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Pickleball was invented in the 1960s as a way for bored children to kill time without a complete set of equipment for any other team sport but has since gathered a surprising following in a number of countries. With the refinement of the rules to imitate those of other volleying games, pickleball has assumed the status of a professional sport; leagues, teams, and tournaments are all to be found if you know where to look.
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Borrowing elements from a number of other volleying and paddling sports, pickleball calls for teams of two to volley a perforated plastic ball over a midline delineated by a low net with a large paddle. The court is divided into a number of separate zones, each with different rules about what may and may not be done within; play continues until one of the teams commits a fault of some kind, and is until a side has both scored at least 11 points and leads the opponent by two.
The sport can be played in either doubles or singles, and is unique among many others in that it was adapted for disabled play almost as soon as it was created an urban legend associated with the sport tells that the inventor was a neighbor to a paraplegic child and took pains to include him as well. The disabled play was formally introduced to the competitive circuit in 2016; the modified rules spell out such things as an adjusted court space and the treatment of a wheelchair while on the court.
Pickleball may borrow many things from other sports, but the equipment isn’t one of them. Pickleball players use a specialized paddle to volley, based off of a pair of jury-rigged paddles made when the sport was on a basement bandsaw. These paddles are built small enough to be wielded with one hand and feature a large, rounded striking surface mounted atop a stubby handgrip.
Best Pickleball Paddles For Under $50 Comparison Table
|EDITOR’S CHOICE||1. Junior Paddle Set
|RUNNER UP||2. Ianoni PC-150
|3. Gamma Poly Paddle
|4. Onix Recruit 3.0
|5. Upstreet Alpha
|6. Franklin Sports
|7. Pro Focus
|8. Viper Pickleball-X
|9. Pickleball-X Challenger
|10. Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge
|11. Amazin’ Aces Guaranteed Fun Kit
|12. YardFine Beginner’s
|13. Day 1 Sports
|14. Pickle-Ball, Inc. Swinger
|15. Chuanjun Sports
Since a pickleball is made of relatively flimsy plastic, the paddles are often coated with rubber or inserted into a padded sleeve to prevent damage during a fast-paced game. Their small size relative to other paddling sports makes them easier to use on a pickleball’s narrower pitch or with a partner and allows the players to execute more exacting shots. Many of the best plays in pickleball rely on skillfully placing the shot at a precise point on the court rather than simply hitting it as hard as possible.
Having as it does its own equipment, it should be no surprise that pickleball has seen several different brands of that equipment as well. Every sport has competing manufacturers, and it’s only natural that pickleball should as well. Whether you are a newcomer to pickleball or a regular player at your local club, you have your pick of paddles to take with you onto the court.
These are the 15 best pickleball paddles you can pick up for your next game. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s legal where you are playing, as some courts do restrict the dimensions or material of paddles in use.
Our Our Best Pickleball Paddle Under $50 Reviews and Comparisons
The first five paddles are made out of plastic. Plastic paddles tend to be lighter and easier to move with, making them an ideal pick for a beginner.
1. Junior Paddle Set
This is the basics for getting into the sport, containing a pair of lightweight plastic paddles and a pickleball to let you jump into a one-on-one match.
- Made in the USA
- Solid-cast plastic
- One ball included
- Dimensions approximately 13.5″ long x 6.75″ wide
What We Like About Junior Paddle Set
This set is light enough to be safely used in and outdoors – even if someone should happen to stray into the line of a swing or serve, the pieces aren’t heavy enough to do much damage.
What We Don’t Like About Junior Paddle Set
As the set name suggests, this set is not sturdy enough for the speed required in professional matches, making it useful for beginners or casuals only.
- Safe for indoor use
- Pickleball included
- Plastic does not splinter or corrode easily
- Set of two for a quick start
- Light enough to allow quick swings
- Not suitable for competitive play
2. Ianoni PC-150
This paddle is made for league play and comes with its own cover to keep it safe between rounds.
