The Top 5 Nation-Wide Pickleball Tournaments to Attend
Pickleball looks much different today than it did at its founding, having grown from a single makeshift court in a politician’s backyard to now boasting over 35,000 courts across the U.S. The exponential growth of the sport is most clearly seen in the number of tournaments dedicated to it, with dozens of competitions vying for participants and viewers year-round. However, the biggest, most exciting ones are, of course, the nationals.
There are a handful of nation-wide tournaments to pick from, but even the most fanatic of pickleball fans would be hard-pressed to make it to all of them. Which ones, then, are worth going to? Here’s a ranking of 5 of the biggest pickleball tournaments to either attend this year or mark in yours calendar for next season.
(5) Beer City Open
Dates: July 20-24
Location: Belknap Park, Grand Rapids, MI
This tournament is all about pickleball. While others might branch out and add extras in terms of entertainment and engagement, the Beer City Open’s schedule is full of every variation of pickleball imaginable—any age, skill level, or mix-and-match of age and skill level has a timeslot dedicated to them, which makes it clear that anyone is welcome to register and play. This also guarantees that those in the stands can’t complain of being bored, as they can float between courts and see something different on each one. And, as a bonus, all games are free to watch.
While this inclusiveness and strict focus on the game is admirable, it does leave the tournament lacking in other areas, at least compared to bigger competitions. The Beer City Open relies mostly on the surrounding city blocks to keep its participants fed and amused, so a lot of planning and extra expense for any accommodations or entertainment outside the tournament facility will be necessary. This isn’t a problem necessarily, as Belknap Park is located in Grand Rapid’s bustling hotel district, but it is worth keeping in mind.
At the end of the day, though, the Beer City Open is a great tournament for those who want to watch (or play!) a lot of pickleball.
(4) Mile High Classic
Dates: Aug. 26-28
Location: Apex Recreation, Denver, CO
While the Mile High Classic isn’t the fanciest pickleball tournament out there, it’s certainly not one to scoff at. The Evergreen Pickleball Club, which is running the event, has over 10 years of pickleball experience under its belt, which newer facilities and organizers simply can’t match. In other words, its team has helped shape and grow the world of pickleball since before it was cool. That kind of experience and drive makes playing in and attending such a large tournament all the more enjoyable.
Registration doesn’t close until Aug. 19, and nearly 300 players have already signed up to try their hand at becoming champions. A current USAPA membership and $70 fee are required to play, which is about average for a tournament of this scope.
Many find the opportunity to meet and play with so large a pool of pickleball enthusiasts worth the price, but one downside to the Mile High Classic is that the fee is only for enrollment into the tournament—there aren’t any extras like food vouchers, hotel discounts, alternate entertainment, or any of the other add-ons other tournaments offer.
(3) Prescott Summer Classics
Dates: July 22-24
Location: Espire Sports, Prescott, AZ
This tournament is simple in its set-up and events list, with only three days of basic pickleball (men’s and women’s doubles and singles plus one day of mixed doubles), but that doesn’t mean participants won’t have anything to do. One of the main draws for the nearly 200 players who have registered for the event is the venue itself, Espire Sports.
The facility boasts 100,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor pickleball courts, fitness centers, putting greens, cafes, and a multi-purpose sports court, to name just a few of its amenities. Starting next year, Espire will even begin housing its members and tournament participants in their very own hotel rooms and suites, which will turn the facility into more of a sporting resort than a regular venue.
Even though it offers so much more than the one sport, the Prescott Summer Classics is still a pickleball tournament at its heart, and one of the most popular ones at that.
(2) Minto US Open
Dates: April 15-22 (2023)
The Minto US Open is the self-proclaimed “biggest pickleball party in the world.” According to the event’s official website, the tournament’s “energy, the spirit of community, the pure joy and fun are unlike anything you’ll find at an ordinary tournament.”
Based on the press from the last Minto Open, this lofty claim just might stand true.
This year’s national took place from April 23-30 in Naples, FL, and every day dawned with new and exciting events that went beyond the tournament itself. From live musical performances to an array of food trucks, guests could keep themselves entertained even when not watching games either at the courts or through livestreams. After each day’s matches were over, attendees could take part in pro clinics and meet-and-greets with pro players.
Attending the tournament itself was fairly inexpensive. Besides a $5 daily parking fee, 59 courts were free to watch in-person. The exception to this was the championship court, which was ticketed.
Unfortunately, as this year’s tournament took place just a few months ago, information for the next Minto Open is scarce. Anyone who wants to take part in next year’s festivities will have to keep an eye out as the organization releases further details. It can be assumed, though, that the coordinators will want to keep up their reputation as the world’s greatest pickleball party—and they might even try to outdo themselves next year.
(1) Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championship
Dates: Nov. 5-13
Location: Indian Wells Tennis Garde, Palm Springs, CA
At the top of the list, of course, is what could be considered the most popular, most extensive, and most exclusive nation-wide pickleball tournament. Most of the other tournaments mentioned in this list—and even most of the notable ones that didn’t make the cut—all lead up to the Margaritaville National Championship.
According to the event’s website, last year’s ten-day tournament boasted an overall turnout of nearly 28,000 pickleball fans, and it even won the Racquet Sports Industry Magazine award for ‘Pickleball Tournament of the Year.’ This isn’t surprising—between the state-of-the-art venue, the ability to watch pros play at their best, and the overall excitement that comes with being at a massive sporting event, attending the Margaritaville championship is a dream for any pickleball enthusiast.
One drawback (if it even counts as one) is how hard it is to gain the opportunity to play in the tournament. But, as it is the National Championship, the exclusiveness is a given. Some might even consider it a good thing, as every match played is bound to be exhilarating. The other obvious downside is the cost to get in, as tickets and parking passes are a necessity. Exact pricing is TBA.
However, the pros of attending certainly outweigh any perceived cons. Being a part of the festivities would be a dream come true for any fan, so if the opportunity to go arises, take it! There’s a reason the Margaritaville National Championship is one of the greatest pickleball events in the world.