There are more than three million picketball players in the US, and that number is growing. Pickleball is the ideal sport for anyone who wishes to socialize and get into shape.
Thankfully, it’s easy enough to get started! There’s probably at least one court in your city, presently, and that number is likely to grow. The only thing you need is the right equipment. Fortunately, most of that is easy is provided at the court. As a beginner, you’ll just need to focus on finding the perfect pickleball paddle. If you know what you’re looking for, we have a full guide with some suggested products too.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Paddle
There are four main things to keep in mind when choosing the right paddle for you. They are:
- The Weight of Your Paddle
- Grip Size
- Pickleball Paddle Material
- Paddle Shape
Let’s cover each of these in turn.
The Weight of the Paddle
A pickleball racket will weigh between nine and fourteen ounces. If you select graphite or composite, that range narrows to six to nine ounces. Wooden paddles weigh more.
There are benefits to both heavier and lighter rackets. If you use a heavy racket, you’ll enjoy a bit more power. Unfortunately, you’ll also lose a bit of control. Conversely, with a lighter racket, you will have to exert more force to get the same amount of power. Most players find it’s easier to control the ball with a lighter racket.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to decide on weight and material at the same time. When you compare two rackets of different weights, they should be made of the same material.
Here are a few other things to consider when choosing the ideal weight of racket that will complement your game:
- Heavier paddles can cause fatigue over time.
- Singles players tend to favor heavy paddles over light.
- There are mid-weight paddles that balance power and control.
- If you’ve played ping pong or racquetball, you might prefer a lightweight racket.
How to Measure for Grip Size
You won’t enjoy playing pickleball if your racket is sized incorrectly. With a too-small grip, you’ll grab the racket too tightly. This can lead to fatigue and tendonitis. Use a paddle with a grip that is too large, and you could strain your elbow. You might notice less control.
The best way to start is to find your grip size. There are a few ways to do this. The easiest, but least accurate is to simply use your height. Use this table:
5-9” and Taller
5’3” — 5’8”
|5’2” or Shorter|
This is a serviceable method if you are borrowing a racket or purchasing one secondhand. Use a more accurate method if you intend to spend a fair amount of money, and want your paddle to last a while.
You may also measure your ring finger to determine the grip size you need. Take a ruler and measure from the middle crease of your palm up to the tip of your ring finger. Choose a grip that closely matches that measurement.
Finally, measure the accuracy of your grip size by picking up the paddle you’re considering. Grab it using a forearm eastern grip. This is the most common racket grip and involves laying the handle of the racket diagonally across your palm. It’s a bit like shaking hands. You should be able to fit the index finger of your other hand between the tips of your fingers, and the heel of your grip.
Of course, this is not an exact science. You have to take comfort and preference into consideration. For example, some players prefer rackets that may seem quite large or quite small. You may find that you are ‘between sizes.’ In that case, consider choosing the smaller grip available. You can add an overgrip to make up the difference.
Pickleball Paddle Material
You have a few options when it comes to racket composition. The simplest, least-expensive rackets are made from wood. These are heavy, work-horse paddles. This is a good choice for a beginner who doesn’t want to invest a lot of money or only plays occasionally.
There are some trade-offs, though. Wooden paddles wear quickly. They provide power, but not much control. Their weight can lead to fatigue. Consider this option if you don’t often play, or simply want a few extra rackets for friends and family.
A graphite paddle usually weighs between six and nine ounces. These rackets have a graphite face with a core made of aluminum, Nomex, or polymer. Many players prefer these because they provide quite a bit of power considering they are quite lightweight.
Your third choice is a composite paddle. These have the same core choices of graphite paddles, but the difference is in the surface of the racket. These are made of carbon or fiberglass. They are an excellent choice if you play with a bit of finesse as you can add a bit of spin with a composite paddle. This makes them a great choice for doubles pickleball.
Pickleball Paddle Shape
Pickleball paddles come in four shapes. These are:
Standard is the most common racket you will find. These represent the original shape of the racket when the game was first invented back in 1965. They are still the most popular choice among players.
Many experienced players say the racket’s sweet spot is near the top. A sweet spot is the part of the racket where you get maximum power and control when it connects with the ball. A thin, longer paddle can make a difference to players who prefer a well-executed hit over a powerful one. The downside is that these are not usually a good choice for beginners.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the wide-body paddle. These are usually a good choice for the beginner who needs a larger playing face to make contact with the ball. Just remember that you’ll trade that beginner’s advantage for lack of finesse and control.
A blade-shaped pickleball racket is the narrowest choice of all. This is not a paddle for a new player. Consider waiting to purchase a blade racket until you are quite confident in your ability to make contact with the ball consistently. Once you reach that skill-level, you may find that you can do some really great things with this racket, such as powerful slice shots and the ability to exert strong and surprising spin on the ball mid-rally.
As you shop around, you will notice that edgeless pickleball rackets are trending. These paddles don’t have the usual protective edging around them. Some expert players feel as if this gives them more playing surface. You can certainly experiment with one of these rackets, but there is an increased risk of damage if your racket hits the ground.
Is It Time to Buy a Pickleball Paddle?
Pickleball rackets are not cheap. A mass-produced racket will set you back 50 dollars or more. A quality racket can cost up to 200 dollars. Take your time so that you choose a racket that truly works for you. Remember that you don’t have to purchase any equipment right away. You can often lease a racket at courts while you figure out what is right for you, and it’s rare for someone to immediately splurge on a high-end racket the moment they are keen on the game.
Try different shapes and sizes to see what works best for you. It’s likely that you’ll be fine with an inexpensive racket if you only play once every so often. If pickleball becomes a passion, you’ll enjoy shopping for an upgrade.
Listen to the Professionals
If you are working with a pickleball coach or trainer, their advice should take priority. They have insights into your playing style and your specific needs. Ask them what they believe would be the best choice for you.
Consider recording your gameplay as well. You’ll be able to see where your advantages and shortcomings are. For example, watching yourself on video may reveal that you need more help with ball control than power.
Is the paddle the only piece of equipment you need? If you can play on a public court, clubhouse, or at a friend’s place, you shouldn’t need to worry about buying much else. On the other hand, if you’re setting up a play area at home, you will need some additional gear. That includes a net, balls, buckets, and extra rackets for guests.
Casual players may find that it’s better to simply buy an all-in-one pickleball setup. These will have a net, balls, and carrying case. You can also purchase multi-packs of paddles. Don’t forget to buy edge tape, grips, and gloves if you need them.
Pickleball is an appealing sport because nearly anyone can enjoy the game. You can set up in your backyard, or find a league in your local community. There’s room for rank beginners and accomplished players. If you can find a racket that works for your playing style and experience, you’ll maximize your enjoyment of this game. Keep the tips above in mind. Then, take all the time you need to determine which racket is best for you.