Picking up pickleball is more than just grabbing the first paddle you can find at the store and swinging it! A lot goes into getting the perfect paddle, both for your game performance and your body type. The right paddle will help you improve your game and be the best pickleball player among your friends or club.
We’ve put together a handy one-stop-shop guide on how to choose a pickleball paddle, complete with the different types of paddles and how to select the paddle that’s right for you. We’ve also put together our top five picks for pickleball paddles that are perfect for beginners to the game in 2022.
Table of Contents
- 1 In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
- 2 How to Choose A Pickleball Paddle
- 3 Checking the Fit of Your Paddle
- 4 Handle Length
- 5 Pickleball Paddle Cores
- 6 Different Types of Pickleball Paddles
- 7 Choosing Between Drive and Dexterity
- 8 Top 5 Best Pickleball Paddles for Beginners
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9.1 What are beginner paddles?
- 9.2 What exactly is the sweet spot?
- 9.3 What does paddle deflection mean?
- 9.4 What does USAPA approval mean?
- 9.5 Are there professional pickleball leagues?
- 9.6 Men’s vs. women’s paddles?
- 9.7 Cheap vs. expensive paddles?
- 9.8 Indoor vs. outdoor paddles?
- 9.9 When to buy a new paddle?
- 10 Conclusion
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
|Top||Champion Graphite X Pickleball Paddle||Buy Now|
|Top||GAMMA Sports 2.0 Fusion Pickleball Paddle||Buy Now|
|Top||Amazin' Aces Signature Pickleball Paddle||Buy Now|
|Top||Rally Tyro 2 Composite Pickleball Paddle||Buy Now|
|Top||Upstreet Graphite Pickleball Paddle||Buy Now|
How to Choose A Pickleball Paddle
A number of factors should weigh into your decision for a new paddle, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got some guidance for your next purchase. The paddle you use during your game can have an enormous impact on how well you play and how well your body feels afterward.
There are three main things you want to look at when choosing a paddle:
- The weight of the paddle.
- The grip size of the handle.
- The materials the paddle is made out of
Let’s dive into each of these, one by one.
When you pick up your pickleball paddle, you’ll notice that it has some heft to it. The weight of the paddle is very important, both to the choice of paddle as well as to how well you’re able to play the game. The weight of your paddle affects two main things out on the court: power and control.
Paddles typically range anywhere from 6 to 14 ounces. On the one hand, a lighter paddle will give you more control over your movements. You’ll be able to maneuver it through your swing with much more dexterity and ease, which means you’ll be able to return those tricky serves.
On the other side of things, a heavier paddle will offer less control but more power. Being able to hit the ball with more power may be beneficial for your game. However, you want to make sure that you’re not getting a paddle that’s too heavy for the weight that you’re able to hold in one hand comfortably.
A paddle that’s too heavy can put a lot of strain on the arm, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Don’t let the idea of a more powerful serve trick you into getting a paddle that you can’t comfortably hold! Weight is not only important for your game but essential for the health of your body while playing.
Grip size refers to the size of the grip on the handle of the paddle. Much like with weight, it’s crucial to choose a grip size that fits your hand. You don’t want the grip to be too small, as you’ll have trouble controlling and keeping a handle on your paddle, and you don’t want the grip too wide for that same reason.
For most people, figuring out the right grip size is as easy as knowing your height. There are, of course, other methods that can lead to a much more accurate answer, such as measuring the length of your hand, but your average pickleball player won’t need to do that.
Check out this handy cheat sheet to help you on the right path to your perfect grip size:
- 5’9″ or taller, your grip size should be about 4 ½”.
- between 5’3″ and 5’8″, your grip size should be about 4 ¼”.
- 5’2″ or shorter, your grip size should be about 4″.
It might seem like there’s not a lot of difference between those three sizes, but trust us— those quarters of an inch can make all the difference! It’s best to be able to hold the paddle in your hand to see how it feels.
There are three types of materials that pickleball paddles are usually made out of. Each material has its own pros and cons, and the type of material can also affect the weight, the movement, and your game.
Pickleball paddles come in either wood, composite, or graphite.
Wood paddles are both the heaviest and the least expensive. If you’re looking for a good beginner paddle without breaking the bank, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for wood paddles. However, the issue is that this particular type of paddle can add extra weight, making it harder to control.
Composite paddles are somewhere in the middle of the three materials. They’re made up of a “composite” of several different types of materials. They come in a wide variety of weights and sizes, which makes picking out a paddle easier. Their price is slightly more expensive than a wood paddle, but not the most expensive either. These paddles are great for when you’re really getting serious about your game.
