I am a huge pickleball fan. But I wasn’t always one until I met this friend in college. He was hosting a party in his parents’ backyard and suggested we play pickleball.
I had no clue how it’s done. Turns out, it has so many similarities with ping pong – one of my strongholds. So it didn’t take me long to catch on. But the one thing I will always find fascinating about pickleball is the balls.
I decided to dig deeper, and now I’ll share with you everything I know about them. Take a look!
Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleballs
First things first: what are pickle balls made of? They are made of plastic and look somewhat like wiffle balls but are heavier. They are usually brightly colored to aid in visibility – most of them are orange colored. Other popular colors are yellow and white. Official rules do not dictate the color.
What distinguishes the balls is the number of holes in them, which varies depending on whether you are playing pickleball indoors or outdoors. Some pickleball ball rules apply to both indoor and outdoor balls. These are:
- The ball should have a uniform color and made of smooth molded material (colors may vary)
- The ball should have a diameter of between 2.87 and 2.97 inches
- The ball must weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces
- The ball hardness should be 40-50 on a Durometer D scale
- The holes must be evenly spaced
Indoor pickleballs generally have bigger holes, so they are usually fewer. The big holes create more room for drag, but the downside is that slamming them is harder.
Besides, indoor pickleballs are made of softer plastic but are textured to give the players more spin. They also tend to be lighter, but that shouldn’t be a problem since they are used away from the wind. When they wear, they develop soft spots.
Outdoor pickleballs are quite the opposite. They are heavier and made of more rigid plastic. That means getting hit by an outdoor pickleball hurts more.
They have 40 holes, as opposed to the 26 found in indoor pickleballs – the holes are smaller, though. Notably, outdoor pickleballs are harder to control since they have less drag. That’s why most newbies shy away from them.
Another thing about outdoor pickleball is that they wear faster than indoor ones, although the playing style and environmental conditions play a role in how long they last.
One-Piece vs. Two-Piece Pickleballs
Apart from grouping pickleball balls based on where they are used, we can also categorize them based on how they are manufactured. That gives us one-piece and two-piece pickleballs. Let’s take a deeper look.
One-piece pickleballs are the standard tournament-style balls. They tend to fly straight and more predictable hits off the paddle and bounce off the court. These balls are produced through a rotational molding process.
The process starts by pouring virgin material and powdered colorant into a mold. The mold is then closed and placed in an oven, rotating evenly on a 3D axis. This way, the ball is laid down in an even layer 2mm thick and has no seam.
Cooling also takes place inside the mold. That ensures even hardening. Holes are drilled later using a computer numerical control machine.
While one-piece pickleballs use a rotation molding process, two-piece pickleballs use an injection molding process. In this process, the material is first melted and then forced into two hemisphere stationary molds under high pressure. The pressure distributes the material throughout the molds.
Then the two hemispheres are merged, creating a seam on the inside. The seam increases the ball’s weight by about 30%. Due to the uneven wall thickness, two-piece pickleballs have less predictable flights, hits, and bounces.
That decreases their overall performance. However, some people prefer them over one-piece pickleballs, albeit the reduced performance due to their soft texture.
Picking the Right Ball
If you are still a pickleball novice, an indoor ball would be the best choice, even if you want to play outdoors. Since it moves slower, you will stand a better chance of mastering proper form.
However, you would have to play on a calm day without the wind. If you are a high-level player, then the tempo that comes with an outdoor ball would be such a thrill.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pickleball
Here are some of the frequently asked questions regarding pickleballs.
Can Anyone Play Pickleball?
Yes, anyone can play pickleball. The rules are pretty straightforward. Another reason pickleball is for everyone is that it doesn’t take up so much space.
A regular tennis court is enough for four pickleball courts. The court is so tiny that you can play while holding a conversation with your friends.
What Skills Do I Gain by Play Pickleball?
Pickleball is as much a game of wits as it is a physical sport. You get a chance to work on your balance, reflexes, hand-eye coordination, agility, and reflexes. But the good thing is that it doesn’t strain any part of your body.
It can be a good alternative if you used to play tennis but can no longer play due to physical challenges like hip or shoulder problems.
Is Pickleball Available in Parks?
Pickleball courts were not a common sight in parks. But times are changing. As pickleball continues gaining popularity, some parks and recreational departments are adjusting.
Even when you can’t find a court at the park, you can easily create one at home.
How can I Build an Outdoor Pickleball Court?
The first thing you need to do is determine the space where your pickleball court will go. The pickleball court dimensions are 20 by 44 feet for both singles and doubles play. The net height is 36 inches on the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle.
30 by 60 feet should be enough playing area. Once you’ve settled on the site, it’s time to pick court surface materials. Common choices include concrete, asphalt, and snap-together plastic.
It’s also essential to fence your court to secure both your ball and the players. You then need to light up your court, shop for net systems, and have everything installed. Most importantly, buy the right ball, and you are good to go.
What’s the Difference Between Pickleball Balls and Wiffleball Balls?
As I mentioned earlier, pickleball and wiffleball balls are so similar. In fact, pickleball was initially played with a wiffleball. It wasn’t until later that pickleball balls were invented.
Does that mean you can still use a wiffleball in the place of a pickleball today? A weak yes. The difference between the two is that wiffleball only has holes on one side.
They are also slightly smaller and exclusively white. Another difference is that the holes in the wiffleball are oblong, while the pickleball ones are circular.
