Choosing the right paddle for your game can save you time and money and allow you to improve your pickleball game faster.
This article is intended for intermediate, advanced, or beginner pickleball players looking to upgrade from their beginner pickleball paddle.
We’ve all heard it, “it’s not me; it’s the paddle,” or, “Gosh, my paddle sucks.”
Well, In some cases, this might be true, but there are many more variables that go into a paddle than you may think. Various paddles can be used for multiple shots.
Let’s break down the factors at play and how they can be beneficial for choosing the right pickleball paddle.
Important Factors to Consider When Selecting a Pickleball Paddle
When you’re looking at a paddle, there are five main factors you should consider in order of importance:
- Paddle Shape
- Paddle Weight
- Handle Length
- Paddle Face Material
- Paddle Core material
In this paddle guide, we’ll break down the variations of these factors based on the goals you want to accomplish for your game.
Pickleball Paddle Shapes
Let’s start with the most noticeable feature when selecting a paddle. The face shape.
Here are some most of the typical pickleball paddle shapes you’ll see on the pickleball courts.
A wide-body paddle is usually around 15.5-15.75 Inches tall and a little wider than the standard shape at 8.25-8.5 inches wide. This paddle is the most ideal for control and forgiveness.
Control & Forgiveness
A wide-body paddle is going to offer the best control of any shape. The wide body with the short length means the sweet spot is going to be very big and offer a ton of feel and forgiveness on shorter shots.
Although there are some wide-body paddles that generate some good power, this shape is generally not for players looking to add a ton of speed to the ball. The big sweet spot will be soft and forgiving, which is favorable for someone looking to improve their dink game.
Since the paddle is shorter and softer, generating spin is a little harder. Spin is usually generated through speed, and these wide-body paddles are not built to generate a whole lot of speed.
A standard paddle shape is about 15.75-16 inches tall and 8 inches wide. Odds are, you or someone you know plays with this type of paddle. It’s a great place to start and get to know your game.
Control & Forgiveness
With a standard paddle, you’re going to get a little bit of everything. A standard paddle offers almost as much control and feels as a wide-body paddle.
The sweet spot is typically pretty big, but since a standard paddle is about ½ inch bigger than a wide-body paddle, you won’t get as much forgiveness if you hit it high on the face.
A standard-size paddle has a slightly more compressed core which translates to more power. However, usually with a standard face, power is not as noticeable as the control.
Standard paddles can be pretty good at generating spin but you cannot generate as much speed as elongated paddles which translates to more spin.
Elongated Pickleball Paddles
Elongated paddles range from 16-17 inches tall and are usually 6.75-7 inches wide. They have much more length in the actual face or handle with less width.
Control & Forgiveness
Elongated paddles have the least amount of forgiveness and control. Since the face is narrow, it means the sweet spot is more compressed, which means more pop off the paddle. This pop can be a little tricky when dealing with short shots around the net.
These paddles are built for power. The compressed sweet spot, along with a longer-than-average handle allows you to hammer the ball. This is the best paddle shape to go for if you need to improve your power.
The longer handle and smaller sweet spot also allow for more speed and leverage through the ball to create more spin.
More Resources: Top Pickleball Paddles in 2022
Pickleball Paddle Handle Length
The handle is another factor that can have a huge impact on your game. It can prevent injury, and help you perform certain shots better.
There are a few variations for handle lengths, but generally, you have your long handles (5.5-6.0 Inches), standard handles (4.75-5.25) shorter handles (4.25-4.0 Inches).
Here is what to consider when looking at pickleball grip size.
Longer handles are great for those transitioning from tennis to pickleball. The timing and option to hit two-handed backhands makes paddles with long handles a very easy transition. Overall think long handles=long shots.
Control & Forgiveness
Longer handles mean that you usually have a shorter paddle face which translates to less forgiveness. Furthermore, having a longer handle requires more tie and effort to square the paddle up with the ball overall, a longer handle means less control and forgiveness.
A longer handle gives you much more leverage and to generate more power and since a longer handle equals a shorter
Longer handle paddles are easier to generate more spin due to the leverage and speed through the hitting zone you get from the increase in length.
Control & Forgiveness
Shorter handles are synonymous with taller faces and a more prominent sweet spot. You don’t have as much leverage, but you have much more control, forgiveness and consistency with dinks,
Unlike a long pickleball paddle grip you don’t have a lot of leverage to generate power. Furthermore, shorter handles have bigger faces so you’re not going to get nearly as much power since the sweet spot is going to be bigger.
Short-handle paddles are a little harder to generate spin with than longer handles. What you’re getting in control and stability you’re losing in spin and power.
For more info check out: Elongated VS. Standard Pickleball Paddles
Pickleball Paddle Grip Circumference
Most pickleball paddle grips are around 4-4.5 inches in circumference. The factors that may influence your grip choice are height, hand size, and how heavy the paddle is.
Here is a table showing the height of players and suggested grip size.
|Pickleball Grip Size
|4″ Grip Circumference
|5’3″ – 5’8″
|4.25″ Grip Circumference
|4.5″ Grip Circumference
Finger Measurement Test
To determine the perfect grip size for your pickleball paddles, simply measure the distance from your ring finger to the center crease on your hand. Whatever that number is should be the grip circumference that you choose.
Pickleball paddles come in various weights, and the weight can be displaced in different places on the paddle.
- Lightweight paddle: 7.3oz – 7.7oz
- Midweight paddle: 7.8oz – 8.4oz
- Heavy paddles: over 8.5oz
Pickleball paddle weight can be more towards the top of the paddle (head weighted) or closer to the handle (handle weighted), but it’s all right around the center.
