If you wonder, how to choose a pickleball paddle? I’ve enlisted all the features that you must consider while buying a new pickleball paddle.
Which pickleball paddle makes sense for you? This is probably the hardest question to answer when you are in a market flooded with dozens of brands offering different pickleball paddles. It is your style of play that will lead you to the paddle that fits your needs.
But also you need to consider various other features so that you can buy the most dependable pickleball paddle for you. In this guide, I’ll cover all these features that you must consider while buying a new pickleball paddle.
Related: Pickleball Skill Ratings
How To Choose Pickleball Paddles?
Step 1. Core
Paddle core density, thickness, and material affect your performance more than any other feature. So I’m beginning the discussion with the core.
Before you start your research, decide whether you prefer control or power. If you are an aggressive hitter, you need a thinner (13 mm or less) core. If you are a beginner a thicker core (16+ mm) will be a good option for you since it offers excellent control. However, for recreational games, the standard core thickness is between 13-15 mm.
When it comes to core construction the most common choice is a polymer (carbon fiber). Most brands prefer carbon fiber since it is durable, quiet, and offers a perfect balance between power and feel. Though aluminum core paddles are also available, they are rarely found.
I recommend you stay away from aluminum core paddles as they are noisy, lack touch, and wear out quickly. Remember not all polymer cores are made equally.
Premium-grade paddles use high-quality polymers making them more durable and dependable. Pickleball paddles designed for recreational games use lower-quality polymers to make them affordable.
The third aspect you need to consider is the core density. The core of a pickleball paddle is basically millions of honeycomb cells packed together. High-density core means a smaller but more number of cells packed together. A higher-density core makes the paddle hard, and firm. It means you can hit hard with a gentle swing.
High-density cores have a big impact on your performance and if you are not on a budget I would recommend you always go for a high-density core.
Step 2. Paddle Surface/Face
Paddle face is another crucial feature that largely affects spin and power. A harder surface absorbs the energy and distributes it through the handle. It gives you a better feel. The flex face material flex when a ball hits it. A flexible face absorbs less energy and lacks the feel but offers impressive power.
Spin is another feature that depends upon the face construction. To generate controlled spin you need a paddle that offers a balanced ratio between the surface adhesion and friction. Higher friction leads to uncontrolled spin and sometimes unfair advantage. Make sure the paddle you are buying meets the surface friction and adhesion standards set by USA Pickleball.
Graphite paddles are the most expensive pickleball paddles. These paddles are lightweight, rigid and produce incredible spin. These features allow players to respond quickly without sacrificing power and control. So most Pro players prefer graphite paddles. Graphite is thin but sturdy and offers an incredible feel.
Also, graphite paddles offer a perfect balance between adhesion and friction allowing you to generate the desired spin in the big games. Whether you are a beginner or a competitive player, if you have enough money a graphite pickleball paddle is the best option you can have.
Carbon Fiber And Fiberglass
The most common materials found in pickleball paddles are fiberglass and carbon fiber. Both materials are used in professional-grade pickleball rackets but are more cost-effective than graphite paddles. Fiberglass tends to be a little more flexible than carbon fiber and graphite.
More flex means better energy transfer and more power. Both these materials have the same properties and sometimes it’s hard to figure out a significant difference. Fiberglass and carbon fiber create durable high-impact paddle faces that offer incredible spin and control over the ball’s rotation.
Composite paddles have become popular over the past few years as they are affordable. Composite paddles also known as polypropylene paddles use a blend of plastic forms. The characteristics and performance features of a composite paddle depend upon the type of materials used to make it.
3. Handle Length
Pickleball handle length varies between 4.5 to 6 inches. The handle length plays a key role in a player’s ability to generate spin and hit well-controlled shots. The standard pickleball perimeter is 24 inches. It means when you get more inches for the handle you get less surface area for the face. It leads to a smaller sweet spot.
It is easier to hit a ball with a longer handle than a shorter one. A long handle produces more power and spin. However, a longer handle means a smaller sweet spot. If you are skilled enough to hit the ball consistently even with a compact paddle face go for a longer handle for maximum spin and power. The shorter handle means a big sweet spot.
If you are a beginner who isn’t consistent at hitting the ball at the center of the handle you need a bigger sweet spot.
Therefore I would recommend you buy a shorter handle. By hitting the center of the face you can generate considerable spin and power even with a shorter handle.
Another important discussion here is single-handed vs double-handed shots. I love to play two-handed shots mostly and therefore I always prefer a long handle of 5.5+ inches. For single-handed shots, a shorter handle gives you more control and power.
The weight of pickleball paddles varies between 7-8.5 Oz and generally, are categorized into three classes on the basis of their weight: lightweight, mid-weight, and heavy. Midweight is a sweet spot between power and control and weighs between 7.5 to 8.3 Oz.
Lightweight paddles weigh less than 7.5 Oz and heavy paddles weigh above 8.3 Oz. Now come to the discussion of how the weight of the paddle impacts your performance.
The lightweight pickleball paddles are easy to maneuver and let you respond quickly in tough and fast rallies. These paddles give you better control making it easier to hit the ball in an area where you can win a point.
However, you need to swing very hard to generate the desired spin and power. If the power input by the player is low, that ball will not land in the desired space. A heavy paddle means more bulk behind the ball and with a light swing, you can generate enough power. However, here you lack control and the tendency for uncontrolled shots is higher.
Also, a heavier paddle is hard to maneuver making it a little hard to respond when you get fast exchanges with your opponents. The biggest advantage of heavy paddles is that they are more stable and wobble less even in the toughest encounter. Even when you miss the ball from the center of the face, it will get enough power to land in the opponent’s court.
Last but not least, the shape of the paddle has a big impact on the spin. Power, control, and maneuverability. According to USA Pickleball regulations the perimeter of the paddle cannot exceed 24 inches. It includes the handle length, face length, and face width. The overall length of the paddle must be between 15.5 to 17 inches. On the basis of these dimensions, pickleball paddles come in various shapes.
Related: Pickleball Rule
Elongated-shaped paddles are 16.5 to 17 inches long and 6.5 to 7 inches wide. Extra inches on the length cut down some inches from the width. Elongated handles are easy to maneuver, and offer better control. These handles can generate incredible power and spin even with a little power input.
However, shorter width means a compact face and a smaller sweet spot. It is hard to hit the ball with the center of the face and if you are not skilled enough the tendency of mishits can be very high.
Widebody paddles are usually 15.5 inches long and have the shortest handles. These paddles have 8.5-inch wide faces. They are ideal for beginners who face difficulty in hitting the ball consistently at the center of the face. A larger sweet spot makes it easy to read and get the ball in the center.
However, you need to swing very hard to generate desired power and spin if you’re having a widebody pickleball racket.
Classic/Standard Pickleball Paddles
Standard pickleball rackets are preferred by most players since they offer a perfect balance between power and control. The length of these paddles varies between 16-17 and the width varies between 7-8 inches.
From the above discussion, we can safely conclude that it is crucial to consider your skill level while choosing a new pickleball paddle. If you are a beginner I would recommend a short, wide, and lighter pickleball handle. If you are skilled enough to hit power shots without losing control a paddle with maximum power and spin is the best option for you.
I’m Amelia Cole, a passionate writer and sports enthusiast specializing in pickleball and tennis. With years of experience on the court, I offer valuable insights and practical tips for players of all levels. My articles provide expert guidance, breaking down complex techniques into easily understandable concepts. Join me as I share my love for these exhilarating sports, helping you unlock your full potential and enjoy the thrill of pickleball and tennis.