Finally, graphite paddles are going to be your more expensive type of paddle. However, because of the material that they’re made out of, you can get a lighter and stronger paddle. They’re great for speed and power, as long as you don’t mind the price tag that comes with them.
Checking the Fit of Your Paddle
Grip size is extremely important when it comes to finding the right pickleball paddle. While you can usually go off your height in order to gauge what kind of grip you need, you can also follow a more precise method.
Ring Finger Measurement
If you’re having trouble deciding your exact grip just from the height-to-grip chart, you can try using the measurement of your ring finger. Grab a ruler, and measure from the middle finger of your palm to the tip of your ring finger. This measurement will tell you the size grip you’ll most likely need.
Check Your Natural Grip
Of course, the human body is widely diverse, and sometimes measurements just don’t cut it. In this case, try checking your natural grip. For this, you’re going to want to have physical access to a pickleball paddle.
Grab the handle of a pickleball paddle with your dominant hand. Hold it as you would naturally. Next, slide your index finger of the opposite hand between your fingers and the heel of your grip hand. When you do this, your finger should fit snugly.
If you don’t have any room between your fingers and the heel of your grip hand, the grip is far too small. However, if your finger cannot fit snugly, that means the grip is far too wide.
Does handle length make a difference when choosing a pickleball paddle? The answer is a resounding yes! Not only does handle length affect whether or not the paddle is appropriate for tournament play, but it also affects how well you can use the paddle.
Longer handles, usually ones that are 5 inches or longer, provide better reach. But those long handles can also make it harder for people with smaller hands to control the balance of the paddle. On the other hand, a smaller handle can offer a lot more control and dexterity.
Pickleball Paddle Cores
Inside the face of the paddle, there are three different types of cores. The “core” of the paddle makes up most of the paddle, and choosing the right core will help shape your game. The cores, much like the materials, affect the weight of the paddle and the power, drive, and dexterity that a player can get out of their paddle.
Normex cores are one of the oldest materials that companies have been using for their pickleball paddle cores. The first composite paddles were made using normex cores. The material was developed sometime in the 1960s. These cores have honeycomb shapes on the inside, which lead to density and power.
The density of the honeycomb shape makes the core extremely hard while also being lightweight and easy to swing. This core is perfect for people who are looking for a powerful swing but not so concerned with dexterity or finesse. Normex also has that quintessential, loud, smacking sound you get from hitting the ball.
Polymer cores are just a fancy way of saying “plastic cores.” Polymer cores are much like normex cores in that they’re very dense, but they’re also much more lightweight and easier to swing than normex.
Polymer cores are the second most widely used core in a pickleball paddle. Many manufacturers are focusing on developing better and better polymer cores. This is the perfect core choice if you’re looking for something more than just “power.”
Aluminum cores are a more lightweight core. Most of the composite paddles that you can find in stores aren’t made with aluminum cores. Of course, choosing a more lightweight option will sacrifice the power that comes from a harder core. This is a core that is perfect for people who are focused entirely on the finesse of the game rather than the power. However, the loss of weight and power with an aluminum core might not justify the dexterity one gains.
Different Types of Pickleball Paddles
Now that you know all of the things that go into choosing a pickleball paddle let’s take a look at all of the different types of paddles. When it comes to choosing the paddle that’s best for you, you’re going to want to take a look at its shape and size, as well as whether or not it comes with an edge guard.
Edge Guard or Edgeless?
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your pickleball paddle is whether or not to use an edge guard. When it comes to traditional paddles, an edge guard is a slight protrusion around the outside edge of the paddle. The guard is put in place in order to help keep the paddle safe from cracks or damage, either during play or from accidentally dropping it.
However, there is also an edgeless style of paddle. For some players, not having to worry about the edge guard can actually be an advantage. For example, foregoing the edge guard gives the player a slightly large surface area to work with on the court. When playing, it’s possible that the ball hitting the edge guard can throw off your hit.
However, pickleball paddles are most likely to suffer damage along the edges first. Whether or not you want to choose an edgeless model depends on how willing you are to sacrifice the durability of your paddle in exchange for more control and a larger surface area for your hits.
Wide Body vs. Oversized Paddles
When shopping for a pickleball paddle, you’re going to come across two different sizes of paddles. For the most part, you’re typically going to come across what’s known as a “wide body” paddle. These types of paddles are standard dimensions and are usually about 8″ wide by 15″ long. This is the type of paddle that most competitive players use and the type of paddle that is most likely in stock at your local sporting goods store.
