The Villages – A First-Hand Look at Central Florida’s Pickleball Mecca & Retirement Community

TheVillages

Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center
Pickleball Courts @ Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center

Perhaps you’ve heard The Villages in central Florida described as the mecca of pickleball, the fastest growing sport in America.  Or perhaps you’ve heard about The Villages via the jingle from the TV commercial that goes “The Villages, Florida’s Friendliest Hometown ♫ ♫… In our recent trip to Westgate Resorts in sunny, Florida, we decided to spend an afternoon at The Villages – to experience first-hand what all the “fuss” was about with respect to one of Florida’s largest & fastest growing 55+ retirement communities.  Although The Villages does, indeed, have over 140 pickleball courts (spread out amongst the various recreation centers), it turns out life in The Villages is about much more than just pickleball!

The Villages – 55 Miles Northwest of Orlando

After playing some early-morning tennis with my dad – and partaking of Westgate Resort’s free breakfast – me, my mom, dad and wife made the approximate 1-hour drive to The Villages.  The Villages, located approximately 55 miles northwest of Orlando, is a collection of neighborhoods, each filled with its own amenities and activities, spanning three Florida counties – Lake, Sumpter and Marian.  Our first stop was the sales and information center located at the Market Square in Lake Sumter Landing.  Although we didn’t get an opportunity to take the free, 30 minute trolley-style bus tour of the community, we did snag some maps – grabbed some food from Five Guys – and explored.

Golf Carts
Golf Carts – The Preferred Mode of Transportation at The Villages

As we drove through The Villages a couple things struck us right away:  (1) there sure are a lot of round-abouts and (2) there sure are a lot of golf carts – I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, as it’s advertised that “everything” in The Villages is only a golf-cart ride away.

FORE – A Golf-Lover’s Paradise!

Although I love pickleball, I also love golf.  Much to my delight, we were informed from one of the “sales representatives” that as part of the monthly amenity fee assessed on each residential lot, residents can play “free golf for life” (no green fees) on any of the 32 9-hole executive golf courses.  In addition to the 32 9-hold executive golf courses, The Villages also operates 12 championship golf courses of which each resident is automatically a member.  These twelve championship golf courses are listed below:

  1. Belle Glade
  2. Bonifay
  3. Mallory Hill
  4. Evans Prairie
  5. Cane Garden
  6. Havana
  7. Palmer Legends
  8. Nancy Lopez Legacy
  9. Hacienda Hills
  10. Glenview Champions
  11. Tierra Del Sol
  12. Orange Blossom Hills

Recreation Centers

In my opinion, the jewel of The Villages (well, in addition to the free golf) is the Recreation Centers.  The Villages operates numerous recreation centers – including 9 Regional Recreation Centers, 23 Village Recreation Centers and over 30 Neighborhood Centers.

Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center
Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center

Regional Recreations Centers

The Villages currently operates nine Regional Recreation Centers.  The Regional Recreation Centers provide recreational opportunities for the neighboring communities they serve.  You can, however, go to any of the nine centers – regardless of where you live.  Each of the nine Regional Centers has their own bocce, shuffleboard, tennis, pickleball (yay!) and platform tennis courts.  I know I love pickleball, but I have to say, platform tennis looks really cool!

Each Regional Recreation Center also includes sports pools (for lap swimming, water aerobics, water volleyball, for example), meeting rooms, larger rooms with a stage (when we were there a rock band was practicing), and so much more.  The nine Regional Recreation Centers located in the Villages are as follows:

Water Volleyball @ Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center
Water Volleyball @ Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center
  1. Paradise
  2. La Hacienda
  3. Savannah
  4. Mulberry Grove
  5. Laurel Manor
  6. Lake Miona
  7. Colony Cottage
  8. SeaBreeze
  9. Eisenhower

During our visit, we visited the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center (had a military motif) and the SeaBreeze Regional Recreation Center.

Manatee Recreation Center
Manatee Recreation Center

Village Recreation Centers

In addition to operating the 9 Regional Recreation Centers, The Villages also operate 23 Village Recreation Centers.  Each of the 23 Village Recreation Centers has a pool, billiards room, meeting rooms, full kitchen and bocce, horseshoe, shuffleboard, tennis and pickleball courts!

Neighborhood Centers

The final classification of Recreation Centers is dubbed “Neighborhood Centers.”  These 30+ facilities have pools, bocce, horseshoe and shuffleboard courts.

Click here to see additional pictures of the various Recreation Centers.

Clubs – There’s Something for Absolutely Everyone

There are over 2,200 organized clubs in The Villages.  There is literally something for everyone – including a China Porcelain Painting Club, clogging lessons, line dancing and machine embroidery quilting to name just a few.

Softball, Polo and Woodworking

In addition to the golf courses, recreation centers and clubs, The Villages also operates numerous softball fields, a polo stadium (I’m not kidding!) and a woodworking shop.

The Night is Still Young at the Town Squares

Nightly activities are held in The Villages’ three town squares: Lake Sumter Landing’s Market Square, Spanish Springs Town Square and Brownwood Paddock Square. Every night from 5PM – 9PM there is free, live entertainment in the gazebos at all three town squares.  In addition to this free live entertainment, all three of the town squares also feature movie theaters, as well as dining and shopping.

See you on the Pickleball Courts… Just Not Yet!

All four of us enjoyed our quick visit to The Villages… Perhaps we’ll see you on the pickleball courts at The Villages in 10-15 years… just not before!

Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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4 Comments

  1. You forgot the cheap drinks. Went to an EG Pb Clinic weekend and checked out the free entertainment. I like how you can park your cart by the square. They have some indoor pickleball? Its gets mighty hot for us late sleepers.

  2. Good to see you back Thurs. on the Woodside courts. We are of to Fl.. Will be doing golf and pickle ball and a lot of Troy (Grandson) time. Lord Bless, Doug

    1. It was good to be back, Doug. I really did miss pickleball and the fellowship with everyone. Have a safe trip. Sounds like you’ll have tons of fun. If you get a chance, take some pictures for me of your pickleball experiences. Be safe! Todd

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