Finding the best model can be a very personal choice just as it is for tennis racquets. Is a composite pickleball paddle right for me? Should I get a graphite pickleball paddle? Finding the best paddle can be confusing for those who have never played a racquet sport before.
What is the best type of pickleball paddle? Materials, weights, and even sounds vary considerably. Prices range all over the map. With all the different pickleball paddles on the market today, it is smart to do some homework. Read More
Pickleball paddles have three important pieces and the materials in each will impact your play.
Other than solid wood paddles, the core is made up of honeycomb shaped material. This material can be aluminum, Nomex, or polymer (sometimes called a polypropylene honeycomb core). Each has their own positives and negatives. Polymer cores dominate with about 81% of the market.
The hitting surface can be covered in fiberglass (composite), graphite, or carbon fibers. Graphite and carbon fiber are similar but produce somewhat different results. A graphite face will also increase the cost.
The handle dampens vibrations but the grip covering the handle can really impact how you play pickleball. These will vary based on tackiness, absorbency, thickness, softness and surface contours.
Grip size is fairly standard but can be adjusted with grip tape to get you to your correct grip circumference.
A new paddle may have a cushioned grip. Some feel this makes for the ideal. For others, a comfortable grip is not not padded.
The newness of this sport and its rapid growth means the market has two categories of popular manufacturers of pickleball paddles:
As expected, the tennis racquet companies are major forces including: Head and Wilson. With big research and marketing budgets, they make the investments for players to find the right equipment for them.
Smaller companies making a good pickleball paddle include Franklin, Harrow, Gamma, Onix Sports, Paddletek, Prolite, and Selkirk. These companies make a great paddle for their customers knowing what they want.
Picking a perfect pickleball paddle
While price should be considered, other factors should drive your decision.
Weight should be your biggest concern.
- Light paddles (under 7.4 oz.) give you more control and are easier to use with less strain on elbows but generate less power and depth because you need more energy and swing to hit the ball hard. They can help with volleys and other shots requiring quick reaction time.
- Heavy paddles (over 8.4 oz) give you power and depth but at the expense of ball control and higher risk for injury. They can really help with baseline drives and serves.
- Players with existing injuries such as tennis elbow or wrist or shoulder injuries will not feel improvement playing with heavy models. If they are experienced players, staying with mid-weight models is the wise path.
What is your playing ability and experience? Like tennis racquets, it does not help you to play with pickleball equipment made for someone with a very different level of skill than you.
A beginner will struggle to hit with equipment made for a professional and could get injured due to the generally heavier weight and smaller sweet spot. A professional might not get injured playing with beginner's equipment, but they won't get the spin, power, shot placement or finesse they demand from their pickleball paddle.
A very fit person may find a heavy pickle ball paddle easier to use than someone not as fit. A pickle ball paddle will require some degree of strength to play the game.
Some places (particularly gated communities) have approved lists of pickle ball paddles due to noise considerations. Nomex cores generally produce the loudest sound and a polymer core the softest.
Your first pickleball paddle
In trying to decide what is the best pickleball paddle for beginners there are a number of factors to consider. When buying your first pickleball paddle, or any new paddle, finding your own perfect paddle might mean trying several out first.
1. If you truly are a complete novice at racquet sports - no tennis, no racquetball, badminton at picnics only, it makes sense to begin with a less expensive, lighter weight paddle. This way you can have fun right away and minimize the chances of injury.
2. Soon enough, you’ll be hooked and tennisracquets.com sells higher end graphite paddle as your skill improves. Remember: if you’ll play at places with noise restrictions and an approved list of pickleball paddles, you will want to start there.
3. Beware of a super cheap solid wood paddle! They are not helpful in learning the game or avoiding injury. And they are noisy too.
4. If you are new to pickle ball but converting from tennis or you are generally a good athlete, a midweight, perhaps a graphite pickleball paddle, will make sense for you as your game will grow into the paddle quickly. Take a look through our Pickleball Equipment Gear Guide.
5. Check out our Getting Started with Pickleball guide to give you some basics.
Every pickleball paddle has some sort of protection around the head. This will protect the paddle as you reach for drop shots or other low balls. A low profile edge guard can be a desirable feature.
A thicker protection barrier might seem like a good idea but it might have a smaller hitting surface. In addition, the weight in a pickleball paddle might be out of balance if the edge is too thick.
Paddles for tournament play
With all the different paddles on the market today, there is tremendous variety found among professionals. An approved list is maintained by the governing authority for pickleball and it is enforced at tournaments.
Expect to see exotic graphite carbon fiber face paddles and all the latest materials available. A premium grip is almost standard.
Shop for the best
Selection: from beginner to aspiring intermediate to pro, you will find a good paddle that is right for you. Price: always competitive and running sales for sharp eyed shoppers, we make it easy to buy.
One stop shop: with apparel, shoes, balls and more accessories than you can imagine, tennisracquets.com can outfit you from head to toe. We are here to answer your questions. Call us!