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Why Do Pickleballs Have Holes?

A pink pickleball left outside the court.

I never played much ball other than softball. Softballs and baseballs don’t have holes, so they sail through the air unencumbered. The harder you hit them, the faster and farther they travel. The only other ball with holes is a bowling ball, and that’s a different principle altogether.

Focusing on the ball and why it’s made the way it is might give you a better understanding of those principles. There is a goal in pickleball, after all, and the way the ball is built helps to achieve that goal. Let’s examine pickleball balls to find out why they’re made like that.

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Not Many Game Balls Have Holes. Dimples, Yes. Stitching, Yes. What Do Holes Do For A Pickleball?

A couple playing pickleball double games.

Wiffle ball, pickleball, and badminton are the only net games played with balls with holes. You’ll notice these games are played outdoors, for the most part. On rainy days, we did play badminton in the gym in high school, so it’s not so out of the ordinary.

Yale physicist Robert Adair was instructing his students to pay attention to the holes in the wiffle ball and how turbulence and pressure affected the ball. They found that air passing through the holes in the wiffle ball actually helped the ball move forward.

Another experiment happened when students poked more holes in the opposite hemisphere of the wiffle ball. Placing the ball in a wind tunnel, the students found that a force acted to push the ball towards the holes.

Measuring the airflow inside the ball in the wind tunnel showed the students that a certain amount of air trapped inside the ball acts to move the ball in the direction the holes are going.

How Do The Holes Get Into The Pickleball? How Are The Balls Made?

A yellow pickleball ball left on an outdoor court.

That depends on if you’re making pickleball balls for outdoor use or for indoor use. Pickleballs used outdoors are heavier and have more holes (40 to be exact.) Indoor balls are lighter and have 26 holes.

Outdoor balls have to be heavier due to the wind affecting their play. Outdoor balls also bounce on harder surfaces, so microscopic pieces slough off the balls. They either break or go out of round. The holes in outdoor pickleball balls are smaller and with more holes in order to decrease wind resistance. The ball will enjoy a more true trajectory.

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Indoor balls weigh much less and bounce against smoother surfaces, so there’s not as much wear as outdoor pickleball balls. They have fewer holes, which makes for better control, they last longer, and they’re easier to spin. They’re usually yellow, to distinguish from outdoor balls, which are orange.

The balls are made by placing hot plastic into a mold that’s one piece. The mold is spun around real fast, which coats the inside of the mold in plastic. The plastic is removed from the mold, the requisite number of holes punched into it, and then it’s “finished,” and ready for play.

Can You Play Pickleball With A Wiffle Ball? It Has Holes

A vector of baseball bat hitting a pickleball.

Both balls are designed to fly through the air with little more than a “how-dya-do” to the wind. They’re both lightweight and made of plastic, but there the similarities end. It’s the holes that make the ball suitable for play.

The holes in a wiffle ball are oblong. They only occupy one portion of the sphere; the other side of the ball is solid with no holes. The air inside the ball determines how the ball arrives: as a curve ball, with a spin, or with a slice. The ball was created to mirror a baseball, and so it delivers the characteristics of a baseball, only lighter.

Pickleballs have uniform holes all over the sphere. The balls intended for outdoor use have 40 holes to allow the air to pass through and/or direct the ball in play. You can use a wiffle ball to play a game of pickleball and the ball will bounce somewhat, but don’t be surprised when the wiffle ball curves instead of going straight.

You Can Plainly Hear The Smack Of A Bat Against A Baseball. Do The Holes In The Pickleball Ball Mean It’s Not A Noisy Game?

A pickleball ball player volleying the ball.

Afraid not. Smacking a plastic ball with a paddle makes a noise. So does the pickleball when it bounces on the court. These popping sounds are going to cause some disturbance unless you’re out in the country with no near neighbors. The noise wouldn’t matter indoors, because you went there to either play or watch a game, so you’d be expecting the noise.

Then there’s the cheering for a well-hit play, the cheering for a winner, and the general glee at watching a game you love from the fans in the stands. I’ve lived close to a high school before, so I know what band practice, cheerleading practice, and the screams at a football game sound like. I, personally, didn’t mind, but some folks did.

The game can be played with foam balls to combat the annoyance of the noise. The only snag to that is that foam balls aren’t regulation pickleball balls, so they aren’t sanctioned by any governing body. If the noise is such a big problem, and if you’re only playing casually and not competing, then by all means grab a foam ball and go have some fun.

Why Do Pickleballs Have Holes FAQs

Why Are There Holes In Pickleball Balls?

Holes allow the ball to travel through the air consistently and more true.

Why Are Yellow And Orange Balls Used In Pickleball?

The yellow ball has 26 holes and is used indoors. The orange ball contains 40 holes and is used outdoors. Pickleball balls come in pink, blue, green, and other colors. Count the holes to determine which color goes for inside play and outside play.

What Pickleball Ball Is Used In Professional Play?

A pickleball professional player volleying on the court.

The brand Dura was chosen by the pickleball founders to make the official ball of the sport. It was designed for performance both indoors and outdoors.

Are There Different Types Of Outdoor Pickleball Balls?

There are brands, yes, but the type remains the same, much like tennis ball brands or golf ball brands. Brands approved by the USA Pickleball Association are TOP, Dura, and ONIX, and they make their pickleball balls the same way: in a mold, spun until the inside of the mold is coated, and then taken out and holes punched in them.

Do The Holes Make A Pickleball Go Flat?

No. Particles slough off the plastic or plastic pieces shear off when hit, but pickleball balls don’t “go flat.” They break or otherwise wear out, and it happens within three to five games.

Is There A Method For Creating Quieter Pickleball?

A vector of yellow pickleball on a white background.

Yes. Soundproof fencing is available that blocks wind and noise, so neighbors won’t even know you’re playing.

If The Holes In Pickleballs Help Them Get Through The Wind In Play, Then How Much Wind Is Too Much?

Pickleball can be played outdoors with a breeze puffing about, but a serious wind means you can’t play. By serious, we mean 15 to 20 mph. That won’t blow you off your feet, but it will blow the pickleball all over the place, making it difficult to hit.