: Carlye Krohn

Guide to Playing Pickleball in Oregon

Play the court game that's sweeping the state and the nation.
May 3, 2023 (Updated February 22, 2024)

For some, pickleball is a game; for many, it’s addictive. I started playing this sport — a hybrid of tennis and ping pong — last summer. I used to play tennis somewhat obsessively, decades ago, and was pleased to discover that pickleball is easier and more fun. You don’t have to have a giant serve or a killer backhand to be good, and it’s great exercise. Furthermore, the scene is unfailingly friendly. You can show up with your paddle and play with strangers who quickly become friends. 

The game’s lighthearted, competitive nature and low cost are winning over younger generations, too. “I don’t see pickleball as a passing fad,” says Heidi Johnson, president of the Columbia River Pickleball Club. “It brings together people of all ages, skills, social classes and diverse backgrounds. There’s nothing else out there like it.”

Here are some ways to get started — or more involved — in the pickleball scene.

A man about to backhand an incoming pickleball.
Courtesy of Visit Tillamook Coast

Tips if You’re New to the Game

Pickleball is played on a badminton-size court with what look like oversized ping-pong paddles. You don’t win by smashing the serve, as in tennis. Instead, an effective “dink” — a shot that barely clears the net and drops at an opponent’s feet — can be devastating. 

Your first challenge is to find a court. Once you’ve located one near you, it’s easier than one might expect to match up with opponents.

“The first thing I tell new players is to sign up on PlayTime Scheduler,” says Shelly Fox, an instructor in Southern Oregon. To create an account, all you need is your email address, ZIP code and ranking. Use this guide to rank yourself; a best guess is fine. On the site you’ll be able to find in-person games with other registered players seeking matches; these are organized by date and time and color-coded for location. 

New players should know that pickleball has rules and etiquette — for example, always touch paddles with your opponents after a game, be courteous of other players and don’t hog the court. 

Have Paddle, Will Travel

Want to plan your travels around pickleball? Consider dipping a paddle into the tournament scene. Pickleball Is Great holds tournaments all over the state, including monthly “PIG Chase” events in the Portland metro area. Local clubs host tournaments; for example, in August the Albany Pickleball Club hosts the Edward Jones Rally in the Valley tournament. Pickleball Brackets is a good place to learn about tournaments statewide; from there you can select an event to access details and register. 

For those traveling to the Portland area, prepare to pack your paddles for the ultimate pickleball-themed vacation. The People’s Courts — a 48,000-square-foot, multicourt facility slated to open in summer 2023 in Northeast Portland — will feature five indoor and six outdoor pickleball courts, cornhole and bocce courts, a putt-putt-style disc-golf course, ping-pong tables, an arcade, and two kitchens run by the creative minds behind Apizza Scholls and Olympic Provisions.

Pickleball players at outdoor pickleball courts.
Courtesy of Southern Oregon Pickleball Association

Swinging Paddles in Portland and the Willamette Valley

A great way to meet fellow pickleball enthusiasts is to join a local pickleball club — members will plug you into local games, clinics and social events. Modest annual dues not only help support club events but also advocacy efforts like more dedicated pickleball courts to support the sport’s growing popularity. 

Opening in late February 2024, Jumbo’s Pickleball in Beaverton is the first dedicated multi-court pickleball facility on the west side of Portland, featuring nine indoor courts, a professional true-bounce surface, 2-hour court reservation times and high-performance up-lighting. Bring a date, a friend group or stop in to play with others at your skill level. Healthy snacks and draft beer are available for purchase and lounge space makes for a convenient wellness respite. The space is locally owned, and named for the co-founder’s  Sri Lankan father. Balls and paddles are available for rent, including a line that devotes all proceeds to local Alzheimer’s research.

Salem hosts the largest indoor pickleball tournament in the state, the Willamette Valley Open Pickleball Tournament. More than 450 players competed in the third-annual event in 2023. All registered players receive a tournament shirt, three guaranteed matches and an opportunity to win prize money. It’s also a blast to watch.

The five chapters of the Columbia River Pickleball Club function independently; joining one grants you access to all locations, social events and clinics. Each chapter has its “home courts.” For instance, the Wilsonville Chapter plays at Memorial Park; the Newberg Chapter plays at the Chehalem Aquatic & Fitness Center or Jaquith Park.“Our club has grown from 12 members in 2012 to almost 1,100 members in 2023,” says Johnson. “We continue to see numbers grow, and the average age of players is continuing to decrease.” 

Other resources for play include the Hillsboro Community Pickleball group, which organizes games at Hidden Creek Park East, and the Albany Pickleball Club, which worked with its city to build new pickleball courts atop deteriorating tennis courts at Linn-Benton Community College. In Clackamas you can also swing your paddle at RECS, an 18,000-square-foot facility with nine indoor courts.

Dinking Across Southern Oregon

Many public parks are installing dedicated pickleball courts. In Ashland try Lithia Park, with eight dedicated and lighted courts in a lovely creekside setting. In Grants Pass, play at Fruitdale Park or Club Northwest.

Be aware that some parks have “dual-use” courts — tennis courts with painted pickleball lines. The Southern Oregon Pickleball Association provides pickleball nets, which are a few inches shorter, at dual-use courts at several locations, including Fichtner-Mainwaring Park in Medford and Don Jones Memorial Park in Central Point. Nets are kept in a courtside box, which can be accessed with a lock combination — call the parks department for the code. Players must string them up themselves.

Overhead view of indoor pickleball courts being used.
Courtesty of Widgi Creek

Get in the Zone in Central Oregon

Pickleball is wildly popular in Bend, and one of the best places to play is the Pine Nursery Park Pickleball Complex, with 16 dedicated courts. You’ll need to join the Bend Pickleball Club to take part in organized play. The club’s website is an excellent resource for places to play in Bend and nearby communities.

Rained out? No problem. Check out Pickleball Zone, a multistory pickleball complex with eight dedicated indoor courts and a lofty Players Lounge on the fourth floor. Create an account to reserve a court or sign up for a lesson or event. Widgi Creek Pickleball hosts 10 indoor courts, plus shuffleboard, lounge area and more. Book a court or lesson with a pro through the online reservation system.

About The

Juliet Grable
Juliet Grable is a freelance writer and volunteer firefighter who lives in the Greensprings, a mountain community in Oregon’s southern Cascades. She loves exploring the region with her husband, Brint, and their dog, Roca. She’s happiest when hiking, birding, skiing or kayaking.

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