- Graphite and carbon fiber construction
- 8.8 oz weight for a statistically optimized swing
- Riddled paddle panel for minimal resistance
- Textured grip prevents slipping
What We Like About Ianoni PC-150
This paddle is definitely at the high end of the scale, with a multilayered panel that concentrates the most swatting force into any impact point to send the ball back as fast as possible.
What We Don’t Like About Ianoni PC-150
This paddle is larger and heavier than most and can be tricky to get used to if you like playing with a more precise shot.
- Ideal weight for hard swings
- Included cover to protect the panel between rounds
- Honeycomb interior concentrates shot force
- The twined and rubberized grip keeps paddle firmly in hand
- Larger panel means fewer missed shots
- Heavier than many players would like
- Decidedly more expensive than most similar paddles
3. Gamma Poly Paddle
This paddle has an outsize panel to give you those few extra centimeters to keep a shot from getting away.
- Graphite and fiberglass composition
- 8 oz midweight heft
- Solid fiberglass panel
- 4” grip with absorbent cushioning
What We Like About Gamma Poly Paddle
Using this paddle is an exercise in comfort, with a large panel to catch stray shots and a thickly padded grip that wicks sweat off your palms as you play.
What We Don’t Like About Gamma Poly Paddle
This paddle is not perforated, which combines with the extra-large panel to make unwanted air resistance on quicker shots.
- Honeycomb core concentrates force
- Nonslip handle cushions
- Extra-large panel
- Lighter paddle allows for a quicker backswing
- Fiberglass hitting surface assists in aiming
- More drag swinging forward
- Awkward to handle if you are used to regulation-size paddles
4. Onix Recruit 3.0
This paddle uses an advanced propylene plastic and a separate, hardened edge guard to ensure that it will see you through years of regular play.
- Lightweight paddle at 7.8 oz
- Extra-large paddle dimensions: 15.5″ L x 7.8″ W x 1.25″ H
- Separate edge protector strip
- Propylene plastic construction
What We Like About Onix Recruit 3.0
This paddle uses a more complex plastic that holds up under stress and wears better than most other paddles, adding hundreds of matches to its lifespan.
What We Don’t Like About Onix Recruit 3.0
This paddle is under $50, but not by much; the added trouble in the manufacturing process is passed on to the buyer.
- Highly resilient construction
- Edge protector prevents fraying or scraping
- Large paddle for easier volleys
- Taped grip molds easily to the hand
- Lighter paddle makes for quicker and more agile swings
- Exceptionally expensive, possibly crossing $50 if you will need it delivered
- Edge protector projects beyond the panel surface and can cause shots to go wild
5. Upstreet Alpha
This paddle represents a thoroughly modern approach to pickleball, using alternating layers of plastic to add a number of advantages to every swing.
- Honeycomb composite panel construction
- Matte finish reduces glare
- FTwined grip
- 7.9 oz paddle weight
What We Like About Upstreet Alpha
Upstreet’s special finish prevents glare from overhead lights or the sun blinding the player, a serious concern for paddles with a glossy or metallic finish.
What We Don’t Like About Upstreet Alpha
This paddle has a lanyard twined into the grip instead of cushioned tape, making it significantly harder to use comfortably.
- Midweight paddle balances speed and power
- Longer handgrip for extra reach
- Anti Glare coating
- Sweat-wicking grip
- Highly regarded among league players
- Uncomfortable grip for longer games
- Matte finish slows shots
The next five paddles are made out of metal. Metal paddles are heavier to carry, but the added weight will translate directly into a faster shot that is harder to return.
6. Franklin Sports
This paddle keeps the aluminum core between two layers of finish to prevent deformation and damage to the ball.
- Paddle weight 10.7 oz
- 22” end to end
- 6” long grip
- Aluminum core paddle construction
What We Like About Franklin Sports
This paddle does not represent a particular increase in weight over plastic models.
What We Don’t Like About Franklin Sports
The static weight measurement is achieved by using a smaller panel, making this paddle cover less space and harder to use to volley.
