RSF Tennis Club lobbies new pickleball membership category

Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club is seeking to add 10 sponsored pickleball memberships, enabling non-pact residents to come and play volleyball, bringing not only a financial boost but also a selection of potential pickleball partners the club.

Tennis Club General Manager John Chanfreau made the request to the RSF Association’s board at its April 7 meeting. The board asked the club to return at an upcoming meeting with a detailed membership description for consideration and approval.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country and grew to 4.8 million players in 2021 according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. By combining elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, the fun and social sport is played on a shorter court with lower nets with a perforated plastic ball and solid paddles.

Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club’s new pickleball membership was added in the summer of 2019 with a $ 500 sign-up fee and a $ 600 annual fee. At the time, the board of RSF Tennis Club also proposed 10 sponsored pickleball memberships, but the then association board said they wanted to wait and see if the pickleball program was viable before opening it to external members. Sponsored memberships were proposed to pay $ 800 per year.

RSF Tennis Club has four courts dedicated exclusively to pickleball and eight pickleball courts in total. With the club’s participation in pickleball leagues, Chanfreau said they need players at a variety of levels, especially high-level players.

“We have room to expand our membership to improve the level of play,” Chanfreau said. “Sponsored members enhance our membership experience.”

Muffy Walker, fresh from the pickleball court, was given time between matches to hurry over to the golf club to speak on behalf of non-pact residents who become pickleball members during public comments. Walker lived in the Ranch for 23 years before moving outside the Covenant – she became a paying guest and played pickleball at the club seven times a week. Now back, living in Rancho Santa Fe and being a member again, she supports the new membership category.

“I think it will add to our league, I think it will increase our diversity of players and improve the level of play on the pitches,” Walker said before hurrying from the podium back to the pitch: “I have to play ! “

During the board’s comments, director Laurel Lemarié said she had heard concerns about the availability of court time and some complaints that pickleball players do not pay the same as tennis members.

Chanfreau said at comparable clubs, it is standard that pickleball memberships are half the price of tennis memberships. He said that even though there are peak times when the club is busy, players typically do not have to wait more than 15 minutes on a pitch.

RSF Association Board Vice President Dan Comstock said he was initially opposed to the idea of ​​non-resident members, but as the board’s tennis club association, he has learned that tennis and pickleball are different from golf. He said that while you can play golf with anyone, with tennis you have to play with someone at your level if you are trying to get better and there are differences in the level of the club.

“You have to fill these gaps and it’s a huge added value for our current club members,” Comstock said in support of the sponsored pickleball memberships.

At the April 7 meeting, the board approved five additional sponsored tennis memberships, bringing the total number of sponsored seats to 40.

Sponsored memberships in the tennis club, first approved in 2015, have been a somewhat controversial topic in the RSF Association over the years. In 2018, the association’s board approved expanding the category from 25 to 35 members.

With the sponsored membership category, non-residents pay a premium for the privilege of playing in the club. A member with a good reputation in the club can sponsor someone outside the Covenant, and the player must be examined and approved by the board of the RSF Tennis Club. Sponsored members may not vote or have offices, but they may bring guests.

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