Pickleball uses a round, perforated plastic ball, about the size of a baseball. The balls have a smooth surface, with between 26 and 40 holes that must be evenly spaced. There are both outdoor pickleballs and indoor pickleballs, with the outdoor balls being slightly heavier than the indoor balls for better use in the wind.
The original pickleball was actually a Wiffle ball
The original pickleball ball was, in fact, a Wiffle ball! The original iteration of pickleball was played on an old badminton court with ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball.
Over time, the sport evolved and the ball evolved with it. But the ball used in pickleball still bears a resemblance to a Wiffle ball.
Characteristics of a pickleball
- Material: A pickleball must be made of a durable material with a smooth surface and free from texturing (but are most often plastic)
- Size: Pickleballs must be between 2.87 inches and 2.97 inches in diameter
- Weight: Pickleballs must be between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces
- Color: Official balls can be any color, but must be uniform. Typically, pickleballs are yellow, orange, or white
- Design: A USAPA approved pickleball can have between 26 and 40 circular holes
The decision on what ball is ultimately used is up to the tournament organizer.
Pickleball balls come in two different varieties: indoor balls for indoor pickleball games, and outdoor balls for outdoor use.
Indoor pickleball balls are softer and with larger holes. This makes them easier to control and spin (though they are harder to smash). Some players will use indoor balls for indoor play and outdoor play, as their greater controllability leads to longer rallies and a more exciting game.
Outdoor pickleball balls are heavier and harder. They typically have smaller holes (to be less affected by the wind) but more of them. They are louder than indoor pickleballs and easier to smash, but have a shorter lifespan (though this is also down to a more abrasive playing surface).
How is a pickleball different from a Wiffle ball?
Wiffle balls and pickleballs are quite similar: they have an almost identical size and are made from the same material: light, durable plastic. However, there are a few differences.
Rather than the circular holes found on pickleballs, Wiffle balls have eight slots on either half of the ball (sixteen in total).
For tournament play, according to the official rules of Wiffle ball, the balls must be white. This is different to pickleball, where multiple colors are acceptable in tournament play.
Where can you buy pickleballs?
Pickleballs can be found at most major sports retailers, as well as at online retailers such as Amazon or Pickleball Central (an pickleball specific superstore).
There are many different pickleball manufacturers, and it can be hard to choose the best one for you.
Sports Illustrated called the Onix Pure their best pickleball of 2022. Onix also stocks other ball designs such as the Onix Fuse.
Overall, the best way to find your favorite pickleball is to try out a few different brands and decide for yourself! Just make sure your balls conform to official rules for tournament play if you are planning to play competitively.
Pickleballs vs balls used in other racquet sports
Pickleballs vs tennis balls
Tennis balls are made using rubber and felt, rather than plastic. They are slightly smaller than the types of balls used in pickleball, and move faster through the air.
These differences are due to the size of the tennis court. Though the two sports use a similar court surface, tennis courts are much larger.
Pickleballs vs racquetballs
Racquetballs are made of rubber. They are like the inside of a tennis ball, without the felt covering.
They are bouncier and softer than pickleballs, but of a similar size. They move faster through the air because of their lack of holes.
Pickleballs vs squash balls
Squash balls are made of the same material as racquetballs, but are smaller.
This means they move faster and bounce less, making squash a more rapid and challenging game than either pickleball or racquetball.
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