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Updated October 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best pickleball paddle

Pickleball is one of those rewarding sports that you can play no matter your age. You can get the hang of it the first time you pick up a paddle but also spend many years perfecting your skills to become a master. Pickleball has elements of badminton, racquetball, tennis, volleyball, and other similar sports. To get the most out of it, however, you need a quality pickleball paddle.

The right pickleball paddle will fit comfortably in your hand — if the handle is too large or too small, you won’t have as much control over the ball. It should also be a manageable weight so you don’t fatigue while playing. While wood is the most affordable type of paddle, it doesn’t let you play at your peak, so budget is also a factor to consider.

A good place to start your research on what makes a quality pickleball paddle is with an in-depth guide to this essential piece of equipment. You can quickly learn what pickleball is, how the materials can affect the performance of a paddle, why weight is a critical factor, and more. Additionally, learning about various models lets you know at a glance what’s available.

pickleball paddle
Every pickleball paddle has a sweet spot. This is the area in the center of the paddle that delivers the most power and control.

How to buy the best pickleball paddle

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is a game that’s played on a court, like tennis. Players have to hit the ball back and forth over a net. One team scores when the other team misses returning the pickleball or hits it out of bounds.

While there are many accounts of how this sport originated, one seems to be more popular than all others. In 1965, a congressman named Joel Pritchard wanted to create a game that the whole family could play. Using the items he had laying around his property, Pritchard came up with pickleball.

Some say the name of this game comes from the family dog, Pickles, who kept stealing the ball. However, other individuals cite a pickle boat, which is made up of a crew of leftover rowers who weren’t chosen by other teams, as being the inspiration for the name.

How do you play pickleball?

Pickleball is played with either two or four players. After the ball is served, it must bounce once outside the non-volley zone before being returned. The serving team must also let the ball bounce once before returning. After that, as long as the player is outside the non-volley zone, the ball is no longer required to bounce before a return. In pickleball, points can only be scored by the serving team. A point is scored when the opposing team hits the ball out of bounds or fails to return the ball for any reason. The first team to score 11 points (with a two-point lead) wins. Games may also be played to 15 or 21 points, if desired.

What makes a good pickleball paddle?

The ideal pickleball paddle varies from individual to individual. Look for a model that fits comfortably in your hand so you can hold it securely. It must be large enough to give you a sizable hitting surface. However, if it’s too large or too heavy for you, those features can be a hindrance. Lastly, an advanced player will want a textured paddle so they can put a strategic spin on the ball.

When a pickleball paddle stops performing the way it did when it was new or it makes a dull sound when you hit the ball, it’s time to get a new paddle.

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Breakdown of key pickleball paddle features

Materials

Pickleball paddles are made of wood, composite, or graphite. Each material has its pros and cons.

Wood: Wood is inexpensive. It offers adequate performance and durability. Because it’s the heaviest material, however, it isn’t a desirable option for all players.

Composite: A composite pickleball paddle is lighter than wood and offers a textured surface. This is important once you move up from the beginner ranks and want a paddle that gives you greater ball control. A composite paddle costs more than a wood paddle.

Graphite: High-end paddles are made of graphite (also known as carbon fiber). This material gives you the lightest weight with the most power. The higher price range of this paddle makes it a better option for the serious player.

Paddle size

For competition, USA Pickleball states that the size of a pickleball paddle (including the handle) cannot exceed 24 inches, while the paddle cannot exceed 17 inches. There are no restrictions when it comes to the paddle’s thickness. The average paddle is 8 inches wide by 15 inches long. However, if you prefer, you can get an elongated paddle. This might not be a desirable option if you have larger hands because it means the handle will be shorter.

Edged vs. edgeless

The edge guards on a pickleball paddle help protect it from damage that may occur from swiping it across the ground during gameplay. A player may opt to sacrifice this protection to get an edgeless paddle. These models maximize the playing surface and give the player a larger sweet spot at the expense of having a paddle that’s more vulnerable to damage.

Weight

The ideal weight of a pickleball paddle is a preference. With a lighter paddle, a player needs to swing harder to get a powerful shot, but they have more control. Conversely, a heavier paddle gives a player less control but more power.

pickleball
DID YOU KNOW?
A standard pickleball court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long with a net that’s 34 inches high in the center and 36 inches high at the sides.
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How much do pickleball paddles cost?

