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Can Pickleball Be Played on a Clay Court?

Close-up of a pickleball on a pickleball court.

Yes, you can and should use a clay court when playing pickleball. As I search for pickleball tournaments from Places 2 Play, which are provided and maintained by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), I am excited to see most courts used for pickleball games are made using clay. You really can’t play pickleball on the grass, folks!

This has to do with the size and shape of the pickleball, which is full of holes and could get stuck on blades of grass. You also benefit from the clay surface when bouncing a pickleball in a game. See what I’m talking about in this guide about whether pickleball can be played on a clay court.

Playing Pickleball on a Clay Court

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“Pickleball court surfaces are identical to tennis and basketball surfaces, for asphalt or concrete courts. They are textured with a smooth and rounded, non-aggressive silica sand. This provides a slip-free surface in dry and wet conditions,” states Tennis Court Resurfacing.

If you want to get the best footing and traction when playing a game of pickleball, start with the right type of court. The most common type of court used for playing pickleball is the clay variety. There are many types of sporting courts, including turf and clay.

However, for pickleball, the clay court is best suited to the way the game is played. For starters, there is the pickleball itself, which is made from lightweight plastic. The plastic ball is hollow and contains holes all over it, adding to the aerodynamics of the sports ball.

The clay surface is also more forgiving on the feet and body when players are jumping around on it, in comparison to concrete. This can reduce wear-and-tear on the body and help pickleball players get more out of the game. Choose to play pickleball on a clay court for the best and most professional gameplay and results.

What is a clay sporting court?

Close-up of a pickleball pickle ball court and net.

A clay court for playing sports is made using a special type of material. This may be crushed stone or shale, or using red brick. The use of a clay court is important for several sports, including tennis, as well as pickleball.

Unlike lawn tennis courts made using lawn or grass, a clay court is completely formed of a solid clay surface. There is no grass growing on a clay sporting court. Additionally, this is not a loose gravel surface that has pebbles in it.

The clay material is tightly compacted and treated with a water resistant material to reduce absorption of moisture. This helps to reduce swelling and expansion of the clay court, and cuts down on cracking. However, a clay court can crack over time due to the moisture content in the air and ground.

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Why must I play pickleball on a clay court?

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Here is where the way the game of pickleball is played is why you must play on a clay court. Every time a player hits the pickleball, there needs to be at least one bounce per side. In order to get a pickleball to bounce, the ball must be able to come into contact with the ground.

If the ground is made of rocky soil or grass, there is a likelihood that the pickleball will not bounce. In this case, the ball will be a dud and the game will be ruined. Playing on grass or an uneven surface, such as asphalt or wood planks, will also lead to a terrible time scoring at pickleball.

What is the difference between a clay court for tennis and pickleball?

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Bouncing a pickleball in the proper way involves having a clay court that is a hard surface. A clay court can be found where players play badminton and tennis. However, for playing pickleball, the court itself must be a lot smaller.

In fact, there can be four pickleball courts set up within the same space as one tennis court. Therefore, the main difference between the clay court used for pickleball and tennis is the amount of space used by a pickleball player. You could theoretically play pickleball on a tennis court.

Players need to account for the smaller dimensions of the pickleball court. Onix Pickleball explains, “A standard pickleball court happens to be around the same size as a doubles badminton court and the court measures 44 feet long (inclusive of lines) and 20 feet wide (inclusive of lines). The net height of a pickleball court is 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches high in the middle.”

What is the difference between a net for tennis and for pickleball courts?

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Here is where having access to a badminton net is more conducive for a pickleball match, but it’s not impossible to play with a tennis net. You will have to accommodate the extra two inches at the center point. Let me explain this further.

The pickleball net is lower than the net used for playing tennis. A tennis net is hung to measure three feet high at the center point, while the pickleball net is only 34 inches in the center–two inches fewer than the 36 inches that make up three feet. However, the pickleball net does reach three feet (36 inches) at the ends.

The swag pulls the net down a couple of inches, making it a bit easier to get a ball over the net in pickleball.

Pickleball versus Tennis on a Clay Court

Having a smaller area to hit the pickleball is one of the reasons that tennis players have transitioned to pickleball as a favored sport. The pickleball itself is lighter in weight and easier to hit compared to a hard tennis ball. Additionally, the smaller size of the pickleball court allows players to more easily get the ball over the net for the necessary bounce.

What are some pickleball courts with clay in their name?

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One interesting search term for Places 2 Play via the USAPA is “clay.” By searching for the term “clay” in the database, I was able to find several places for pickleball courts that may actually contain clay specifically. However, it is not feasible to search for clay courts when using the USAPA Places 2 Play database.

The term, instead, brings up a whole list of places to play that includes the word “clay” in the name of the court or of the city. Several courts are located in some places that include the word “clay” in the name. Here is a round up to show you what I am talking about and to give you some more ideas for places to play pickleball:

  • Beavercreek Clay Courts Tennis Club in Beavercreek, OH
  • Clay County Recreation Center in Hayesville, NC
  • Clay Madsen Rec Center in Round Rock, TX
  • Triangle East YMCA in Clayton, NC
  • Clay Pickleball and Tennis Center in Clay, AL
  • Clayton Fitness in Clayton, NC
  • John M. Clayton Elementary School in Frankford, DE
  • Clayton County International Park Fitness Center in Jonesboro, GA

As you can see, these are pickleball courts that contain “clay” in the name of the facility or the city. Don’t be confused and assume that just because a pickleball court is in Clay County, for example, that you will be going to a clay court. However, for the most part, if you are going to a venue that is specifically designed to play pickleball, it will be on a clay surface.

Thanks to the USAPA Places 2 Play, pickleball players can more efficiently find a court near them–and figure out whether it contains a clay surface. As the sport of pickleball finds its footing in the minor and major leagues of the US sports already established, expect to see more clay courts for pickleball in the future.