However, there is another type of paddle known as the “oversized” paddle. Oversized paddles aren’t usually allowed in competitions or clubs where any competitive pickleball is played. However, if you’re just focused on playing pickleball for fun, an oversized paddle might be perfectly suited for you. The oversized paddles are usually longer than 24 inches and wider than the wide-body paddles as well.
These oversized paddles allow for a greater surface area to hit the ball and take a lot of the stress out of pickleball. These paddles are recommended for people who are just going to play pickleball in their own backyards with friends or family.
Elongated paddles have become a category of their own as manufacturers find ways to make oversized paddles fit regulation standards. A paddle is considered “elongated” when the manufacturer removes some of the length from the handle to make sure the paddle fits regulation standards while still keeping the paddle’s face in the “oversized” category.
Elongated paddles are gaining popularity among a lot of players. However, if you’re just beginning with pickleball, this type of paddle is going to be a lot more challenging to master. Because of the shorter handle, an elongated paddle is going to be harder for a novice to control. However, more experienced players view the elongated paddle as a challenge.
Choosing Between Drive and Dexterity
Now that you have an idea about all of the materials and choices that go into choosing a pickleball paddle, you’re going to want to think about what kind of game you want to play. The type of player you are is just as important as picking your paddle as your height or hand size.
If you want to focus on having ultimate control of your paddle and your swing, then you’re going to want to focus on a lightweight paddle with a smaller grip. You might want to consider a composite paddle with a polymer core. On the other hand, if you know that you’re the type of player that focuses on raw power, a heavier paddle with a normex core might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Both playing styles are completely different but also entirely valid. No playing style is better than the other. It’s important to know how you play before you pick your paddle. If you’re looking for power and choose a paddle that is better for dexterity, your game is definitely going to suffer for it.
Top 5 Best Pickleball Paddles for Beginners
Now that you have all of the information on how to choose a pickleball paddle, it’s time to take a deep dive into the top five picks for paddles, especially for beginners. Scrolling through manufacturing websites, or even just looking at the rack of paddles at the store, can easily overwhelm a beginner.
1. Champion Graphite X Paddle
The Champion Graphite X paddle is from one of the originators of the sport, Pickleball-Inc. Paddles from this particular company are pretty much the standard for the industry and have been around since the late 1980s. This is a great paddle for beginners because who knows pickleball paddles quite like those who were there at the beginning of the sport?
The Champion weighs 7.6 to 8.0 oz, which is a good weight for beginners. It has a durable and desirable polymer honeycomb core. This particular core adds a good bit of power behind the swing without adding too much weight.
It has a large paddle face, giving a beginner player a wide sweet spot and a lot of surface area. That large sweet spot will quickly build a beginner’s confidence by helping them make their shots consistently. The Champion also comes with an edge guard to help keep your paddle stronger for longer.
It also comes in five different vintage colors. While this doesn’t affect your game, having a good color paddle makes everyone have a little extra swing in their game.
- Large sweet spot for consistent hits
- Good weight — not too heavy
- Durable honeycomb polymer core for powerful drive
- Good for control, spin, and pops hits
- Head-heavy unbalanced feel
- Higher price point
2. Gamma Fusion 2.0
The Gamma Fusion is a remake of a previous Gamma paddle, updated for the new generation of pickleball players. Gamma is a company that is well known for making its pickleball paddles with extremely comfortable grips, and the Gamma Fusion is no exception. In fact, many manufacturers use Gamma grips, and many players tend to replace their worn grips with ones from Gamma.
This particular paddle is mid-weight, weighing in at 8.0 oz. The wide-body face of the paddle is made with a fiberglass finish that gives the paddle a good feel while still being particularly lightweight.
Like all Gamma paddles, the Fusion has a good, comfortable honeycomb grip, which is especially advantageous to beginners. The wide face of the paddle gives it a large sweet spot, allowing beginners to get in good hits. The shape of the paddle face is also perfect for beginners, both tall and wide, while still being regulation standards.
It’s a very well-balanced paddle as well, not too top or bottom-heavy. It’s great for drive and power, as well as for control and dexterity.
- Large sweet spot
- Good control and power
- Well balanced
- Honeycomb grip
- Weak edge guard
- Not well made for short shots
3. Amazin’ Aces Graphite Paddle
Amazin’ Aces is another company that is well known for making particularly good pickleball paddles for beginners. The graphite paddle from Amazin’ Aces is a great introduction to graphite paddles. Amazin’ Aces is a particularly young company that sells its paddles for affordable prices on Amazon. It’s great for people looking to get into pickleball without spending too much money.
The Amazin’ Aces graphite paddle is solidly in the heavy-weight category, at a firm 9.2 oz. That extra ounce is definitely something to consider, especially if you’re looking for drive and power in your swings.