- Large, comfortable grip
- Sturdy aluminum panel
- Anti-glare matte finish
- Reinforced edge protector
- Laminated metal core gives some of the advantages of a plastic paddle as well
- Roughly 11 ounces, 3 oz heavier than plastic
- Smaller playing surface
7. Pro Focus
This is a highly competitive paddle that replicates the precise placement of plastic honeycombs on a metal panel surface.
- Aluminum construction
- Vibration dampening handle
- Paddle weight 11.9 oz
- Paddle dimensions 16” L x 7.7” W
What We Like About Pro Focus
This paddle emphasizes responsiveness in the panel to send maximum force through the ball and cushions the blow with added padding along with the grip.
What We Don’t Like About Pro Focus
This paddle weighs nearly four ounces more than most plastic models, making it more difficult to react to quick serves.
- Heavier paddle puts more force behind the ball
- Sized according to league rules to make it legal on any court
- Padded handle reduces pain from striking
- Highly responsive panel for precise ball placement
- Smooth edge guard reduces the risk of unintentional fouls
- A heavier paddle means it is harder to move
- Relatively stubby handle
8. Viper Pickleball-X
Unlike other paddles where a stiff striking surface is preferred to preserve energy, this paddle uses a rubber coating to power the ball’s return.
- Paddle dimensions 7.80 x 1.20 x 16.00 (in inches)
- Double stacked aluminum sheets for extra strength
- Fully enclosed handle
- No perforations
What We Like About Viper Pickleball-X
This paddle has a double layer of aluminum and a fully enclosed edge protector that adds a significant amount of stability to your paddle for competitive play.
What We Don’t Like About Viper Pickleball-X
The rubber panel coating can grip the ball when volleying and cause unwelcome changes in direction and speed.
- Sturdy double panel
- Fully enclosed edge protector
- Close-twined grip for added comfort
- Rubber panel coating for added elastic energy when volleying
- Good balance of size and weigh
- Rubber coating can cause unexpected direction changes
- Protruding edge protector
9. Pickleball-X Challenger
This paddle is in a weight class with wooden or plastic paddles, not other metal ones, giving you the added mobility to win a match without sacrificing the resilience of a metal paddle.
- Six-inch long grip
- Dual aluminum plate panel
- 9 ½ ounce paddle weight
- Molded rubber and twine grip cover
What We Like About Pickleball-X Challenger
Dual aluminum plates can’t keep this paddle down – at less than 10 ounces, it approaches plastic weight instead of metal.
What We Don’t Like About Pickleball-X Challenger
The reduced weight means significantly more vibration will be conducted into the player’s hand, wearing them out over longer matches.
- Double plate for added resilience
- Closed edge protector for maximum durability
- Exceptionally light despite being metal
- Hybrid handle uses both molded and twined grip
- Good value for money
- More vibration when volleying
- Easy to miscalculate a swing
10. Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge
This paddle uses an edgeless design to reduce wild shots and a number of helpful aids to boost your game.
- Aluminum honeycomb core
- Paddle weight 7 ounces
- Sling bag and instruction manual included
- Integrated edge guard
What We Like About Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge
This paddle weighs less than even most plastic ones, making it a go-to option for those wanting to play fast and light.
What We Don’t Like About Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge
This paddle is prone to chipping easily, and the edge protector starts to come off after only moderate play
- Exceptionally light for a metal paddle
- Honeycomb core gives high accuracy
- Sling bag, game guide, and paddle covers included
- Integrated edge protector
- Molded grip with non-skid tape
- The paddle can be hard to control
- Feature2Outer layers chip easily
The last five paddles are made out of wood, which is the original style of this paddle, cheap to come by and with a good balance of weight and size.
11. Amazin’ Aces Guaranteed Fun Kit
This set has won the prestigious Amazon’s Choice award for being the best product among the wooden paddle set.
- Set of two paddles
- Multiple accessories included
- Taped grips with safety lanyards
- A plywood core, solid finish
What We Like About Amazin’ Aces Guaranteed Fun Kit
This set boasts of having everything for the new and returning player, and delivers as well: two paddles, four balls, a washable storage bag, and a free game guide make sure you have whatever you need to play.
