Types of Pickleball Paddles | Key Terms to Know
Understanding the differences between pickleball paddles can be VERY confusing! We receive questions like "which pickleball paddle should I purchase?" and "how can I tell if a pickleball paddle is good?" all the time. While there is no one-size fits all answer, it can be helpful to learn some of the terminology and gain a general understanding of a few aspects of paddles. First,
- Wood: A wood core, usually a multiple-ply wood. Heavier than other cores with less 'playability'. Least expensive option. Typically played by beginners.
- Polymer: A honeycomb core made from an advanced plastic blend. You'll also see this core called "polypropylene" or PP - all are the same. Polymer offers an excellent blend of control and power. The quietest core makes polymer an excellent choice for playing in residential communities. Polymer is the most popular core among pickleball players.
- Nomex: A honeycomb core usually made of DuPont Nomex® paper coated with a heat resistant resin. One of the original cores. Has a lot of 'pop' and a stiffer feel.
- Aluminum: A honeycomb core made of aluminum, strong and light. Known for good touch around the net, lots of power, and a classic 'pop' sound.
Paddle Surface Types:
- Wood: Wood surface.
- Graphite: Graphite surface - durable and powerful.
- Polycarbonate: Synthetic resin surface - durable and light.
- Composite: Fiberglass or fiberglass/graphite blend surface. You'll see some paddles labeled as "composite". This term really doesn't mean a whole lot. Composite just means the paddle has been constructed from a combination of materials (i.e. a polymer core and graphite face). Most all non-wood paddles could be considered composite paddles.
- Edge Guard: An edge guard is a piece of material wrapped around the paddle face edge to keep the paddle from chipping but creates a slight lip around the edge of the paddle and may create a miss hit or mis-guided ball if hit. The majority of players play a paddle with an edge guard.
- No Edge Guard: A paddle that does not have an edge guard and therefore has a consistent flat surface providing the widest possible playing surface without the risk of a miss hit ball. Can lead to chips and dings on your paddle.
- Shape: We guide most people into the "classic" shape pickleball paddle. There are specialty paddles (e.g. long and narrow for some singles play). Classically shaped paddles worked well for the vast majority of players.
- Grip Size / Handle Length: You'll want to pay attention to these especially if you're on either end of a the spectrum (i.e. you have quite small or large hands) to ensure the paddle will suit your needs.
How To Select A Pickleball Paddle?
1. Select your weight.
A heavier paddle will provide more power and pop whereas a lighter paddle will provide more maneuverability and control. One common misconception we hear from new players is that a lighter paddle must be better than a heavier paddle. In actuality, you want to use a paddle with enough weight to generate sufficient power but not so much weight that the paddle is unwieldy.
We believe a mid-weight paddle is optimal for most players as it offers a nice blend between power and control. All of our paddles fall into the mid-weight range with two exceptions: our wood paddles fall into the heavy-weight range and our Cambria paddles fall into the light-weight range.
2. Select your core material.
Different core materials feel and play differently. Wood is very heavy and very basic, where as many composite materials like polymer are lighter and provide greater performance. Polymer is the most popular core on the market and for good reason. It has great control and is the quietest core available. We offer one aluminum core paddle (the Bainbridge) as some players love the classic pop sound and feel of an aluminum core.
3. Edge guard or no edge guard?
An edge guard is great for protecting your paddle from damage. We estimate 90% of players use a paddle with an edge guard. However, the edge can cause you to miss-hit a shot from time to time when you strike the ball near the edges of the paddle. Choose an edgeless design if maximum playability is important.
4. Do you need USAPA approval?
If you’re planning to play in a USAPA sanctioned tournament you'll need a USAPA approved paddle. To ensure fair play, all paddles must meet certain specifications (size, roughness, and deflection). The USAPA uses an independent lab to certify the paddles. Once passed, most manufacturers will place the 'USAPA Approved Seal' on the paddle face. The Signature, Cambria, & Emerald are our approved paddles.
It's important to note that our non-approved paddles are not of lower quality - it simply means they haven't been submitted for approval. In fact, all of our paddles meet USAPA specifications. We've chosen to only submit a portion of our paddle lineup due to the fact most players do not play in sanctioned tournaments and because of the high cost associated with gaining approval (we don't want to unnecessarily pass this cost along to our players).
Which Type of Paddle is Right for You?
It depends! As you can see, there is a lot to think about when it comes to selecting a pickleball paddle. If you're just starting out and on a budget, wood paddles are a great place to begin. You'll get a feel for pickleball and see if it's something you'll want to continue (hint: you will!).
If you know you're going to play pickleball more than a time or two, you may want to skip the wood paddles altogether and start with a non-wood paddle. While the cost is a bit higher, it is well worth it for increased performance and added durability. Two great beginner to intermediate options are the Amazin' Aces Classic and the Amazin' Aces Signature. Both are highly affordable paddles that play great. The Signature has passed USAPA approval so if you think you'll be playing in tournaments we would recommend that paddle.
Bottom line... select a paddle that best suits your budget and skill level and start playing pickleball today! SHOP NOW and check out our full collection of amazing pickleball paddles. We have something to fit every budget and skill level.
If you have any questions we're always happy to help. Just shoot us a note at [email protected] Or join us in our Facebook group called Pickleball for Beginners, where pickleballers share tips and tricks to up their game! We also share some of those tips and feature players on our Amazin' Aces FB page. We hope to see you there! Happy pickleballing!