Consider it a masochistic version of happy hour. At about 6 p.m. on any given weekday, the scene in the Charleston Squash Club resembles no bar or sport facility you've ever seen before, but it's still an oddly familiar mix of both.
Polished wooden floors absorb the brunt of grunting men swinging racquets at a squishy, blue ball. An equally impressive mahogany bar runs the length of the room. At it, sweaty dudes dressed in white relax on tall stools or bounce on rubber pilates balls, while sipping the draft microbrews kept on tap.
Squash could be considered the British father-sport of racquetball, and it maintains an air of privilege and high-society camaraderie. Built in 2006 by Kiawah Island developer Buddy Darby, the upper King Street Charleston club now boasts over 65 regular members. Some form groups that play before sunrise, while others prefer the challenge of repeatedly swapping a racquet for a pale ale in the afternoon.
Chris Clark, a Blackbaud product manager, joined upon moving to Charleston in 2007. Clark also donates time toward sharing the game with at-risk youths, serving as a board member with Chucktown Squash. The group introduces promising young students to the game, mentoring them along the way in their academic work and eventually helping them attain scholarships to charter and prep schools.
Winning at squash requires both mental and physical agility, explains Matt Jenson, the club's in-house pro. Jenson is the No. 2 doubles player in the world. "You've got to keep the ball straight, but move the other guy," he explains.
When we visited, two young men were there trying out squash for the first time. One had borrowed the required white shorts from another friend who was already a member.
"It's a sport most of my friends have never played," laughed Dana Myjak after the game. "I'm trying to get a jump on them before old age. It's a game you can take with you."
Most of the guys at the club aren't prep school grads. Jenson estimates that about 80 percent never played squash before coming out to the club.
Four nights a week, the club hosts open sessions when members and guests can stop by and find an opponent or teammate without planning ahead. Games last about 10 minutes, and members might play a dozen times, some sipping brews in between competing.