Rallying With The Executive Director
I wondered about that when I read a paragraph in a recent Sports Illustrated issue about the Rio Olympics and “the country club sports of golf and tennis.” Sure, golf and tennis are played at country clubs, but tennis is played at many other venues as well. I decided to do a bit of research.
I contacted the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the not-for-profit trade association for all companies and organizations that are involved with tennis. Actually, the TIA is the source of a lot of data and good information about the tennis business. The numbers the TIA sent me were very interesting.
As of April 2016, the most current information indicates that there are 44,219 tennis courts at private and commercial facilities. Some of the private facilities could be country clubs but there are many facilities that are membership-based and most certainly not country clubs. The commercial facilities are most usually open to the public and I wouldn’t include them with the country club group.
There are also 59,424 courts classified as public courts such as those in park settings. Even if all of the courts in the private/commercial category were country clubs, the number of courts in the public domain far exceeds the country club portion. But we aren’t done yet! There are a staggering number of courts on school and college campuses – an additional 45,614 courts!
But now, back to the original question: Is tennis a country club sport? With at least 2.4 times as many tennis courts located in public space versus those in private facilities, my conclusion is that the SI writer relied on an old sobriquet about tennis. While many people may play tennis and drink champagne or a Vesper martini after their sets, there are many more that fire up the grill and enjoy a banquet beer after their matches. If this was a story that required a morale it would be that it doesn’t matter so much where tennis is the star attraction – what does matter is that it is possible to enjoy tennis wherever you are fortunate enough to play it!
Bruce A. Hunt
Executive Director – Southern California Tennis Association