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Do Pickleball Paddles Have Holes?

Two pickleball paddles and a ball near a net shadow.

Pickleball is not just a backyard game with a few rules that family members and friends enjoy playing on the weekend. Today, it is a rapidly growing sport that has professional teams and opportunities for tournament play.

The rules explain how to play pickleball, how to score, and how to win the game. Pickleball rules involve more than how to play the sport, whether you play in a casual game or for your rise as a tournament competition.

There are rules related to the proper pickleball court, and several specifications related to the material, size, posts, and height of the net. Requirements for the ball used in pickleball games cover its size, weight, bounce, and construction.

What about the paddles? What do the rules and regulations indicate are the requirements for legal pickleball paddles? Do pickleball paddles have holes?

Can I make my own pickleball paddle that has holes? These are a few questions that people who have an interest in learning to play pickleball, or who have an interest in playing in tournaments likely want to know about the pickleball paddles.

Pickleball Game and Equipment Basics

Mixed doubles congratulating each other after a pickleball match.

Pickleball is a sport enjoyed by all ages, and by people at all skill levels. The game is a combination of the components of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

Players enjoy the game on both indoor and outdoor courts, which are badminton-sized courts. The net is a slightly modified tennis net.

Players play in singles or doubles games. They use pickleball paddles and a solid-colored ball made of a durable material. The fast-paced game starts with an underhanded serve. Experienced players serving the ball know how to target their opponents’ weakest side.

The rally in pickleball is a series of consistent shots that follow the serve, and that provides each side or team the opportunity to score a point. Each side has the opportunity to score points, regardless of which side or which team did the serve.

USA Pickleball provides free videos on how to play pickleball, basic information to improve your game, and advanced tips and strategies. Players who want to improve their game, devote more time to playing, or who want to play in tournaments likely want to know important information about equipment, including pickleball paddles.

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Know Your Pickleball Paddle Construction Regulations

Pickleball paddles sandwiching a ball in the court.

You need only a few pieces of pickleball equipment to play pickleball. One piece of required equipment is a pickleball paddle.

Do you believe that once you learn the basic rules of how to play pickleball, that you are ready to play the game with any paddle? You are likely in for quite a surprise when you play in your first match or compete in your first tournament.

The rules of the game are not the only rules. There are regulations set forth by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) regarding specifications for each piece of pickleball equipment, including the paddle.

The USA Pickleball Association indicates that the 2021 USA Pickleball Official Rules of Pickleball state that any equipment used in a tournament, played according to the rules, must be named on the list of ‘USA Pickleball – Approved,’ or the ‘USA Pickleball Certified for Competition’ list. Equipment must “have been tested and approved as conforming to the specifications” outlined in the 2021 Equipment Standards Manual.

The USAPA requires that the material of a pickleball paddle is a safe material, and that the material used in the construction is not prohibited by the Equipment Standards Manual. Some other rules that govern pickleball paddle construction relate to the size, weight, surface roughness, and other specifications regarding the surface and depictions on the paddle.

Pickleball Paddle Construction

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The increase in the popularity of pickleball is likely one of the reasons for the increase in the number of pickleball equipment manufacturers.

The main body of pickleball paddles, regardless of manufacturer, includes the face and the core. The core makes up the base of the paddle, while the facing material covers the core on each side of the paddle.

Materials used in the facing help to prevent damage to the paddle. It also adds certain attributes to pickleball paddles.

Do you wonder why the core of your pickleball paddle has a honeycomb design? Pickleball Fire explains that the honeycomb design is “borrowed from the Boeing aircraft panels by Arlen Paranto, the founder of Prolite.” Paranto is also the first person who created a paddle that did not use wood.

Polymer is the most popular material used in the construction of the core. Manufacturers also make the core of the paddles out of aluminum and Nomex.

Each core material has its pros and cons. One example is that while aluminum offers the best control, it also offers less power.

Facing materials that manufacturers use when making pickleball paddles include graphite, carbon fiber facing, and fiberglass. Materials used in facing, like those used in the core, have both pros and cons. Graphite facing offers a responsive feel and lightweight design, but is more expensive, compared to paddles of other facing materials.

Do Pickleball Paddles Have Holes?

A man holding a pickleball paddle in court.

People who participate in paddle sports often play the sport using a paddle that has holes. Do not think that you save money if you play pickleball with the same paddle that you use when you play badminton, tennis or similar sports. Pickleball paddles do not have holes.

No, you cannot make your own paddle and add holes in it to give you a better chance of winning a tournament. The Paddle Specifications section in the 2021 USA Pickleball Official Rules of Pickleball, 2.E.2 Paddle Roughness, states, “The paddle’s hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart excessive spin on the ball.”

Pickleball tournament players have a responsibility to confirm that any paddle that they plan to use has a listing as “Pass” on the USA Pickleball/IFP Approved Paddle List. Players risk penalties being imposed if they use a paddle that has holes, or that otherwise does not comply with the pickleball paddle specifications.

Pickleball Ocean explains that “one of the most important things you should know about is the illegal pickleball paddles.” Do not think that, because holes are not legal in your pickleball paddle, you have other options in the construction of the paddle to edge out your opponent. Cracks, sections, painted or anti-skid surfaces, and stickers on the paddles’ surfaces are also illegal.

Some pickleball paddle manufacturers “pushed the bounds on the rules on surface roughness.” They began making certain paddle models with intentional holes. Perhaps the advertising indicated that the modifications decreased aerodynamic drag or that adding holes provided the benefit of adding more spin.

The outcome of pickleball players attempting to use paddles with intentional holes in them is that the USA Pickleball Association has rules that provide a violation or penalty. The USAPA removed the approval status of certain paddles or paddleball manufacturers from sanctioned tournaments and championship play.