Heavyweight Pickleball Paddles
If you come from a tennis, padel, or squash background, you may prefer the heavier paddles with more weight on the head.
A heavier paddle allows to you generate more power without swinging harder. This effortless power also allows you to have amazing control around the net when you’re drinking.
Furthermore, the heavyweight pickleball paddles offer more stability.
Lightweight Pickleball Paddles
If you come from a Ping Pong or racquetball background, you may favor lighter, handle-weighted paddles.
A lighter paddle allows more maneuverability which can be great for intense hands battles around the net or fast paced games. Furthermore, you can generate more spin by flicking the paddle easier.
What Pickleball Paddle Weight Should I Choose?
The weight is very individual, and I recommend trying a few out before selecting a pickleball paddle. It depends on your preferences and how you’re missing the ball.
For instance, If you tend to hit the ball early, your paddle is too heavy, and the opposite is true if you have a paddle that is too light. You might hit the ball late.
Signs Of Hitting The Ball Early
- The ball goes high when you want to hit it low
- You push the shot. (Right handed forehand goes right)
Signs Of Hitting The Ball Late
- The ball hits the ground sooner than you expected
- You Pull the shot, (Right handed forehand goes left)
PRO TIP: Rule 2.E.5.a states that there is no weight limit on a paddle so you can use lead tape to add extra weight to the paddle.
Paddle Core Material And Density
Most newer pickleball paddles are polymer (poly) core paddles, which essentially is just hard plastic. The reason poly cores are so widely used by manufacturers is that it’s quiet and provides a great balance of power and feel.
There is a difference between the quality of polymer that you get when buying a $200 paddle vs. a $50 paddle. The poly core in a premium paddle is that the polymer is more durable of more consistent feel.
Furthermore, you’ll hear brands like Selkirk talk about a honeycomb core. This is still a polymer core, but the honeycomb design means that the core is dense, which offers a little more pop off the face while still being able to have control over the pickleball.
Nomex core pickleball paddles are the second most common core you’ll see. Nomex is lighter, stronger, louder, and more durable than the poly core paddles.
This may sound amazing, but nomex core paddles can be a nightmare to control because they produce so much pop. If you have professional-level control and need more power, maybe you should consider nomex
Brands like ProKennex use a proprietary core material in their core which is polymer and a mixture of something else to really improve shock resistance and help alleviate elbow pain.
Carbon Fiber Cores
CRBN and Gearbox use 100% carbon fiber cores. A carbon fiber core feels a lot different than a polymer core. The best way I can describe it, is that it almost feels like a wooden paddle but softer.
The consistency and performance from a carbon fiber face and core are incredible once you get used to it.
Which Core is Right For Me?
For 99% of players I would recommend they choose a poly core paddle. They offer a little bit of everything. You can have exceptional touch, sound, and power with a poly core and since most paddle manufacturers use poly it makes transitioning easy.
Thick core pickleball paddles (14mm-16mm), have a softer and more controlled feel. Furthermore, they sound a little deeper and offer a lot more forgivenes and stabiity up at the net. A thick core is great for everyone from beginners to advanced players
Thin core paddles will have a tighter, hotter feel which is better for driving the ball, but what you get in power you loose in stability and control.
Choose a pickleball paddle with a thick core if you like a softer, more forgiving feel.
Contrarily, if you like a more compressed sound with greater power, choose a paddle with a thinner core.
Paddle Face Material
The primary pickleball paddle materials you’ll see are fiberglass, carbon fiber, or graphite paddles. Composite paddles can come in fiberglass or caron fiber. Composite just means that there more materials than one.
Composite paddle surfaces can come in a fiberglass and carbon fiber materials. These paddles are much more efficient at transferring energy from the ball to your paddle.
Composite paddles provide a flexible, less rigid surface than Graphite, which acts like a trampoline that takes the energy from the ball and transfers it right back to the paddle. This flexibility will add power to your game.
Along with more power, you can also expect more durability from a composite paddle, but this comes at a cost. The most expensive paddles on the market are usually composite.
If you’re looking for more depth to your drives and pop to your returns, a composite paddle surface is perfect for you.
Graphite paddles are a type of carbon fiber that is a little more cost-effective for paddle manufacturers. This paddle surface material is efficient at distributing the power of impact across the entire surface and into the handle of the paddle. This results in a truer feel and a large sweet spot as you strike the ball.
Graphite paddles are lightweight (usually up to 1 ounce lighter than composite paddles) and significantly more sensitive than composite, which allows you to keep the ball under control. This added contol can improve your dinking game by providing the player with accuracy and an optimal sweet spot that will add a touch to your game.
Graphite surfaces are made with a woven bonding of material that adds a texture to the paddle surface, providing more spin and control.
Grit can play a huge roll in your ability to generate spin with your paddle. Grit essentially just means how rough your paddle surface is, and it can be created through a painted-on finish, or it can be built into the structure of the face. Stay away from the painted on grit surfaces since they tend to wear out quickly.
The weight is very individual, and I recommend trying a few out before deciding on a pickleball paddle. Here is what I’ve seen as far as weight preference.
It’s going to take some time to find the right paddle for your goals. Just because you play with a paddle one day and it doesn’t perform well or feel great, you have to give it a fair chance.
If you feel any pain to extreme discomfort, you can get rid of that paddle instantly. It’s not worth trying to push through that.
Pickleball Paddles that are high quality can be a little pricey. Don’t let the price scare you away from choosing a pickleball paddle that you’ll get a lot of use, especially if you love playing the game.
Trust me on this one. I now have a graveyard of cheap pickleball paddles in my garage when I could have just bought a couple of nice paddles.