What We Don’t Like About Amazin’ Aces Guaranteed Fun Kit
While this has everything for a new player, some people will only be after the paddle, making it a slight waste for them to buy the full set.
- Balls included
- Machine-washable storage bag
- Seven-ply panel withstands weathering
- Safety lanyard
- Comes in pairs to allow for immediate play
- Wood layers chip individually and easily
- Set is overkill for anyone not in need of a full game
12. YardFine Beginner’s
This pair of paddles is elongated and squared at the ends to give players that much more striking space when diving to return a volley.
- Set of two
- Seven-ply wood paneling
- Aerated grip
- 15.7” long end to end
What We Like About YardFine Beginner’s
This is a simple and effective set for beginner players who need a little extra help to keep from fouling on every shot.
What We Don’t Like About YardFine Beginner’s
These paddles are far lighter than most competitive ones and are not within league regulations for tournament play.
- Buy for yourself and a friend
- Moisture-wicking grips
- Longer paddle for better reach
- Larger ‘sweet spot’ to concentrate striking force
- Narrow profile is easy to hold
- Too large for league play
- Rough edge frays quickly
13. Day 1 Sports
This is another ‘all-in-one’ set with a full game included and full cottonwood panels to prevent fraying as you progress through the league.
- Full game set including four balls, two paddles, and a mesh carrying bag
- Paddles 7.5” wide and 15.6 long from end to end
- Cottonwood finish over a plywood core
- Paddle weight 9.5 oz apiece
What We Like About Day 1 Sports
Along with having everything you need to play, these paddles are also finished with proper grip tape that enhances friction without making an awkwardly round handle.
What We Don’t Like About Day 1 Sports
With only a three-ply layer in the panel, this paddle is liable to wear out far faster than those with more layers.
- Full game set
- Grip tape handles
- ‘Sweet spot’ marked in a clear circle
- Good weight for a wooden paddle
- No protruding edges
- Three-ply instead of seven
- Frays quickly and is vulnerable to drops or scrapes
14. Pickle-Ball, Inc. Swinger
This set gets your team and your opponent’s ready for a solid four-person double match up with high-quality, regulation-size paddles for all.
- Durable nylon safety lanyard
- Ribbed wooden grip
- Solid wooden panel
- Set of four paddles and six balls
What We Like About Pickle-Ball, Inc. Swinger
These paddles are constructed to the rigorous standards of the USA Pickleball Association, making them legal anywhere and sturdy enough for competitive play.
What We Don’t Like About Pickle-Ball, Inc. Swinger
At the level for which these are intended, a metal or graphite competitive paddle might be more advisable than a wooden one.
- Good balance while in play
- Regulation sized
- Six balls included, to more even than full game sets
- Four paddles allow for either doubles play or several spares
- Long and highly durable safety lanyard
- No padding or molding on the grip
- Lower quality wood than most competitive paddles.
15. Chuanjun Sports
This set takes things up a notch by giving players the very finest quality materials and workmanship in each part.
- Full game set
- Thick grip twining for solid hold
- Nylon safety lanyard
- Multiple pressed wood layers
What We Like About Chuanjun Sports
Small details such as solid wood in every layer, a thicker twine grip, and a longer lanyard put these paddles above the rest.
What We Don’t Like About Chuanjun Sports
The twining on the grip is relatively loose and can begin to slide if played too hard or in high heat.
- Longer safety lanyard accommodates larger wrists
- Full wood layers resist weathering better than plywood
- Sling bag can hold all the set
- Sanded free of splinters
- Heavily molded grip
- Somewhat heavier than most paddles
- Grip tape is not secure.
Pickleball is a fast-growing sport that combines the skills one may have developed in other volleying sports with an equipment set and speed of play that make it fun and easy for players of any sporting ability. Whether in doubles or singles, this sport can be the perfect solution for someone who wants a more easy-going pastime that still gives a fun and competitive athletic activity.
