How to Choose Pickleball Paddles

PickleballCentral put together a nice guide on how to choose pickleball paddles, and it’s pretty straightforward and we suggest you review this first. (link opens in new page).

We agree with much of what they have there. But of course we have other things to say on the subject as well.

No surprise that two people seldom agree on what it takes to choose the right paddle, is it? Choosing a pickleball paddles is a uniquely personal experience. For instance, where the top players seem to be gravitating towards lighter-weight paddles, for instance (in the 7.0-7.5 oz frame) we have a number of friends who are themselves quite good and use paddles that IOHOs (in our humble opinions) are more suitable to driving railroad spikes than hitting a pickleball. We have no idea how people use paddles that heavy, still hit the ball as often as is required in a simple 6-game Round Robin (much less playing twice that many games in a day or in a tournament should you be so lucky to last so long) and come away without getting what amounts to a giant case of golfer’s elbow as opposed to tennis elbow…”golfer’s elbow” due to our propensity to swing at many balls underhanded, for instance on the serve. (If you hit a ball underhanded you utilize some of the same muscles that you do on a golf swing, per our chiropractor.)

So weight is important and you need to think about not only what you are used to but how you are gonna use the pickleball paddles. If you play a lot, lighter weight paddles MAY offer a slight edge in terms of the injury issue.

On the other hand, “Hit” is important to us. People talk about “Feel” being important but frankly we think we can play a pretty good soft game with almost any paddle out there save some of the pure-aluminum ones which are so slick we don’t see how anybody can keep a ball on the face of the paddle long enough to get a dink over the net. Well, we exaggerate, but if we had to choose one thing over the other, we’d slightly favor the paddle that, with the same energy, can hit the ball a bit deeper. We’re not fans of increasing the velocity of paddles beyond a certain range and are all in favor of the USAPA restrictions on how “hot” a paddle can be legally, but given a choice, we’d want something that, to us, hits a bit harder.

The vendor and their customer service is important, too. We won’t buy pickleball paddles from an individual or a company if they won’t address the problems that come up. Pickleball paddles are designed to be used hard. AJ especially is tough on paddles as he doesn’t seem to differentiate between the ground and the ball when he’s swinging at stuff sometimes. So within minutes a new paddle’s top edge guard looks like he’s been chewing on it. (Irene’s opinion only here.) On the other hand sometimes stuff happens…a bad batch of “skins” will somehow get into production and will too-easily dent so the paddle looks like it’s had a very bad case of acne in its misspent youth. If the face of the paddle dents too easily under normal use and quickly looks like the craters of the moon, we send them back and they are replaced. Hopefully we are serving a useful function in this category by only recommending individuals and companies that stand by their product and would take them back if normal usage produced that result.

And then there are the differences between summer play and winter play and between playing in a wind and on a hot, windless day. Over a period of time we have found value in having and carrying paddles that address different conditions. We play with and against people who, in the wind, will carry two paddles onto the court and use one to hit with and a different paddle to hit into the wind. Make sense.

Sometimes the fit of the paddle handle in the hand is everything. Neither of us are big fans of handles with pronounced ridges as we tend to shift our grips to accommodate different shots. A rounder grip is better for that for us. However, we can also adapt a paddle handle and make it more round by over-wrapping it with different materials. The stuff we are using for over-wraps now is white and tacky, sold in large roles, is easy to replace when it wears, and (due to being able to tell when it is worn ‘cuz it looks dirty and loses tackiness and tackiness) instructs us as to when the over-wrap needs to be changed. The over-wrap also allows us to buy pickleball paddles with slightly smaller diameter handles, knowing that we can wrap and increase the size of the grip easily. (BTW, we tried, twice, shaving down a paddle handle to make it smaller. Neither case worked out.)

Lastly,  there is “balance” – a nebulous term having to do with the paddle seeming to fit in the hand without tipping downward due to paddle-face-weight or backwards due to handle weight. Irene seems to favor very well balanced pickleball paddles, usually with a sweet spot in the dead center of the face. AJ seems to favor top-weighted paddles and for him these hit slightly better when he hits just above dead center, although both AJ and Irene seem to hit those spots pretty regularly if you look at their wear patterns.

