If you are looking to buy your first pickleball paddle or have been playing the sport for a while and want to shift paddles but looking to understand which factors should you consider before making that shift, we have it all covered below.
One of the reasons why this is an important guide is because different people have different requirements and priorities. Some might value a paddle’s longevity more than its cost while others prefer lighter paddles at the expense of power.
This guide below speaks of the factors you must consider before buying a pickleball paddle. Because for starters, you might have your own couple or so of requirements you prefer but it’s also prudent to understand every other factor that affect your purchase.
We have tried to explain everything worth looking at in this guide but at the same preferred to keep things crisp so that this doesn’t turn out to be a nearly never-ending guide. If there is any specific information you need from us before buying your paddle to play pickleball, please contact us and we will do our best to get back quickly.
Here we go!
Which Factors Should I Consider Before Choosing a Pickleball Paddle?
There are eight main factors to consider before buying your pickleball paddle. They are mentioned below.
- Core Material
- Face Material
- Weight of the paddle
- Grip size
- The shape of the paddle
- Length of the handle
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Some of the aforementioned factors are self-explanatory while others need an in-depth look. Scroll down below to understand each of them in detail.
Typically two types of materials are used when a pickleball paddle is made. One in its core material and the other in its face material. When it comes to the core material there are primarily three types of materials, Nomex, Polymer and Aluminium Honeycomb.
All three materials do have a honeycomb pattern inside it but they are all designed in a different way and with different material thickness.
The polymer is the most popular choice these days but many players still use Nomex or aluminium honeycomb core paddles as well. Let’s take a look at what are the differences and advantages of the various core materials of a pickleball paddle.
Nomex core paddle features a lightweight core that is used in a variety of sporting equipment. It was the first core material that was used in pickleball paddles and continues to be a popular choice till date. Nomex starts off as a cardboard type material which is dipped in resin to create more durability and resistance ability.
This is a very hard material that has very dense material and a smaller honeycomb size. They perform for a very long period and offer excellent power but they can lack a little bit of control and can be quite loud as well.
Currently, the most popular core used in pickleball paddles is a polymer. it is a perfect core material to create a balanced paddle for power and control. This is a soft material and consists of large size honeycombs. It is the quietest core material amongst the three available options in the market.
Once again, polymer provides great durability and due to its softness gives excellent power as well. But compared to the other two types of material can be a little short on the control that it offers.
Aluminium core paddles are made of lighter weight, aluminium honeycomb cores which are known to provide great touch play. The ball comes off slightly slower from the paddle and allows better manoeuvrability and control to the players. Players who like to play drop shots and touch shots prefer aluminium core.
Aluminium core has very similar traits and performance matrix to Nomex. It has dense material and can be quite loud but offers excellent control to its users. It can lack a little bit in terms of the power that it offers but it is still a popular choice amongst many players.
With regards to the face material of a pickleball paddle once again there are three popular options in the market. Fibreglass, graphite and carbon fibre. Any of these materials can be used in combination with any of the core materials as mentioned above.
Fibreglass composite material makes full use of the advanced aerospace technology to increase playability, touch, feel and power in the paddles. It is one of the most common materials in the market and despite the lack of strength in the material compared to the other two options, it provides great power to the users. This material also offers slightly more spin but it will also be a little more heavy compared to other materials.
Graphite is a very thin material and its surface can be as thin as a fingernail and provides a very responsive and light material. It still retains its hardness and strength & provides quick action for the players. It is slightly heavier than carbon fibre and more cost-effective. Its stiffness stops the ball sinking into the material and thus provides much better placement in the strokes even though it can be a little less durable compared to other face materials.
If one is looking for more control in the strokes and is willing to let go off a bit of power, then graphite is an excellent choice to go for. It is also a very common material in the paddles and is very durable.
This is an upgraded version of the graphite material and provides even more durability. It offers great control at the expense of a bit of power but will cost a little bit more to the pockets. Carbon fibre is the most expensive but durable material amongst all three options.
It provides excellent ball control and offers great control whilst compromising slightly with the power on offer. It is not a very common material used in the paddles because of its cost but is still an excellent choice for players who play at a serious level in the sport.
Overall the choice of the core material and the face material depends upon one’s style of play, the ball they are playing with, whether they are playing indoors or outside in windy conditions and if they are looking for extra power in their strokes or more control. According to what one is looking to add to their game, they can choose a combination of the core and face materials.
Weight of the Paddle
Another very crucial factor to consider whilst choosing a pickleball paddle is its weight. A pickleball paddle can weight from around 6 ounces to 10 ounces. Depending upon a player’s playing style, fitness and swinging technique the weight of a paddle is decided. There are paddles which are heavier than 10 ounces but practically they are not much of use as it’s not really advisable to play with such heavy paddles.
Graphite paddles normally weigh less and will offer a higher degree of control. On the other end, paddles with more weight will give extra power and drive into the shot but it can be taxing on the wrist and will compromise on the control.
Weight is a subjective factor and it has a lot to do with how a particular paddle feels in the player’s hand. Choosing a paddle which is too heavy can have long term impact on the player’s arm and can develop injuries like tennis elbow. It is the skill and fitness of the player and not the weight that determines how well one can play the sport. The weight of the paddle is purely down to what an individual player is comfortable with.
It is also important to note that two paddles which weigh exactly the same may not feel the same in the hand because of its weight distribution. Thus rather then the weight itself, its placement in the paddle is also a crucial factor behind its feel and comfort.