Because being properly equipped is essential to any sport, you’ll need one of these paddles if you want to play properly. Whatever material you go for, just remember a few basic safety steps – a firm grip on your paddle, clearing the area around you before play, and developing control of your shots can all prevent accidents on the court.
If your chosen paddle does not come with a safety lanyard, it may be worth fashioning one yourself out of a shoestring or twine. Even a relatively simple lanyard can keep your paddle close and protect others from it going flying if you lose your grip during a volley.
Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve mentioned three options for what kind of paddle we can use. Is anyone of them better than the others?
All three choices of material see the competitive play; whether or not they can be used in a tournament is often more a question of the quality and workmanship of the paddle than the material from which it is made. You can find a good paddle in any of these three materials if you look carefully enough.
The best variety of paddles can certainly be found in plastic, with a much wider range of weights, sizes, and internal cores than the other two. Plastic or fiberglass paddles are also the most likely to have the honeycomb core that has been proven to give the best precision and power when returning a volley. Wood doesn’t hold the shape of a honeycomb and metal paddles are more often a single sheet of aluminum instead of a honeycomb.
What are the advantages of a perforated or solid paddle?
A solid paddle means more weight to your swing and an easier time for your hand-eye coordination when setting up a volley. The eye perceives the paddle as an ordinary object and uses less time and effort to aim your swing.
That might sound good, but a perforated paddle takes out one critical disadvantage – air resistance. Holes in the paddle allow air to flow freely through the surface, making it travel faster and eliminating a ‘cushion’ of air being pushed ahead of the paddle that could send the ball off course.
How about coated and uncoated? Does it really make that much of a difference?
Coated paddles have a layer of rubber across the panel that adds elastic force to every volley and bends around the ball to ‘cup’ it for a more precise return. This both makes the volley better and protects the paddle from damage over time by reducing the repeated impacts on the same spot. That coating can work both ways, though; by ‘gripping’ the ball, it can impart spin and change direction to send your shot off course.
An uncoated paddle will replace these advantages with the added force that comes from the ball’s impact being more concentrated on the panel. Without rubber to spread the impact out, the rebound goes entirely back out into the ball to add speed to your volley.
If given the choice between the two, most professionals choose an uncoated paddle with some kind of matte finish to grip the ball and a honeycomb core to absorb and reconcentrate striking force. None of these features should be taken as a substitute for rigorous practice aiming and volleying; even the best paddle won’t help if you don’t train with it regularly.
These paddles are under $50 and seem to include everything I need for a full game. What would I get if I spent a little more?
Assuming that you aren’t just throwing away money because you can, a more expensive pickleball paddle will likely give you several advantages over the cheaper models. The first of these is, doubtless, the resilience of the paddle itself; whether you are buying ood, metal, or plastic, there are different grades to every material, and the higher grades cost more and last longer.
You are probably also getting a better manufacturing process in whatever paddle you buy; just for example, many graphite or fiberglass models use a honeycomb panel core to more effectively reverse the ball’s power and send it back over the net. A more expensive paddle will have the honeycomb properly bonded to the panel instead of simply attached between the sides at the edges, ensuring the same rebounding action anywhere on the paddle.
Your last advantage from buying a higher-end paddle will come in the form of warranty; should any defect be found, the manufacturer or seller will cover the costs of getting you a working version of their product. Cheaper sets tend to be the responsibility of the buyer; if something goes wrong, you as a consumer will be very much so on your own.
Is it worth it to get a full game set or should I assume everyone will bring their own supplies?
Full game sets are for those looking to get people involved in the sport, often for the very first time; perhaps you want your family to start playing, or are buying supplies for a school gym. In these cases, a full game set (or even several) are an excellent choice, giving you everything needed at a bargain price.
If you are kitting out for league play or a club membership, chances are all you need is a single paddle; both of these environments tend to supply anything else you might want in your court. Additionally, most full game sets are not up to league standards, and would not be permitted on the court during a tournament anyway.