When the question arises, how to choose a Pickleball paddle?
People may believe only beginners face problems choosing a pickleball paddle, but that’s not always the case. Beginners will absolutely benefit from assistance, but what about intermediate and advanced players?
No matter whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, staying up-to-date with the facts is crucial.
This guide can help you to choose a Pickleball paddle, and reading my latest advice will keep you up to date on the best paddles in pickleball for years to come.
Pickleball is an entertaining game that requires fitness, precision, and skill. It’s now among the most popular racket games in the US, with thousands of players enjoying it every day. Pickleball provides lots of fun and can be played by people of all ages and genders.
However, you need the right equipment if you want to perform well on the pickleball court. A high-quality pickleball paddle is an essential piece of equipment required for the game. But how would you tell which pickleball paddle is perfect for you? As a seasoned pickleball player and instructor, I will highlight all the important considerations you need to make when shopping for a pickleball paddle.
So, read on!
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Factor to Consider in Order to Choose a Pickleball Paddle
Rather than delving deep into the pros and cons of every available pickleball paddle on the market, I’m going to highlight their key features to help you choose one that will work for you and your style of play. Of course, the market is flooded with options—Wilson, too, has now joined the bandwagon with their own paddle. Understanding the key features is what’s most important to picking a paddle. So, let’s get started already.
The six main features to look at when choosing a pickleball paddle include:
Weight is perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing a pickleball paddle. The paddle’s weight will determine how it feels when you pick it up, when you swing it, and when you’ve been holding it through an intense and long-lasting game.
Most pickleball paddles weigh between 6 and 14 ounces, which significantly affects power and control. A heavier paddle gives more power and drive, but less control—while a lighter paddle offers more control but less drive.
Depending on your fitness level, you may want to begin with a lighter paddle as you put on more muscles, then you can upgrade to a heavier model for more drive. As an experienced player, I understand I can’t have it all—a tradeoff has to be made to achieve optimum performance. So, I typically choose a paddle that weighs between 7 and 8.5 ounces to acquire a perfect balance between power and control. And if you’re also an experienced player, that would be my recommendation for you.
Additionally, your racketing experience may determine the right paddle weight to choose. I am a jack-of-all-trades—having played lawn tennis, table tennis, and now pickleball. As a table tennis player (current or former) you are often accustomed to using your wrists to make powerful shots, so you’ll probably prefer light to medium weight paddles. On the other hand, if you’re a current or former lawn tennis player, you may prefer heavier paddles since you’re used to the weight of a racket.
Choose a grip size that comfortably fits your hand. A larger grip offers more stability, but a too-large grip can easily slip out of your hand and cause injuries. Smaller grips offer more wrist action, which ensures better control and spin.
Most manufacturers will provide grip size charts to help you choose the right fit. However, you can still use what’s known as the height test to determine the right size.
If you’re less than 5′ 2″, a 4″ grip may be adequate.
If you’re 5′ 3″ to 5′ 8″, choose a 4 ¼″ grip, and
If you’re 5′ 9″ or taller, consider a 4 ½″ grip.
Now, if you can get access to some paddles before buying one, probably from friends or your local court, a better way to choose the right grip size is by actually testing them out.First, try holding each paddle with your normal grip. Slide in your index finger (from your free hand) in between the heel of the gripping hand and your fingertips. If you’re holding the correct paddle size, the finger should fit snugly. If it doesn’t, it’s too small for your grip; and if it leaves too much space, the size is too big for you. So, try the next paddle.
Pickleball paddles are made of three main materials: composite, graphite, and wood.
Wood produces the heaviest, durable and least expensive paddles. If you’re a new player or hesitant to invest in an expensive piece of equipment, you can opt for a wood paddle. I still own a wooden pickleball paddle that I bought over a decade ago, and it’s still in great shape.
Composite paddles fall in the middle range of paddle categories. They are moderately priced and come in a wide range of weights and sizes.
Graphite paddles are the most expensive choices and offer lightweight and power. I will explain a little bit more about the performance of different paddle materials in one of the following sections (Power vs. Control), as far as drop shots, half volleys, and dinking are concerned.
It is a new technology in the manufacturing of pickleball paddles. It is incorporated to make them lighter, stronger and denser. The materials used for that are aluminum, Nomex, and polypropylene. The latter is the latest entry in the market.
Hitting Surface Size
According to official rules regarding pickleball, the sum of the width and height should never exceed 24 inches. Therefore, it is either a short & wide or long & narrow. The former is for beginners while the latter is for experts.
The dimensions of pickleball paddles are regulated based on the overall length × the widest section of the paddle. Most designs add some extra inches to the face by reducing the handle length while maintaining the overall dimensions. Most oversized and wide-body paddles are made this way. However, some tournament circuit paddles are often designed with a much narrower face to provide an extra inch or so in length.
So, why is the length important during play?
A longer paddle gives you the much-needed reach to volley balls and a little extra speed due to the extra distance from the COR (center of rotation) of the paddle. However, the extra distance also causes the paddle head to feel a little heavier, making it less maneuverable.
Unless you’re an advanced racket-sport player with no trouble hitting the sweet spot every time, stick to regular oversized or wide-body paddles. The paddle should fall within the USAPA guidelines if you’re looking to engage in tournament play later on. The overall length of the paddle (including the butt cap and edge guard) should not exceed 24 inches.
Do I want a plastic edge guard or a plastic one? There are others that are edgeless but have tape along the paddle’s edge. Their purpose is to protect your paddle from damage. However, one should choose wisely to ensure that it does not add too much weight to it for comfortable playing.
There isn’t much to say about color, but unless and until USAPA bans yellow paddles, they will continue providing a slight advantage over your opponents by making it difficult for them to visualize the ball as it bounces off your paddle. It’s purely your choice whether to take the color advantage or not. But if you decide against it, you can simply pick your favorite color or something that matches your outfit.
Power vs. Control
I always keep my promises, so here we are. Now, many paddles are designed to give lots of “pop” under very minimal effort (graphite, fiberglass, or cork-centered paddles), making them great for hitting the ball over the net from the far end of the court—you simply stick the paddle against the ball and it effortlessly flies to your opponent’s court. It isn’t that simple in a real-game situation, though. You can play drop shots or half-volleys from the far end of the court without using so much energy.
However, it’s a little difficult to control the ball, especially when you have to play closer to the net. The ball may go deeper or fly higher when you’re dinking at the net, which is not really amusing. But again, the added speed with which the ball bounces off the paddle can make it more difficult for your opponent to return the volley. I don’t often recommend these paddles for beginners—they can be a little intimidating.
The bottom line is to pick what works best for you. If you’re a tournament player looking to integrate dinking into your game, go for more control rather than more power by choosing a composite paddle. However, if you want maximum speed with little effort or prefer staying at the far end of the court, you can opt for power.
Having said all that, you shouldn’t be stressed about choosing the perfect pickleball paddle. If you’re just getting your hands into the sport, you can pick a random wooden or composite paddle and begin enjoying the game. Your preference and taste will obviously change as you develop and evolve in the game. But if you want to dive right into to a high-quality, tournament-grade pickleball paddle with the correct combination of finesse and power, take note of the features we’ve discussed here.
Have you made your choice? Now, go have a thrilling pickleball gaming experience!
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