This particular paddle is made with a lightweight polymer core that doesn’t add to the paddle’s overall weight. The material of the Amazin’ Ace’s graphite paddle is particularly durable, making it great for both power players and beginners who are getting a handle on the game.
The grip on the Amazin’ Aces graphite paddle is also perfect for smaller hands, which means that people who need a larger grip might have to forego this particular model.
- Polymer core
- Affordable price
- Comfortable grip for small hands
- Durable for beginners
- Power hitter
- Heavy, not good for dexterity
- Not great for larger hands
4. Rally Tyro 2 Composite Paddle
Rally is a company that’s well known in the pickleball world and is one of the largest online retailers for pickleball equipment. If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar sporting goods store nearby, this is a great alternative to other online retailers like Amazon. Rally Paddles is also committed to providing affordable and durable paddles, perfect for beginners.
The Tyro 2 is a composite paddle that is particularly lightweight at 6.7 oz. That lightweight design is great for control and dexterity. Due to the Tyro 2 being very light, it’s a paddle that won’t give you the same drive or power that a heavier paddle might give you.
The paddle face is polycarbonate over top of a polymer honeycomb core. The materials of this particular paddle are similar to what one might expect in a more expensive high-range paddle while being available to beginners at a lower price point. The durable edge guard keeps your paddle safe from wear and tear.
And while the paddle is perfect for beginners, there is a variation on the texture of the paddle face that makes it not approved for tournament play. However, it’s ideal for casual play or practice among friends and family.
- Polymer core
- Great for control and dexterity
- Low price point
- Not tournament approved
- Less drive and power
5. Upstreet Graphite Pickleball Paddle
Another young company, Upstreet, is based in Utah and has been selling affordable paddles on Amazon. This means that those who live in places without physical sporting goods stores have access to great equipment. Upstreet is great for beginners, as they sell quality paddles without charging an arm and a leg.
Here we’ve got the Upstreet graphite paddle that’s mid-weight at 8.0 oz. This is a perfect mid-weight paddle that will be good for both drive and dexterity, depending on how you want to use it.
The Upstreet paddle has a graphite face and a polymer honeycomb core that doesn’t add much to the weight. While graphite is usually a more expensive material, Upstreet makes affordable paddles that are geared towards beginners.
Most companies sell their paddle cases separately, but one of the benefits of choosing Upstreet is that they include a neoprene case with all of their paddles. These cases can run up to $15 separately, so it’s nice to see a company including them with the purchase.
Unfortunately, this Upstreet graphite paddle is not yet approved for tournament play. However, this is an affordable option if you’re just starting out and using it for fun or practice.
- Includes paddle case
- Lower price point
- Mid-weight, good for both power and control
- Polymer core
- Not tournament approved
- Easy wear and tear on the paint
Frequently Asked Questions
What are beginner paddles?
Beginner pickleball paddles are exactly what it says on the tin: a paddle that is designed specifically with beginners in mind. They have a markedly different design than professional pickleball paddles. Beginner paddles usually have a very wide “sweet spot,” which allows beginners to hit the ball with ease and build confidence in their game.
What exactly is the sweet spot?
You may have seen the term “sweet spot” floating around this article, as well as other places online while shopping for a perfect beginners paddle. For pickleball, the sweet spot is directly in the center of the paddle. The wider and longer the paddle, the bigger the sweet spot. A large sweet spot is paramount to the most power and drive behind a swing.
For beginners, getting a paddle that has a wider sweet spot will help build up drive, power, and confidence. As you gain more experience with the game, you can move away from beginner paddles with those wide sweet spots to more professional paddles.
What does paddle deflection mean?
Another term you’ve probably seen around is “deflection.” No, this doesn’t mean how well a paddle can deflect a ball. Rather, deflection is talking about the “flex” of the paddle. Depending on your paddle’s rigidity, you’re going to have either a higher or lower amount of flex. There are pros and cons to both a higher and lower level of deflection.
The USAPA has a standard of deflection that all pickleball paddles have to meet in order to be approved to compete in a tournament. An easy way to determine the deflection of your paddle is to put weights on the end and measure how much it bends (but be careful not to break it!)
What does USAPA approval mean?
USAPA stands for the USA Pickleball Association, and it is one of the organizations that help make sure everyone is playing fair in official pickleball tournaments. The USAPA has come up with specific rules regarding how to play the game and what type of equipment can be used in official tournaments.
