You need two things to master the game of pickleball: know the rules and have the right equipment. Understanding how the right equipment can help to improve your game is crucial.
If you are new to the game, you may be wondering:
What is the equipment that you need to play pickleball?
The equipment needed to play pickleball includes pickleball paddles, a pickleball, a net, a pickleball court, and the appropriate clothing. Certain accessories help to make the game more enjoyable but are not required, such as hats, sunglasses, pickleball bags, and paddle covers.
Let’s get into each a bit more:
Let’s start with the tools of the trade. A pickleball paddle is an essential piece of equipment in the game. It will determine how well you play and affect your body after playing. Picking the right paddle shouldn’t be too challenging. The standard size of a pickleball paddle is 16 inches long and eight inches wide. But, the paddle comes in bigger and smaller sizes as well. The rule book states that the paddle width and length should not exceed a combined 24 inches. This diameter includes the height, length, and butt cap.
The Rule Book does not stipulate any restrictions on the thickness or weight of the paddle. Paddles may be altered, provided that they meet Rule Book specifications. These changes include changes to the edge guard tape on commercially produced paddles, changes to the grip size and wrap, lead tape changes, and any markings or decals on the surface of the paddle.
The USA Pickleball website highlights the requirements for a pickleball paddle. The USA Pickleball Paddle List highlights the approved pickleball paddles for the game. The USA Pickleball Rule Book also stipulates the requirements for all pickleball equipment.
The rules stipulate that all pickleball paddles must be made of rigid, non-compressable materials. The paddle materials should be safe for use and not be prohibited by the rules in the official Rule Book.
The Rule Book states that the surface of a pickleball paddle may not contain any holes, indentations, cracks, or delamination. In addition, the surface of the paddle and the handle may not have any reflective material, which may adversely affect the vision of the opposing player.
A pickleball paddle is made of three materials:
Graphite paddles come in various weights. They are the most expensive paddles. More experienced players use graphite paddles because of their multiple benefits.
Composite paddles are mid-range paddles in price and weight. These paddles are great for beginner players and those with a fair amount of experience.
Wood paddles are the heaviest of the three types and the least expensive. Players who are new to the game may consider buying these paddles. Especially if the player is unsure whether they would like to invest in the sport entirely. While these may be the most cost-effective paddles, the weight on the paddle may adversely affect your game and deter you from wanting to continue with this hobby.
Another essential point is that lighter paddles have less drive but more control, and paddles that weigh more offer less control and more drive and power.
The grip on the paddle is also an essential factor. Take a paddle in your hand and see how it feels. Are you able to adequately grip the paddle? Does the weight feel too heavy or too light? When you can answer these questions, you will be able to select the best paddle for your game.
Wooden paddles start at $15. Composite paddles start at $40 and go up to $100. Graphite, the most expensive paddle, starts at $90 and goes up to $200 for a paddle.
Pickleball players play with a specific pickleball ball. There are two different types of pickleball balls: indoor and outdoor. Both of these balls serve a specific purpose. The pickleball ball is a plastic ball with perforated holes.
The Rule Book indicates that these balls should have a minimum of 26 and a maximum of 40 circular holes. These holes determine the flight pattern of the ball. The flight pattern is specific to whether the game is being played indoors or outdoors. The holes must adhere to the flight characteristics of the ball. These balls move across the court faster than tennis balls due to the holes that cause less drag.
The balls are made of a durable plastic material. The ball’s surface should be smooth and have no texturing on it. The rules stipulate that while the ball may be any color, it should only be one color.
Again, balls must appear on the approved pickleball ball list on the USA Pickleball website.
There are no specifications about the ball’s color, provided you can clearly see the ball when playing.
Indoor pickleball balls have larger holes, while outdoor balls have smaller holes. In addition, indoor balls are softer and weigh less than outdoor balls. The reason is that indoor balls are played on wooden or rubberized surfaces, while outdoor balls are played on cement or asphalt surfaces.
Indoor balls have less drive and bounce, and outdoor balls travel faster and bounce more on the asphalt surface.
These balls retail for around $1.50 each.
The Pickleball Court
With the rise of popularity in this sport, more and more courts are becoming available to players. You can go onto the USA Pickleball site to find nearby court locations. The site has a page called “places2play,” where you can Google nearby indoor or outdoor courts.
Players have the option of playing indoors or outdoors. Both dimensions for indoor and outdoor courts are the same. The court diameter is similar for singles and doubles.