When was Pickleball Invented?
Pickleball is the brainchild of two men – Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell. One Saturday in the summer of 1965, these two men went to Pritchard’s home after playing golf. Everyone at home didn’t have anything to do, and there was an old badminton court.
The only problem was that they could not find a complete set of badminton rackets. So they improvised with ping pong paddles. It was a lot of trial and error. The following weekend, Barney McCallum joined them in the game.
That’s when they sat down and came up with rules strongly rooted in badminton. It wasn’t until 1972 that a corporation was formed to protect this new sport. Come 1990, and pickleball was being played in all 50 states.
By 2021, the USA Pickleball Membership reached over 53,000 members.
What is the Best Pickleball Ball Color?
Typically, these balls are available in bright colors like yellow, red, neon, white, and orange. Most people prefer the most luminous neon color, especially for outdoor games.
What Type of Shoes Should I Wear for Pickleball?
Pickleball is so easy that anyone can play. But that has led to people overlooking other essential parts of the game, like wearing the right gear. So let’s clear that up.
The first thing you need to understand is that pickleball involves a lot of lateral movements and lunging forward and back. That means regular running shoes won’t do. The best choice would be tennis shoes since they have torsional stability.
However, you can find pickleball-specific shoes on the market.
How Many Players are there in Pickleball?
You can either play pickleball one-on-one (referred to as singles) or two-on-two (doubles).
What is the Objective of a Pickleball Game?
The goal of a pickleball match is to score more points than the opponent(s). Another goal of this game is to introduce players to similar games like tennis and badminton. Mastering pickleball allows for a smooth transition into these games.
Pickleball also aims to bring racquet sports to the disabled. Consequently, wheelchair leagues have been on the rise in recent years.
What are the Top Pickleball Brands Today?
Pickleball is still an upcoming sport, so shopping for equipment might be quite challenging. However, several brands have taken up the challenge. Here are some of them.
Selkirk Sport is a premium brand known for producing all sorts of pickleball equipment. However, this family-owned company based out of Idaho mainly focuses on paddles. One of their most popular products is the Selkirk AMPED S2 X5 FiberFlex Pickleball Paddle.
PROLITE Sports has been in this business since 1984. Throughout the years, they have been providing top-notch pickleball equipment, from balls to training aids, paddles, and everything else you might need for pickleball.
Engage is another brand that offers outstanding pickleball equipment. Although their primary focus is paddling, they also have a phenomenal selection of balls, towels, backpacks, nets, and clothes. Their paddles are among the most commonly used by professionals during tournaments since the USAPA sanctions them.
What are the Rules of the Game?
It would be safe to say that pickleball is highly unregulated. In most cases, it is played in informal settings, so the rules are not strictly followed. But ideally, only the serving side can score points. They score if:
- The opponent hits the ball out of bounds
- Opponent volleys in the non-volley zone
- The opponent fails to return the ball
To win the game, one side has to reach a score of 11 while leading by at least two points. If one side garners 11 points but has no two-point gap, the game continues until one side is two points ahead. Therefore, a pickleball game can never end in a draw. Other rules of the game include:
- A coin toss decides which side serves first
- The ball should be served diagonally
- The receiver should let the ball bounce before returning the serve
- There is a non-valley zone on each side of the net (7-foot area)
- If playing doubles, only the player served can return the ball
What is My Pickleball Rating?
The answer to this question will depend on why you ask – if we are being honest. Are you a professional player? Or do you just play to blow off some steam?
If it’s the latter, your rating is either beginner, intermediate, or advanced. However, if you play professionally, you are looking at a 2-digit or 4-digit rating. Your skill level is determined by factors like your ability to serve, dink, do the third shot, and much more.
The 2-digit rating is what is used in club and league play. The 4-digit rating only came around in 2019, and the ratings change after each game. Here is a breakdown of the 2-digit rating:
- 1.0-2.0 – a beginner who has no background in sports
- 2.5 – a player with little experience
- 3.0 – a player with a basic understanding of court positioning
- 3.5 – a player who can distinguish between a hard and soft game. They understand when stacking might be necessary
- 4.0 – a player who can identify and exploit their opponent’s weaknesses
- 4.5 – a player with excellent footwork and can communicate well with their partner
- 5.0 – someone who has mastered all pickleball tricks. They rarely make unforced errors
Is Pickleball an Olympic Sport?
At the moment, pickleball is not an Olympic sport. For a sport to qualify for Olympic consideration, it must be played in 75 countries across four continents for men’s competition or 40 countries on three continents for women’s competition.
That means things may change for the 2024 Paris Olympics or the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The chances of pickleball qualifying in 2024 are pretty slim, though.
Random Facts About Pickleballs
Now that we’ve discussed almost everything there is to talk about pickleball, let’s end on a light note – by looking at some pickleball fun facts. Here we go!
- The name pickleball is not associated with the pickles we eat. The game was named by the creator’s wife, Joan Pritchard. It was inspired by her love for college rowing.
- Naples, Florida, is regarded as the Pickleball Capital of the World. Fair enough, it is home to the largest dedicated pickleball facility in the world. The facility has 64 pickleball courts and hosts the U.S Open Pickleball Championships tournament.
- Pickleball could be your favorite celebrity’s favorite sport. Some stars that love this sport include Kim Kardashian, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ellen Degeneres.