Pickleball was invented just before I got into middle school. I never knew anything about it, or even that it was a thing until I was asked to write about it. So here we are, 60 years later, talking about a sport invented on the spot from a dull summer afternoon’s boredom.
What looks like a cross between tennis, ping pong, and badminton? It’s pickleball. The game uses paddles much like ping pong paddles, a ball a little larger than a badminton shuttlecock, and it’s played across a net similar to the one on a tennis court.
In fact, the game is played on a court like, or an actual, badminton court. Why is this sport, which now spans the globe, so much like other sports? Why use their courts?
Well, there’s a reason for that, so grab a coffee and let’s talk courts.
First, What Exactly Is Pickleball? Never Heard Of It
You know something is important when heavy-hitting entities like GQ and NPR front their best wordsmiths to either entice readers and radio listeners or to politely repel them from a person, place, or thing. One tried to describe why people hate the new sport but ended up intriguing readers instead. The other expressed amazement that the sport is growing, apparently to near-Olympic heights, and bemoaned the fact that there aren’t nearly enough (only 10,000) pickleball courts across the country.
The sport has its own governing board called USA Pickleball, its own sports equipment manufacturing, its own colors, and gear, as well as a professional pickleball tour. I am telling you this to give you an idea of how much ground the sport has gained in the 60 years it’s been played. Pickleball is played on a regulation 34 x 64-foot badminton court, but play is generally set at 20 x 44 feet.
The serve is underhand, unlike the overhand of tennis. The serve is six feet from the net and the non-volley zone is seven feet from the net. The net is three feet high, and the point is awarded when the serve bounces twice or is not returned.
Why Must Pickleball Be Played On A Specific Type Of Court? Aren’t They All Alike?
Apparently not. One of the many articles I read in researching the sport said that pickleball requires a hard court to play. Badminton courts check off this point.
Additionally, most badminton courts are constructed indoors, although pickleball can be played outdoors on a regulation badminton court. In addition to the hardness of the court, the size matters. A tennis court is one and one-half times bigger than a badminton court.
A tennis court is made of clay, grass, carpet (indoor courts,) or hardcourt. Badminton is usually played indoors, so there are no requirements for the type of court to be used. The article also said that specific shoes were required to play pickleball on a badminton court.
Ordinary tennis shoes can be worn on grass or a clay tennis court. Hard badminton courts, on the other hand, should be gripped by a deep tread on the shoes to avoid damage to the players’ bodies.
Are There Outdoor Badminton Courts? Why Is The Game Played Indoors? Does It Matter?
It matters if you want to win the game. One of the reasons the game is played indoors is the playing equipment. The net is the same as in tennis, but the “ball” or shuttlecock is a wispy item made of goose feathers tied together and with a red nose.
There are no slight breezes indoors to whisk away your shuttlecock. Outdoor play is generally done for exercise and fun. Weather plays a big part in outdoor badminton play.
That’s the main reason the hard badminton court isn’t located outdoors: the danger of slippage. The dew or rain messes with the movements because your feet can’t get a grip on the court. The wind messes up the service or return. Feathers float in the air.
Several of them tied together with small holes pass through the air even better. As it happens, the whisper of a breeze will pass through those holes, and you won’t get a shot at it. Not to mention, the dog loves to play, too, and will snatch up your shuttlecock and run away with it.
Oddly, light can mess up a game of badminton just as much as rain. Most courts are located indoors due to the shuttlecock disappearing into the light of the sun. Sometimes indoor lights are located in unfortunate positions and produce the same effect.
In a game in which the players are consistently looking up, this can be a major problem, and why courts need to be safe for play.
On Which Badminton Court Was The First Game Of Pickleball Played?
Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard had a badminton court in his backyard. He and businessman Bill Bell came home from playing golf one day to find their families bored and with nothing to do. The men gathered tennis racquets and plastic balls with holes in them for a game, but they hadn’t enough racquets.
They grabbed ping pong paddles to use with the tennis racquets. The families played the new game on the badminton court using a regulation tennis net. They soon lowered the net to three feet.
The families were having loads of fun, and the next weekend, neighbor Barney McCallum joined in. It was these three men who established the new game and its rules. This was in the summer of 1965.
The name, by the way, was in honor of a dog named Pickle. Two years later, a dedicated pickleball court was built in the yard of Congressman Pritchard’s neighbor, Bob O’Brian. A corporation was created to protect the new sport in 1972.
Nineteen seventy-six saw the first pickleball tournament held in the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, WA. The book The Other Racquet Sports detailing the game was published in 1978. The United States Amateur Pickleball Association was created in 1984 to introduce pickleball to Americans and the first rulebook was published.
By the 2000s, pickleball was being played by everyone from kids to college students to seniors and everyone in between in all 50 states. As per USAPA, there are now more than 33,000 pickleball courts in all 50 states. You’ll find them listed on Places2Play’s usapickleball.org website.
Websites and international pickleball associations were formed, and the USAPA membership shot to over 10,000 members. National championships were broadcast for the first time and set records for participants. By the end of 2021, 53,000 members of the pickleball association were proud to find the game publicized in the renowned New York Times, The Boston Globe, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and Forbes, to name a few.
Can You Play Pickleball On A Badminton Court FAQs
What’s The Difference Between A Badminton Court And A Pickleball Court?
The first difference is that a pickleball net is lower than that on a badminton court. The second difference is that the no service line in badminton is six and one-half feet away from the net, whereas the no volley zone in pickleball is seven feet from the net.
Can Pickleball Be Played On A Tennis Court?
Pickleball courts are sized at 20 x 44 feet within a 30 x 60-foot court. You can fit four pickleball courts inside a regulation tennis court. Just make sure the tennis court is regulation size and has square corners.
Can Pickleball Be Played On A Variety Of Surfaces?
Ideally, pickleball should be played on a concrete surface specially coated with polyurethane or acrylic. If this isn’t available, pickleball can be played on a clay surface.
Which Lines Are Important When Playing Pickleball On A Badminton Court?
Changing the non volley lines with markers or tape on a badminton court is important when playing pickleball. Official games should only be played on a dedicated pickleball court or marked properly on a tennis court.
If No Court Is Available, Can Pickleball Be Played In A Basement?
Pickleball is an indoor sport, so an unfinished concrete basement floor is perfect for the game. You’ll have to tape off the regulation lines, but if there isn’t enough space for regulation lines, the court can be scaled down to fit.
Can Pickleball Be Played On A Paved Driveway Or Turnaround?
Yes. You’ll need a pickleball net or a badminton net if a pickleball net isn’t available, whiffle balls, ping pong paddles, and enough tape to tape off the regulation lines. Additionally, the concrete floor of most homes’ garages is perfect for playing pickleball. All you have to do is tape off the area, grab your gear, and boom, you’ve got a pickleball game going on.
Can Pickleball Be Played In A Smaller Space?
Yes, it can, but the game should be played at least at the minimum measurements of the typical pickleball court. You should have at least 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length, including the lines.