Apr 15, 2024 - News

'The new golf': Inside Miami's padel phenomenon

Jimmy Butler and Daddy Yankee playing padel

Jimmy Butler (left) and Daddy Yankee (right) have been seen at Miami padel tournaments in recent years. Photos: John Parra/Getty Images; Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

One of the trendiest sports in Miami is a tennis-like pastime that most locals probably haven't played yet.

Why it matters: Padel, a racquet sport with widespread international appeal that has begun spreading to America, is "the new golf," according to a former tennis pro-turned-Miami luxury real estate agent who conducts business on the court.

  • The agent, Marko Gojanovic, plays at the members-only Reserve padel club on Watson Island, the Washington Post reports. (Membership is invitation only and the price is unknown.)
  • "During Covid, a lot more people were in Florida, and it's the most popular thing here among a group of very-high-net-worth folks," Michael Stern, CEO and founder of JDS Development Group, told the Post.

How it works: Padel, invented in Mexico in 1969, is played with a deflated tennis ball and perforated paddles on a shrunken tennis court enclosed within glass walls.

  • It's played by over 25 million people around the world — especially popular in Spain and Argentina — but there's only about 300 padel courts in the U.S., the Post reported in January.
  • Padel is more physically demanding than its American cousin, pickleball, which has become the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.
  • And unlike pickleball, which can be easily played on re-lined tennis courts, padel courts are more expensive to install, and it isn't free to play.

The intrigue: Miami's celebrity class — from Inter Miami great Lionel Messi to Heat star Jimmy Butler — have helped market the sport. As have luxury developments, using padel courts to lure buyers.

  • Last month, the Reserve club hosted a star-studded tournament billed as the "largest independently owned padel tournament in the world."
  • This month, the Pro Padel League held a tournament at Little Haiti's Ultra Club.

What they're saying: "Miami by far has the highest popularity of padel of any U.S. city," says Robyn Duda, founder of the Racquet X festival, which debuted in Miami Beach last month.

  • "[Padel] definitely has a very chic, cachet, cool vibe to it," Duda tells Axios.

What's next: Padel will keep on growing in South Florida, with plans for new courts across the region.

  • Ultra Club announced it would expand from nine courts to 28 this month and later open a 150,000-square-foot complex with an on-site gym, spa and restaurant, the South Florida Business Journal reports.
  • Padel X, a new padel venture, is going to open 10 courts near the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center and 15 in Palm Beach County by year's end, per the Business Journal.

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