You can find indoor courts in sporting facilities, recreation centers, fitness centers, schools, and churches. There are outdoor pickleball courts located in public parks. The significant difference between these two options is that outdoor courts are usually free to play on, while there is a small fee associated with playing at indoor facilities.
Pickleball courts are similar in size to badminton courts.
Four perimeter lines outline the court. Two lines along the side of the court that run perpendicular to the net indicate the length of the court and are known as the sidelines. Two lines indicate the width of the court and are known as the baselines. The baselines run parallel to the net.
The court is divided by a service net. We’ll get more into this topic in a moment.
The no-volley zone, or kitchen, is located on either side of the net, approximately seven feet away from the net, and is marked by the no-volley zone lines. The distance from the no-volley lines to the baselines is approximately fifteen feet. This area is known as the service courts. Each service court is divided in half by a centerline. There is a right and left service court on either side of the pickleball court from which opponents play.
The net that divides the court is 36 inches in height at the sidelines and 34 inches in height at the center.
Court color and markings
Courts traditionally come in blue or green and are marked in yellow, white, or green. The official Pickleball Rule Book does not indicate which color the court should be, but there are a few specifications about the chosen colors.
There must be a contrast between the court colors and the line markings. The color contrast lets players see the ball as it moves across the court more clearly. Light colors do not attract or retain heat and keep the court cool during summer. Dark colors do attract and retain heat. These colors may be a good fit for courts in areas with a lot of winter snowfall. The retained heat can help to melt the snow faster.
There is a problem with markings on indoor courts, though. Usually, indoor pickleball courts are make-shift courts shared with other indoor sports such as tennis or basketball. These overlapping lines result in a lot of confusion, although they are different in color.
If you do not have a designated court, you can use colored tape to mark out the lines of the court on a badminton court or tennis court.
The Pickleball Net
The pickleball net is essential equipment needed to play the game. Not all courts come standard with a net. There are portable nets for courts that do not come with a net. The rules indicate that the net material should be any mesh material that will not allow the ball to pass through.
The net, as previously mentioned, is 36 inches in height at the sidelines and 34 inches in height at the center. The posts of the net should be 22 feet apart, and each post should be three inches in diameter. The net should extend for 21 feet and nine inches from one post to the other.
We’ve covered the basics of the essential equipment needed to play the game. The following list will highlight items that may not be essential at first but will help to improve your game.
There are currently no official pickleball shoes on the market.
Players make use of tennis shoes or court shoes. These shoes offer the proper support for the player’s feet, ankles, and toes during play. Pickleball players often make sudden moves, jump high, or move laterally on the court. These movements require that the shoe offer the appropriate support for the players’ feet and ankles. In addition, the shoes should provide sufficient shock absorption abilities to alleviate stress on a player.
The shoe should offer excellent grip on the court. During a match or tournament, a player may need to change direction quickly. This is why the shoe’s grip is so important. The shoe should help to stop the movement immediately and help the player move in a different direction quickly.
A good tread pattern is also great for lateral movements.
This is why cross-trainers, running shoes, and walking shoes are not ideal for this sport. Do not buy or use these shoes to play pickleball, as they will not offer the right support on the court and could adversely affect your game.
The ideal pickleball shoe helps to keep you safe on the court and will help to prevent any injuries during play.
These shoes endure a lot during play and will not last long. You should replace the shoes after approximately 60 hours of play.
The next important piece of apparel is shorts or skirts.
The pickleball game requires players to move quickly across the court from one side to the other. The apparel should make it easy for players to move and not hinder them. The movements on a pickleball court are very similar to badminton and traditional tennis.
The shorts and skirts used to play these sports are ideal for wearing when you are playing pickleball. The official rule book does not state any rules or regulations regarding what players should wear, apart from the fact that it should be appropriate for the sport being played.
Similarly, the shirt players opt to wear should promote movement and not hinder the player. Avoid wearing restrictive clothing made from hard or starchy fabrics.
What piece of pickleball equipment is the most important?
There are three pieces of equipment that are essential to playing the game:
- The paddle
- The ball
- The net
If you are serious about playing the game, consider investing in a good paddle, a high-quality portable net, and high-quality balls. Everything else can be purchased later. Essentially, pickleball shoes are also very important. These should be your next purchase. The equipment listed above should be sufficient to start your game.
How much do I need to get the equipment I need?
The prices previously listed highlight that you can start with under $200. You can purchase a paddle for under $90. Balls will cost you $1.50 each, and a good net may cost you under $100.
Can I download the official pickleball rule book for free?
The rulebook is available for free online.