Oh—beware the pickler who shows up with an aged paddle that has a totally paint-worn-off spot right in the center of the paddle. These guys will have remarkably consistent strokes, will hit the ball well most of the time, and will place it where you aren’t. If asked, they will also parrot one of the slogans like “It ain’t the Arrow, it’s the Archer!” or some other nonsense that would lead you to believe that the pickleball paddles don’t make as much difference as what you do with it. How silly is that??? Who wants to play with somebody with that bizarre a world-view???




  • Gail
    February 24, 2018

    You mentioned you “tried, twice, shaving down a paddle handle to make it smaller. Neither case worked out”. I’m a 5′ woman with VERY small hands and short fingers. Even when I can find a straight 4.0 grip size (which is difficult and extremely limiting anyway) its just a little too big. I’m wondering if when you tried shaving the handles whether you took them in to a professional shop or were you trying to sand them down yourself? I ask because many many years ago I had a tennis shop shave down a tennis racquet handle and although I don’t know how they accomplished it it was relatively easy for them to do.

    • Us
      February 24, 2018

      Hmmm. Never thought of that. We know a tennis shop owner and a number of pickleball paddle people. Give us a few days to check and we will get back. Thanks for your question!

  • Bill Robinson
    August 15, 2015

    I’m an ex-tennis players, so shifting grips comes pretty naturally for me. I use the traditional tennis “Eastern forehand” and “Eastern backhand” for ground-strokes, and change to a Continental grip for volleys at the net (seems to work well for both forehand and backhand volleys, and eliminates the need to change grips in the rat-a-tat-tat quickness of volleys).

    I’m tinkering with my service grip, and am tending towards what used to be called a Western forehand grip, simply because it feels more comfortable for my PB bowling/badminton underhand serving motion. This is entirely different from my old tennis serving grip, which was a Continental (halfway between an Eastern forehand and an Eastern backhand).

    Meh, old tennis players (should I say, “ex-tennis players”?) will probably understand this, but I’m not sure how much sense it will make for others. 🙂


    ~Bill Robinson
    Pickleball by the Sea Pickleball Club
    Neptune Beach, Florida

  • May 11, 2015

    Thanks for this article, but I’d like you to talk a little more about the round grip. You say you prefer this because “we tend to shift our grips to accommodate different shots.” I’m a fairly new player – yup, about a 3.0 – and an old (mediocre) tennis player. I was taught to use the continental grip back then and just stick with it because of its versatility. (Sure: Eastern for ground strokes and top spin; never could manage that). So I had a lot of trouble with pickleball paddles with round grips (like the PAC, and even the Z5 some) because I was always fiddling with my grip, and at the NVZ, the one thing I didn’t have time to do was fiddle (i.e., lolligag). I became a Coach Mo follower, and found: “The easiest grip to use is the Continental Grip (See “Volley Tips”). This grip is halfway between the Eastern Forehand Grip and the Eastern Backhand Grip. A player never has to change his grip on the paddle. The volley, serving, overhead and ground strokes are all the same using the Continental Grip.” Made my life a whole lot easier, and improved my game. And then I started to play ZZT Sports paddles – an EVO II and a Fuzion. Because of the shape of their grips, you’re just about forced to use a continental grip. Result: much more solid shots, from dinks to ground strokes. I also lend my EVO II to new players coming out of tennis; they like it as well. So, I’d like to see some discussion about grips: sticking with one grip or shifting on the fly. Pro’s and con’s. Who does it and how effective. Thanks.

    • Us
      May 11, 2015

      Great comments, David! And we can certainly see what you are saying. Makes us think that perhaps there is another article in here; one as you suggest that would present differing points of view. What we were presenting was from our own backgrounds, dominated by racquetball and squash, and we still are fidgeting with the whole subject. Let us work on this one!

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