Moorings Park is the First Life Plan Community in Naples to Offer Clay Pickleball Courts

March 18, 2022

Pickleball Photo _2From left to right: Laurie Shull, Merrilee Hornbuckle, Joan Foster, and Louise Brown.

Moorings Park of Naples has announced that it has recently added clay pickleball courts to its list of amenities, giving residents the opportunity to enjoy one of the fastest growing sports in the world within their community

Pickleball’s popularity is soaring so fast, it was the subject of a segment on the Today show in November 2021, when the program’s hosts challenged one another to a friendly showdown on the courts.   A Boston Globe article penned earlier this month by Beth Teitell called it “the Wordle of the sports world.”

While enjoyed by enthusiasts of all ages, the Today show took notice that seniors “have indeed taken to it, since it’s enjoyable, lowers blood pressure and strengthens agility.

Pickleball enthusiast and Moorings Park resident Tom Hornbuckle teamed up with the community’s Director of Wellness, Robert Sorensen, to spearhead the effort to bring the sport to Moorings Park.  The clay courts, which are the only ones offered in a Naples-area Life Plan community, are a welcome addition, according to Hornbuckle.

Pickleball Photo _1Tom Hornbuckle

“It’s great exercise and a great workout,” he says. “It’s also a lot of fun and a great way to meet new people. It’s really a game for everybody.” 

Hornbuckle discovered pickleball in 2014 when he realized that tennis, a sport he played regularly for 30 years, was causing too much wear and tear on his body.  He found pickleball to be the perfect alternative. 

Sorenson credits Hornbuckle with playing a pivotal role in getting this important wellness program off the ground.  “We love to see our residents lead the way in bringing new ideas to the community,” said Sorenson. “When the opportunity arises for a resident to take a leadership position like this, we certainly empower them to do so.”

According to Sorensen, the rate of injuries for seniors playing pickleball is far lower than similar sports like tennis. “You’re covering a smaller court area and you’re not swinging as aggressively.  Despite being a good workout, this activity is more social than competitive,” he says.    

While hard surface courts are more common, clay courts are a great alternative for anyone – particularly seniors - looking for effective, lower impact exercise. As the clay courts become more popular, newly designed pickleballs are being produced to accommodate the softer playing surface.

“Right now, there are a very limited number of places to play pickleball in Naples, and they’re overwhelmed with players because it’s so popular,” says Hornbuckle.  Clay courts like those now offered at Moorings Park are even harder to find.

Naples to Host Pickleball Tournament in April

On April 23rd – 30th, the city of Naples will host the 6th Annual Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championship.  The largest tournament of its kind in the world, the event draws players from around the globe, and the enthusiasts who come to Southwest Florida to watch them play.

For now, Moorings Park’s temporary, portable clay courts are set up twice a week on at the community’s Har-Tru tennis courts. The hope is that permanent courts will be built if enough residents are enticed to take it up – which given the rapidly growing interest in the sport, seems likely.

“The people moving to Moorings Park are getting younger and younger,” says Hornbuckle, “and they are expecting more active sports like this.”  

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