"It's humbling when you're good at one sport and you come over to pickleball and get beat soundly. But that's what hooked me. There's always a new challenge." Ellen Marrin, all-around athlete
"The pickleball scene is one of the reasons I moved to Reynolds. Everyone wants to win but we all have a good time trying to do it - and then we have lunch." Alice Lincoln, tennis player

From a quarter mile away, men and women are innately drawn toward pickleball courts the way dogs are drawn to a whistle. “You can’t miss the sounds,” says one of Reynolds’ original picklers, Dave Woodyard. He explains the phenomenon within earshot of the Linger Longer Pickleball Courts. You can hear the rhythmic noises that players randomly describe as “champagne corks,” “doinks,” and “poinks.”

“The ball sounds like grandfather clocks,” Dave says. “Tick … tock. Tick … tock.”

Dave became a self-admitted pickleball junkie six years ago when his wife, Peggy, introduced him to the game. The hypnotic bouncing balls attracted Peggy to the first two pickleball courts at The Landing. Another sound, however, made a much stronger impression.

“The sound of fun,” Peggy says. “People would hear us and come over to ask what was going on. One by one they’d get hooked, too. But I didn’t imagine the game would ever get this big.” Peggy Woodyard, tennis player

At the moment, Peggy and Dave are waiting for spots to open up on the eight immaculate Linger Longer courts, where 32 players are in a constant state of doinking, poinking, ticking, and tocking. A game ends every few minutes, with players switching partners, trotting in and out, and creating the athletic version of a social mixer. There are men and women. Young picklers and less young picklers. Former football players and current tennis players.

“If someone had told me I’d be obsessed with pickleball, playing daily, watching videos, and going to camps, I would have said, ‘no way,’” says Ellen Marrin, a ranked United States Tennis Association player who discovered pickleball the way most people do. “I heard it. I was curious. I tried it. And I’ve never looked back.”

The word “pickleball” made heads tilt a few years ago. It’s no longer a novelty. The sport has seen the highest participation growth nationwide every year since 2018, and it isn’t even a close contest – a total increase of 171% compared to the next highest, alpine touring, at 115%. Holdouts who have never ventured onto a court ask the obvious question:

Why is it so popular?

“I’ve been a gym rat since I was a kid,” says Dave, adding that he’s lost more than 20 pounds from playing about 20 hours a week, “and I can’t think of another sport where you can compete, sweat, and get to know 30 or 40 people over the course of two hours. The courts are small enough so you can talk about vacations, families, and throw in a little smack at the same time.” Dave Woodyard, gym rat

“Some of the chatter around the courts is complimentary, and some is more, shall we say, competitive.”

“You play like a kitty cat, just waiting to pounce!”

“What the heck was that? A two-handed forehand? Where did that come from?”

“Have fun chasing that one around!”

There are also introductions.

“Nice to meet you, Doug. Can I be your partner for this game? My name is Alice.”

Alice Lincoln proceeds to volley and place shots out of reach. She taps paddles with her new friend and partner, Doug, after they dispatch their opponents in nine minutes. Alice offers three fun facts about herself: she’s a former tennis devotee, she moved to Reynolds four years ago from Ponce Inlet, Florida, and she is 66 years old.

“The conversations drew me into pickleball,” Alice says. “Sometimes we pick each other up and sometimes we just pick on each other. It’s how I made most of my friends.”

Alice points towards a guy less than half her age. He seems to illuminate the entire pickleball center despite being dressed in black.

“That’s Drew,” she says. “He’s a big reason for the energy on these courts.”

If Drew Hebert sounds excited to be here, it’s because he still can’t believe he’s here.

“I’m living my dream, every single day,” says Drew, who was named Reynolds’ first Head Pickleball Professional in August 2021. “The members at Reynolds changed my life.” Drew Hebert, Head Pickleball Professional

Growing up in Louisiana, Drew was a sports-a-holic. Soccer. Basketball. Baseball. Tennis. In high school, he earned all-state football honors as a defensive back. After school, he played roller hockey around the country for a few years and worked various managerial jobs. But he could never find a nice to match his energy. Needing a change, he moved to South Florida to lead the beach operations for a resort. One Saturday morning he was deep in thought during a bike ride when a then-strange but now-familiar sound pulled him toward a fence.

“It looked and sounded like people playing an oversized ping-pong game,” Drew says. “A guy said, ‘This is pickleball.’ Within a week people saw me playing every day. I was such a vocal regular that the same tennis club where Serena Williams practices hired me to play pickleball with members, just to build interest. Everything happened so fast.”

Drew had a vision to grow pickleball somewhere. During an online search, he came across this place called Reynolds Lake Oconee. The tennis center had a job opening, so Drew moved to Georgia knowing it was a step toward fulfilling his vision.

“I was impressed with the way Members like the Woodyards had been driving interest. So, I sketched out an idea to create the Reynolds Pickleball Program from the ground up. [General Manager] Jason Plazola believed in me, and his trust revived my spirit.”

The first conversations focused on an expansion of the pickleball courts at The Landing, but then Drew and Reynolds Director of Tennis Eric Gessner made a suggestion that became the turning point: Convert the tennis courts at The Preserve, create a dedicated pickleball campus there, and watch the players come.

The idea was a game changer. In the first 18 months after the Linger Longer Pickleball Courts opened, more than 1,000 Members came out to play. By the time this story is printed, more courts will be on the way.

“My friends in the pickleball industry are envious,” Drew says. “In most club communities, 100 players would be phenomenal, but that’s why Reynolds is so unique. We feed off of each other. We lift each other up. That’s why I say I’m living the dream.”

It turns out, the dream has spread.

“This is a dream for me, too,” Dave says. “I wake up every day knowing I’m about to have fun, get some exercises, and spend time with friends. And it’s all because of this game called pickleball. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” Dave Woodyard

Become a Reynolds Insider

As a Reynolds Insider you'll receive special offers, invites to attend upcoming events, and hear of new real estate releases.

Become a Reynolds Insider.

Enjoy access to exclusive offers and be among the first to know about our latest real estate releases and community events.

Contact Us