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and the cost to play is $2 per day, or become a member for only $10 per month. Paddles and balls are provided for beginners to use until they get their own, according to Putnam County Recreation Director Scott Haley.

Four concrete courts are available outside for play anytime and lights are available if needed. Use of the outdoor courts is free, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Putnam’s recreation department also offers adult league play for pickleball on Thursday nights. Each season usually lasts five to six weeks. “We have a very good turnout for those, it’s pretty popular,” Scott noted. “The game of pickleball seems to incorporate something for everybody, which is why it’s gaining in popularity.” For more information about the league play, call the recreation department at the number above, check their biannually published magazine, or follow the Facebook page.

Greensboro's Danny Bridges and Sandra Sandling (far right) got the silver medal in the Augusta pickleball championships March 4. Photo contributed.

Greene County Recreation Center, 2741 Old Union Point Rd, Greensboro, GA,


There’s everything you need to enjoy a game of pickleball at the Greene County Recreation Center. With eight outdoor wood courts and permanent lines, the only items to bring are a net and some friends. Accessible restrooms, water, and lights are available free of charge.

“We will be glad to introduce you to the many friendly pickleball players that attend our facility,” Pete said. “They are always welcoming new players every day.” There is a small daily fee of $3 for the 19-59 age group and $2 for 60+. Once you fall in love with pickleball, Pete says you can become a facility member for $15 per month for ages 18-59 and $10 per month for 60+. Discounts are offered for annual memberships.

Morgan County Recreation Department, 1253 College Dr., Madison, GA 706-342-0588

The recreation department offers pickleball indoors in its gymnasium, but reservations must be made ahead of time by calling the number above to ensure the court is available and is set up for pickleball. There is no fee for Morgan County residents to use the facility.

However, new pickleball courts are coming soon as Morgan County is getting ready to welcome a significant expansion to its recreational center. With construction set to begin soon, the $19 million expansion project will include not only pickleball courts but also five multipurpose fields, a large community center with six basketball courts, and a large balcony for community events. The project is located near the Soccer Complex on Old Buckhead Road.

Hill Park, 812 Park Lane, Madison, GA 706-342-4454

Also located in Morgan County, the six concrete courts at Hill Park are available anytime on a first-come basis with no reservations needed. These courts are dedicated only for pickleball and boast permanent lines and nets, according to Use of the courts is free and players also have access to restrooms, water, and lights.

Walter B. Williams Recreation Park, 59 Hwy. 22 West, Milledgeville, GA 31061 478-445-0785

Baldwin’s recreation facilities have eight permanent pickleball courts that are lighted, and four indoor courts that can be set up using portable nets. Equipment is available for anyone that is new or doesn’t have their own, Baldwin County Recreation Director Traci Rollins said. “The courts are open until 11 p.m. every night, but come early because it stays packed,” she advised.

Covered seating and bathrooms also are available at the park. There is no fee for general play. The department also hosts men’s and women’s pickleball leagues; the membership is $10 to join those. Call 706-485-8565 for info on leagues.

The nonprofit Milledgeville Pickleball Club website advises newcomers using map apps to use the address 100 Pine Lane Dr. NW, Milledgeville, which is directly across the street from the courts.

“We promote pickleball; we want everybody to know we’re here,” club spokesperson Steve Franks said. “If you want to play pickleball, come on out. You don’t have to have a paddle or buy anything to see if you like it. We’ll teach you to play. And I bet you will like it.”

Marty Amsheler battles it out on the courts at Harbor Club. By Leigh Lofgren

Popular private courts


Just 70 miles east of Atlanta, Cuscowilla is a private lake and golf community on the banks of Lake Oconee, a haven for anyone looking to relax and unwind. This venue offers four outdoor hard courts for pickleball. These courts feature permanent lines and nets and require a membership to use.

Del Webb Lake Oconee

This bustling retirement community in Greene County is nestled beautifully on the shores of Lake Oconee. With too many organized and independent activity opportunities to list here, pickleball is without a doubt a favorite of many residents. "Pickleball is our larges club we have here," said Nikki Howard, a sales counselor at Del Webb. "We have more than 200 members, so it's a very avid club."

Del Webb boasts six outdoor pickleball courts, and hosts many club tournaments as well as training classes for every level, beginner to expert.

Harbor Club on Lake Oconee

Pickleball players flock to Harbor Club, which boasts six outdoor hard courts that are permanently set up with nets and lines. A membership is mandatory for playing. Situated on acres of picturesque, wooded hills and miles of Lake Oconee shoreline, the gated area offers some of the best pickleball courts in the area.

Greg Preston keeps his eye on the ball while playing on courts at Harbor Club. Photo by Leigh Lofgren.

Reynolds Lake Oconee

This establishment offers two luxurious areas to play pickleball. Reynolds Lake Oconee’s Landing Course offers three outdoor hard courts specifically for playing pickleball. These courts have permanent lines and nets, and you will need a membership to access them. Additionally, eight new state-of-the-art courts have recently opened at Linger Longer Park.

Vitality Living Madison

Madison’s Vitality Living offers a deluxe retirement experience featuring a host of amenities that promote an active lifestyle, including a private pickleball court. The 73-acre grounds provide a relaxing environment where seniors can have fun and stay healthy.

If you’re looking for a fun and easy way to stay active, pickleball is an excellent choice. With its simple rules, pickleball is a great way to have a good time and make new connections. So, head out to one of Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, or Milledgeville’s many pickleball courts today!

Brandon Mackie is the cofounder of, a resource for learning how to play pickleball, finding locations and players, organizing games, and gear evaluations. Lakelife Editor Lynn Hobbs contributed to this article.

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This article was published in the May-June 2023 issue of Lakelife magazine and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions may be copied or reproduced without written permission from the publisher.


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