Participating in summer's classic outdoor pastimes—from tennis to golf—is as much a rite of the season as cookouts, fireworks, and sleepaway camp. A portfolio of aerial photographs offers an arresting perspective on our nation's sporting life as it's played out across the landscape.
1. Unmarked tennis courts
Manchester, New Hampshire
The fuzzy yellow blur of the ball, the guitar-like chord it makes as it thwacks against the racket, the whirl of slices, serves, and volleys—there are few more exhilarating ways to while away a summer afternoon than on the tennis court. Though its origins as a jeu de paume hark back to the Middle Ages, tennis arrived in America in 1874, springing up on the manicured lawns of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club. Today there are almost 300,000 courts in the country, and the most famous of them all is at New York City’s Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the world’s top tennis seeds descend every August to spar over sets at the U.S. Open, a 15-day affair that marks the end of summer—and, in many years, the birth of a new star.
2. Floating daisy docks
Riding on the rollicking swells of the tide is quite the rush: You hear the luff of the sails, feel the whip of the wind, taste the salty bite of the spray. From San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes, more than 16 million recreational boats line the docks of our nation’s harbors and coastal marinas, and no wonder: Americans have always loved taking to the sea. Indeed, competitive sailing in this country can be traced back to 1851, when eight yachtsmen representing the New York Yacht Club first raced in a regatta that would become known as the America’s Cup (and whose trophy is the oldest in international sports). A fleet of wing-sail catamarans manned by the world’s best crews still compete every three to five years in the 15-day race, making for what is doubtless the most magnificent yachting spectacle.
3. Bathers in a wave pool
Splashes of bright turquoise (imagine Hockney’s aquamarine acrylics), the reverb of the diving board, the smell of melting Coppertone: When the mercury rises, the swimming pool is an elixir for summer’s sweltering heat. America’s first municipal pool, the Cabot Street Bath, opened its doors in Boston in 1868—and soon the natatorium evolved into ever-splashier structures, with artificial beaches of hauled-in sand surrounding one and majestic bathing pavilions another. After World War II, these grand arenas gave way to the backyard swimming pool—which became a symbol of status in suburban Arcadia, thanks to MGM’s 1952 aqua-musical Million Dollar Mermaid. How much do we love our pools? A great deal, it turns out: There are 10.4 million private plunges—and 309,000 public pools—to cool off in across the country.
4. Links and bunkers
From the rolling fairway to the putting green, the golf course is a maze of sloping hills, grassy roughs, sand traps, and loblolly pines. Though 96 golf clubs and 432 balls arrived in South Carolina from Scotland in 1743, it wasn’t until 1888 that the sport really took off stateside with the establishment of the country’s oldest continuously operating club: the St. Andrew’s Golf Club, in Greenburgh, New York. From Pinehurst to Pebble Beach, America is home to 14,564 courses—each with its own unique mix of 18 holes, from the tropical (like the Prince Course at the Princeville Resort in Kauai, where the seventh hole affords views of the deep-blue surf breaking off Anini Beach and the heady scent of plumeria) to the impossible (like the legendary island green on the seventeenth at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida).
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