With both sports gaining popularity in recent years, it's easy to write them off as similar racquet sports. But each game is uniquely nuanced and fun in its own way!

Comparing Platform Tennis to Pickleball

Two sports with shrunken tennis courts and using paddles. Must be the same game right? Two sports where eye to hand coordination drives a small ball is perhaps the key physical skill. Gotta be the same right? Two sports that are usually played as a doubles game and are highly social forms of competition and are reachable by people of very wide age ranges. So pickleball and platform tennis are really the same right?

Not so fast! While the comparisons appear to favor two very similar sports, the reality is that these two very fun forms of exercise are quite different. In general, pickleball is a faster game and while certainly tactical in its own way, is somewhat less grounded in playing tactics than platform. Read on for the deep dive on all the differences making these fun and popular games so very different.

What is a Platform Tennis Court?

Perhaps the most glaring difference is found in the construction of a platform court vs. the construction of a pickleball court. With pickleball, literally any flat, smooth, hard surface such as asphalt or concrete can be used for a court if it is big enough. Just paint some lines, put up a net and you are good to go.

With platform tennis, the good news is the ground does not have to be level. The bad news is the court is constructed on pilings (typically) with deck boards being the surface played on and twelve foot high chicken wire walls enclosing it. These wire walls make the game structurally different as players are allowed to hit any ball bouncing off the wire back into the opponent’s court. The walls also mean that power, while important to a degree, is not everything as a ball hit past you might be playable off the back or side walls - similar to the tactics used in racquetball.

Finally, a pickleball court is 20 by 44 feet inside the lines:

Layout and dimensions of a pickleball court.

While on the other hand, the platform court is 30 by 60 feet with 8 feet behind the base lines and 5 feet along each side. Because of the walls, that is the maximum distance for play.

Layout and dimensions of a platform tennis court.

Weather Differences

Platform players view themselves as hearty, tough athletes. Because the courts are built on top of a platform, heaters are usually installed beneath the surface allowing (indeed encouraging) play in cold, wet, and even snowy conditions. While there is no rule requiring the game to be outside, it is exceedingly rare to find any played indoors.

Pickleball is only played in dry conditions but is often played indoors, particularly in cooler climates. Indeed, balls are made differently for indoors than outdoors.

Platform Tennis Paddles vs. Pickleball Paddles

While they are similar in length (platform: 18 inches, pickleball: 16-17 inches) the similarities end there. Both sports have governing bodies that certify what paddles are legal and which ones are not. See our Buying Guide for Pickleball and our Buying Guide for Platform Tennis for more details, but in quick summary some key differences are:

  • Shape: pickleball paddles cannot exceed 24 inches when adding length to width and therefore are usually shaped like ping pong paddles, flattened on the top and bottom. Platform paddles are round or oval with holes drilled to reduce wind resistance. The holes cannot exceed ⅜ of an inch in diameter and 87 is the max number allowed.

  • Materials: platform materials are dominated by the density of the foam inside the head. In pickleball, the honeycomb interior is important as is the use of carbon fiber or fiberglass on the surface.

  • Face: in platform, the face can be textured to increase spin and use any color other than green or yellow, whereas in pickleball it cannot be textured and any color is legal.
Platform tennis paddle, dark gray with green accents.

Platform Tennis Paddle

Pickleball paddle, dark grey with white accents.

Pickleball Paddle

Other Equipment Differences

In addition to the fundamental differences in paddle design, the other equipment each sport varies. Specifically, this includes:

  • Balls: platform are a compressible foam rubber 2.5 inches in diameter. Pickleball plays with hard plastic wiffle ball type construction with 26 holes for indoor and 40 holes for outdoor balls. The diameter is just under 3 inches.
  • Gloves: common with platform and not so common with pickleball (but legal).
  • Shoes: platform players must have shoes ready for traction in any weather.
  • Net: both sports have 34 inches of height in the middle but the platform net is one inch higher at the ends with 37 inches of height.

5 Rule Differences

Of course, there are also some major difference in the rules of each game. We recommend checking out our guide to the Five Basic Rules of Pickleball and the Five Basic Rules of Platform Tennis for full details, but to point out some key differences:

PICKLEBALL


  • Serving is underhand only.

  • Games are to 11 with servers only winning points.

  • Has a zone near the net called the “kitchen” or “no volley zone” where players may not hit volleys out of the air.

  • The ball must be allowed to bounce on both the serve and return of serve.

  • A shot hit in court passing the players ends the point.

PLATFORM TENNIS


  • Serves can be overhead or underhand.

  • Uses same scoring as tennis with the winner of the rally awarded the point.

  • No “kitchen.”

  • Only the serve must be allowed to bounce.

  • Balls can be played off the chicken wire if they bounce in the court first and the returner hits the ball directly back into the opponent’s court.

Since both games emphasize the social aspects of play, it is fair to say that fun is the most important similarity. However, you still should shop TennisRacquets.com for the best paddles, balls, shoes and other accessories. Getting exercise while smiling this much is an amazing way to enjoy your day. Why not get started today?


Interested in Pickleball or Platform Tennis?
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