SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., July 4, 2023—When Brandon Mackie, Pickleheads Co-Founder, was living in Los Angeles he struggled with finding a place to play pickleball. He would look up parks, one-by-one, and zoom in on a map looking for courts because the last thing he wanted to do was drive 30-minutes to a park just to find out there wasn’t a pickleball court.
“In a city that big you’d think there would be places to play everywhere but that just wasn’t the case,” said Mackie. “That was some of the earlier frustrations that led me to think that the key to having Pickleball grow is having a trusted directory or resource of all the best places to play.”
His solution was to launch Pickleheads, a website which aims to provide free tools for global organizers to schedule Pickleball games. It does this by providing a complete directory of available Pickleball courts and facilities in a given area. The website connects like-minded individuals for scheduled games, offers free training resources, and even allows users to review Pickleball products so newcomers, and seasoned players alike, can know where to turn for the greatest gear on the market.
Patrons easily enter their home location, or travel destination, and see an updated list of all the available pickleball courts in that area similar to using Yelp to find a restaurant, Mackie compared. By creating an account, users can also see when other people are playing at a specific location or if an event is going on. The website is entirely crowd sourced, meaning anyone can log in and add a facility. A team of dedicated gatekeepers work diligently to update, edit, or ensure listings are real and active.
Mackie launched Pickleheads in July of 2022, but truly cemented its data in December. The first year was spent auditing every existing Pickleball court, city by city, locating every court they could find. At the same time, Pickleball players in the community began adding their own locations until the database became what it is today.
In addition to finding facilities and players, Pickleheads also offers a variety of free resources for players including videos that teach newcomers how to play and basic techniques. The free video course is taught by the “Pickleball Chicks” — Beth and Jackie — two competitive pickleball players who both secured a spot on the DUPR Great Plains Top 50 list through their tournament pickleball playing.
Mackie now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, but Pickleheads provides resources in every U.S. state and Canada with a total court listing of approximately 13,000. He plans to roll out an associated smart phone app in the coming weeks so users can begin to using Pickleheads’ services on the go.
A biochemist by trade and lifelong competitive tennis player, Mackie first turned in his racket for a paddle as a new hobby to try when the pandemic hit in 2020. What drew Mackie to pickleball, from tennis, is its accessibility, he said, where anyone can pick it up and have a good time. Tennis, on the other hand, at least high-level tennis, typically requires two players to be on a similar skillset, he explained.
Mackie hopes his website will encourage Washington to build more facilities where pickleball enthusiasts can play. While collecting data for Washington state, he was shocked to find that the birthplace of pickleball lacked places to play relative to its demand, he told the Lynnwood Times.
“We are forever indebted to Washington for giving us this sport but even though Washington is the birthplace of Pickleball, and Pickleball is its state sport, the state itself is actually pretty behind the curb as far as facilities to meet demand,” said Mackie.
An honor to get to be a part of @GovInslee’s bill signing w/ @usapickleball to make Pickleball the Official State Sport of Washington at the Bainbridge Island court where #pickleball was invented in 1965! Highlight: hearing stories from the founders’ family. #thankyoupickleball pic.twitter.com/xMXfQu5HcD
— Laura Gainor (@LauraGainor) March 29, 2022
In June 9, 2022, Pickleball was signed in as the official state sport of Washington through SB-5615. The primary sponsor of that bill was Mill Creek resident Senator John Lovick, with the support of pickleball advocates Chuck Wright and Kate Van Gent.
“In my sixteen years in legislation, in the house and the senate, I have never sponsored anything that has generated more positive energy and more enthusiasm,” Sen. Lovick told the Lynwood Times. “It’s one of those games you can just play, you don’t care whether you win or you lose, you’re still smiling and you still have fun.”
Since SB-5615 has signed more and more facilities and courts have opened for pickleball including, most recently, the pickleball specific courts at Mill Creek’s Highland Park.