Inexpensive

The most affordable paddles are made of wood. These are heavier than other paddles but can still provide a great deal of fun on a budget. You can get one for less than $40.

Mid-range

Serious players may prefer a paddle in the mid-range. These models cost roughly between $40 and $80. They’re composite paddles that deliver greater control of the ball without being too heavy.

Expensive

At the high end of the price range, you can find high-performance paddles made of graphite. While these are the best paddles, they can cost as much as $200, which can make them impractical for individuals who are just looking to casually enjoy the game.

While the edge guard on a pickleball paddle protects the paddle from accidental damage, if the ball hits the edge guard, it might not travel as expected.

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Tips

  • Get in shape. Pickleball is a sport. Get your doctor’s approval before beginning and build up your mobility, flexibility, and stamina so you can safely play the game.
  • Learn your fundamentals. Before you can have fun playing pickleball, you need to learn the fundamentals. Take the time to develop your basic skills such as serving, learning to volley, and more.
  • Be patient. The majority of pickleball is waiting for an opportunity to present itself so you can score. Take your time and be consistent with your shots. Save the aggressive attacks for the right moment.
  • Don’t be afraid to get close. The best pickleball game is played right up against — but not inside — the non-volley line.
  • Keep your eye on the ball. It's easy to get distracted by all the players on the court (and other nearby courts). However, if you keep your focus on the ball, you’ll always be prepared when the ball comes your way.
  • Get set before swinging. Whenever possible, don’t hit on the run. Take a solid stance and swing from a firm foundation.
  • Develop your own style. You need to feel comfortable when playing pickleball. After learning the basics, adapt them so they feel like a good fit for you.
  • Aim for your opponent’s feet. If you’d like a quick strategy that works in almost all situations, aim to land the ball at your opponent’s feet. This puts them at a disadvantage because they’ll need to hit the ball up to get it over the net.
  • Take advantage of high balls. If you ever get a high ball, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for: use it to take an aggressive shot to go for the point.
  • Have fun. Winning is a good goal, but if that’s your only goal, it may be hard to find people to play with. Your primary purpose should be to have fun.
pickleball
The average recreational player can get roughly 2 to 3 years out of a pickleball paddle.

FAQ

Q. Why do some people wrap their pickleball paddles in lead tape?

A. When you add lead tape around the edge of your pickleball paddle, you’re adding weight. If you have trouble handling the extra weight, this isn’t a good idea. However, if you have no health conditions — such as tennis elbow that make the extra weight a detriment — then your game can benefit in two very important ways. First, the added weight gives you more power on your aggressive shots. This can give you the edge with drives and overhead shots. Second, and maybe more important, the weight increases the size of the paddle’s sweet spot. This makes it easier for you to block or dink — two low-power strategic shots that can give you an advantage.

Q. Do I need a heavier or lighter pickleball paddle if I have a tennis elbow?

A. The best model to get if you have tennis elbow is one that weighs roughly 7 to 8 ounces. If you choose a paddle that’s too light, it requires you to swing harder and it doesn’t absorb the shock as well. If you choose a paddle that’s too heavy, the weight may inflame the nerve and cause you pain.

Q. How do I find out what grip size I need?

A. To find what grip size you need, measure from the middle crease in your palm to the tip of your index finger. This is your grip size. It’s usually somewhere between 4 and 5 inches. If you’re between sizes of the paddle you desire, it’s best to go with a smaller grip for better control.

Q. How do I test the grip size of a pickleball paddle?

A. Grab the pickleball paddle as you would when playing a game. You should be able to lay the index finger of your other hand between the fingertips and palm of the hand that’s holding the paddle and get a snug fit. If it’s too tight or too loose, this means the handle is too small or too large for your hand.

Q. Can I make any alterations to my pickleball paddle?

A. According to pickleball rules, you can. However, these alterations are limited to edge guard tape, lead tape, and changes in the grip, such as adding overgrip tape. You may also add markings for identification as long as they don’t change the texture of the paddle and they’re in good taste.

Q. What’s the difference between replacement grip and overgrip?

A. You use replacement grip tape when you’re dissatisfied with the grip that came with your paddle or when your original grip begins to wear. This process involves removing the old grip and replacing it with a newer, upgraded grip. Overgrip is applied on top of your regular grip to reduce sweat buildup and give you greater comfort and more control over your paddle.

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