USAPA has a whole host of rules surrounding the approval of their pickleball paddles, including size, weight, the shape of the face, and even the texture and colors used. You can see all of the rules set by the USAPA in their official rulebook. Currently, there are just over 1000 different paddles that are approved for USAPA usage. Manufacturers will list on their website or packaging whether or not a paddle is approved for tournament usage.
USAPA approval is something to consider when shopping for your next pickleball paddle. However, if you’re a beginner, there are plenty of options that don’t meet USAPA approval that will still help you improve your game.
Are there professional pickleball leagues?
If you’re a beginner who has dreams of going pro in pickleball, you’re in luck. You can become a member of the USA Pickleball Association and get connected to all kinds of local pickleball communities and leagues.
You can also explore the International Federation of Pickleball website to get connected to a worldwide community of pickleball players. The IFP is the world governing body for pickleball. It was established to help perpetuate and grow the sport all over the world.
Pickleball is a fast-growing sport in terms of popularity. Plenty of places across the world are building pickleball communities. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably not about to go pro yet. But you can always join local leagues in order to meet new players and expand your game.
Men’s vs. women’s paddles?
Unlike other sports, there’s actually no difference between “men’s” and “women’s” pickleball paddles. The paddles aren’t divided into size based on gender. Different sizes are going to work better or worse for different people.
Someone who is smaller, slighter, with a smaller hand size will want to choose a smaller paddle, just as someone who is taller with larger hands is going to choose a larger, longer paddle. This is going to be true across the board, regardless of gender.
Now, manufacturers want to sell their products however they can. This means you may come across paddles that are going to be specifically designed to be geared towards one gender or another, with either marketing or colors, for example. But don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t use a specific paddle based on sex!
Cheap vs. expensive paddles?
Are expensive paddles always better? Well, any good pickleball player will tell you: no, not always!
On the lower end, a cheap paddle, usually wooden, will cost you anywhere from $10 to $20. However, more and more manufacturers are offering durable and high-end composite paddles at competitive and affordable prices. For many beginners, a wood paddle is perfect for learning how to play the game and to get a feel for swinging the paddle.
An expensive paddle, which is more than likely going to be graphite, can run you closer to $100. The price that you’re willing to pay depends on how often you anticipate using your paddle, your gameplay, and your lifestyle.
For beginners, it’s always recommended to go with a high-quality paddle but low in price. You’re going to use a variety of paddles over the course of your pickleball journey, so don’t worry about getting the most expensive paddle right off the bat.
Indoor vs. outdoor paddles?
Unlike other sports, there is no difference between paddles that are best used outdoors vs. indoors. All pickleball paddles can be used for either environment. Whether you’re playing inside or outside, you want to take care of your paddle and keep it safe from the elements.
Don’t leave your paddles outside. The exposure to dirt, direct sunlight, or extreme changes in temperature can damage your paddles much sooner than if you were to keep them stored in a safe place.
When to buy a new paddle?
How long a pickleball paddle lasts depends on how well you take care of it, as well as how much you play with it. If you’re careful with your paddle, you may find that it serves you for several years without chipping or breaking. However, if you’re a little rougher on your paddle, you might find that it starts chipping around the edges— especially if you’ve opted to go with an edgeless model.
Composite and graphic paddles tend to be longer lasting than their wooden counterparts as well. Keeping your paddle away from the elements will ensure it stays ready to use for as long as possible. Store your paddle in a dry environment and try not to leave it outdoors when you’re done using it.
It’s a good idea to look into purchasing a new paddle when you start to see some wear and tear that affects your game.
Choosing a pickleball paddle for beginners takes a lot more than just picking one up at the store. Especially if you’re just starting out, understanding everything that goes into picking a paddle can be pretty intimidating. With this guide, you’ll have more confidence to go out and choose the beginner paddle that’s right for you.
After reading through this guide, you will better understand all of the things that go into a pickleball paddle, including the weight, grip size, material, core material, and even the size and shape of the paddle face. This knowledge will benefit you in the long run and may even save you some money.
But, we understand that just knowing how to pick out a paddle might not be enough to get you started. With all the different brands, manufacturers, and rules out there about pickleball paddles, you might find yourself overwhelmed with choice. Our top five picks for beginner’s pickleball paddles will also help steer you in the right direction.
Each choice has its pros and cons, and you should look at the whole picture in order to know which paddle is right for you. Don’t be afraid to try out different paddles. Our top picks are great both for people who have a little extra to spend, as well as people on a budget. The best affordable beginners paddles never sacrifice quality for price.
Take what you’ve learned in this guide and apply it to your next pickleball paddle purchase. Whether you’re just out here to have a good time or you’re serious about going pro, this guide will provide you with the insight you need.
Good luck, and have fun!