If one is looking to increase control in the game and be able to respond the shots quicker they should go for a lighter paddle, on the other hand, if one is looking to increase power in their strokes, a heavyweight paddle is a way to go.
A typical pickleball paddle grip will range from around 4 inches to 4 1/2 inches. Players with smaller palms will choose grip sizes closer to 4 inches to 4 1/8 inches of grip sizes to maximise wrist snap. A player with a medium-size palm will typically go for a grip size of around 4 1/3 inches whereas players with bigger palms will go for a size closer to 4 1/2 inches.
As a thumb rule, the player who is 5’2″ or shorter should go for a small size grip, a player between 5’2″ and 5’8″ height, should go for a medium-size grip and anyone taller than 5’8″ should go for a large size grip.
But there is another way to find out which grip size will fit your palm perfectly. One should place your palm around the grip, typically the index finger of your spare hand should fit between your fingertips and the palm of your hand.
This space allows for maximum wrist snap and powerful emotion during your strokes. Using a grip size which too small will result in the player forcing the handle into a harder squeeze which will result in hand, forearm and wrist fatigue and can eventually lead to tendonitis. On the other hand, using a grip which is too big will mean that the player will have to use more strength to change the grip during shots and will spend more energy in the process.
The Shape of the Paddle
Pickleball authorities do not regulate the size and shape of the paddles as strictly as most other racket sports. The approved dimensions of a pickleball paddle are based on the length multiplied by the widest width should not exceed 24 inches which include the edge guard and butt cap.
The standard shaped paddles have dimensions of around 8 inches width and 16 inches of length.
There are also oversized paddles where the manufacturers design the paddles by adding more length to its face and shortens the handle. As discussed above, this means that the player has to hold the paddle closer to its end and further away from its sweet spot.
Another shape of a pickleball paddle is an elongated paddle. Certain brands are now pushing the length of the paddle to its highest by making it 17 inches long which is the maximum length allowed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
This types of paddles are specifically made for players with a lot of experience in the game and who require additional reach. This is not an ideal type of paddle for new players as a longer paddle means a narrower sweet spot. It means players have to hit the ball more towards the centre of the paddle and which is not exactly a trait found in beginners in the game.
Length of the Handle
On the face of it, how long the handle of a pickleball paddle is may not look like a deal-breaker but it is a crucial factor when deciding upon which is the best paddle for you. As a rule of thumb, one should try to pick a paddle which has a longer than the length of your palm.
The reason for it is because, for a paddle which has a smaller length of the handle, the player will have to hold the paddle closer to its end which makes swinging the paddle with accuracy a little bit harder.
Whereas on the other hand, a paddle with a slightly longer handle allows the player to hold the paddle closer to its centre of gravity and making the swing smoother and accurate.
One of the most subjective and personal factors that will affect one’s choice of choosing their pickleball paddle is the price. Everyone plays the sport for different reasons and that is why they will have varying levels of budgets that they are comfortable spending on a paddle. So no matter how much one likes the material, length, comfort and shape of the paddle, if it is not within the budget, it’s not suitable.
Typically pickleball paddles can range anywhere between $30 to $150 in terms of its pricing. The lowest-priced paddles are made of 7 ply maple or birch wood. Some paddles come in combo deals along with balls and that can be an ideal solution for people looking to play the sport casually or for children.
For players who want to spend a little bit more and play at a club level, they can get a decent paddle at a range of around $60 to $100. This kind of paddles is typically made of composite material and offer much better power, control and spin then the basic paddles.
Some of the best paddles on the market which uses the latest technology, high-quality material and honeycomb cores can cost around $150 and can be used by players who play the sport at a higher level. Some paddles are as expensive as $300-$400 but again most players in the sport won’t need paddles custom made for them with pinpoint weight, grip size and material.
Once again, pricing of a paddle and budget that one wants to spend on it is a subjective matter and one should go for a paddle which fits their criteria and there is no thumb rule with regards to this factor.
Another minor factor that one should consider when choosing a pickleball paddle is its colour. Normally, colour is a very subjective topic and people tend to buy paddles based on their favourite shades as well at times to match their outfits.
But if you are not picky about the colour of the paddle, it is advisable to pick out a paddle with yellow or similar shades in it. The reason for the same is purely sporting as most of the pickleball balls are yellow.
So there is an advantage in the fact that your opponent may take a fraction of a second extra to spot the ball upon impact if the colour of the paddle and the ball is similar.
These days pickleball balls are available in colours other than yellow as well but the use of them is not very widespread. So choosing a yellow colour paddle may give a slight advantage to you over your opponent.
There are multiple factors that one needs to keep in mind when choosing their pickleball paddles. But the weight and the grip size are probably the two most important factors among them.
A paddle which is too heavy will be almost next to impossible to use and will hamper your progress as a player and will expose to the potential wrist and elbow injuries.
Grip size which is too small or too large will also make playing the pickleball a less pleasant experience and impact your performance on the court.
There are other factors too that one needs to keep in mind.
The core material and face material are two factors that make a big difference to the performance of the paddle and careful thought of what one is looking to get from the paddle, power, control, spin or comfort should go a long way in helping one choose the correct material.
If budget permits, one should avoid the cheap wooden material paddles which have their own set of pros and cons associated with them. Other factors like design and colors are not very significant and should not be a big issue when choosing the paddle.