Pickleball Ace may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
The world is no stranger to the concept of volleying sports, these being sports in which the game is played solely by the passage of an object between one side and the other. Tennis, perhaps the archetype of such things, has been around since well before the Tennis Court Oath of the French revolution, long enough to become the sport of nobility. The idea has branched out considerably since then, and we now find ourselves witnessing, among other pastimes, such diverse pursuits as volleyball, badminton, and ping-pong, each of which revolves around the same principle of serving an object back and forth but differ wildly in execution.
Get To The Next Level!
Immediately improve your game with 10 simple tricks.
It's free and we'll send you no BS sales stuff after. (How many sites can say that huh?)
Though there are exceptions, such as the volleyball already mentioned, the vast majority of the volleying sports with which we are today acquainted tend to be in the form of paddle or racquet sports, where the volleying is accomplished by means of an implement of some kind instead of the player’s batting the object with their limbs. This approach allows, among other things, a greatly improved chance for the players to hit the object at all. Even a volleyball, which tends to move slower than a tennis ball and is considerably larger, players will nevertheless miss the ball with unapologetic regularity.
As venerable and popular as some of these sports are, it should come as no surprise that there is plenty that hasn’t quite made it to the public eye; after all, there is only a certain amount of any particular diversion that will truly hold one’s interest. Whether real or perceived, the many similarities between volleying sports have made it so that only a handful are played with any great recognition, leaving the rest to garner what fans and enthusiasts they can and try to work their way into the limelight over time.
In the same vein, there are people who still take the time to invent new sports, whether or not they might turn out to be particularly popular; some of these endeavors are born of a desire to see a new physical activity or manufacture a new challenge, and others can happen simply by accident. One such case took place on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the summer of 1965, where Joel Pritchard and his family found themselves with nothing to do to pass the long summer afternoons.
The Pritchard family reported that they hand nearly all the pieces for any individual sport, but not all of them, and so couldn’t actually set up any game at all. After a short time ruminating on the topic, Joel Pritchard created out of the disparate components a set of rules and equipment that would serve to keep his family entertained, choosing the name ‘pickleball’ in honor of the family dog, Pickles.
As haphazard a beginning as the game might have had, it proved popular enough with players – first the family, then the others on their block – that Pritchard started taking steps to improve and market it. Using a home workshop bandsaw, he crafted new wooden paddles to replace the borrowed racquets they had played with the first time and set about revising and documenting the rules into the framework of a genuine organized sport.
The new sport spread rapidly to groups outside of their locality and Pritchard was soon able to incorporate a family business under the name Pickle-Ball Inc. to manage the supply and regulation of the sport. This business is still extant today, headquartered out of Kent, Washington, and run by one of Pritchard’s sons.
Seasonal travelers soon brought pickleball with them to other states, taking the sport and business both to a national level within the United States of America. Sporting goods companies, noticing the potential in the sport, began offering their support and seven sponsorship in publicizing the nascent sport. Sporting clubs and organizations followed in short order, making pickleball a fully regulated sporting event; In due course, it was introduced to the world stage at the Special Olympics of 2002.
The original pickleball might have borrowed from a number of other sports to outfit players, but the modern pickleball court is graced by the same level of careful product engineering that goes into making equipment for numerous more mainstream sports. A prospective pickleball player can outfit themselves with gear specifically made to make the game more enjoyable and easier to play, a further and in some way conclusive proof of the degree to which pickleball has become an accepted sporting endeavor.
Pickleball is built around its paddles no less than tennis is around its racquet, and the pickleball community is careful to select the right ones; nearly any other substandard piece of equipment can be overcome by a determined enough player, but without a quality paddle, pickle ballers find themselves with no way to return a serve at all. Having a good paddle is crucial to the game – the question is, though, how good a paddle is really needed?
Like many sports, pickleball enjoys endless different makes and models of its equipment, paddles included. A new player can spend plenty on what claims to be the superior paddle, but is that paddle truly offering any advantage over thriftier alternatives? If so, to what degree does it justify that extra cost?
||1. OWN THE NET Pro
|2. Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro
|3. Rally Graphite Power 5.0
|4. Champion Eclipse Graphite
|5. Gamma Poly Core RZR
|6. PickleballCentral Rally Tyro 2
|7. Gamma Sports 2.0
|9. Gonex 4
|10. Rally Flare Graphite
|11. Rally PXL Graphite
|12. ONIX Graphite Z5
Players can find themselves asking these questions a lot, and not just about paddles – every piece of pickleball gear is likely to engender these questions. That said, it’s the paddle that people need the most, and in all likelihood understand least about – hats, shoes, and balls may be familiar from elsewhere, but pickleball paddles are fairly unique to the sport.
To help you decide which paddle to get, we’ve put together a list of some of the best paddles a new or returning pickleball can have, with an eye towards getting your money’s worth out of the paddle. These paddles may not be the very best models on the market, but they justify their cost to the buyer better than any other pickleball paddles around.
Our Review and Comparison of the Best Value Pickleball Paddle
1. Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro
The prime draw for this paddle is its concentration on providing a wide ‘sweet spot’ that makes it a more forgiving piece of sports equipment, allowing you to place a shot precisely even if you don’t hit the ball dead center. This combines with a weighted and taped grip to offer the user a visibly heightened degree of control on the forward swing.
- 7.8 ounces
- 16” long, grip included
- 8” wide
- Graphite core
What We Like About Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro
Pickleball has the concept of a ‘forgiveness’ rating for a paddle, generally explained as the size of the area on the paddle from which a ball will fly true to the target. This paddle does everything to widen that invisible circle, from a honeycomb core out to a specially textured composite surface.
What We Don’t Like About Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro
Using a weighted grip can make this paddle feel unbalanced in the hand if the player is used to a natural grip. Additionally, the taped grip is mass-produced and may not align well with a player’s natural grip during play.
- Shock absorber
- Pre Taped grip
- Larger sweet spot
- Counterweighted handle
- Textured panel
- Taping is not bespoke
- Unusual feel in the hand
2. OWN THE NET Pro
One of the best things you can have in any volleying sport is a wide striking surface with which to hit the object; it is, in fact, the main reason behind the use of a paddle in the first place. These paddles offer a broader panel than most, giving you that much more of a chance on every stroke.
- 15.5 inches long
- 8.3 inches wide
- Five-inch grip
- 10-inch panel
What We Like About OWN THE NET Pro
By pushing the dimensions of the paddle close to the regulation limits, this paddle allows you maximum possible striking area with which to volley back. The added surface also proportionately enlarges the optimal striking area, or ‘sweet spot’, to grant more control for your increased hit percentages.
What We Don’t Like About OWN THE NET Pro
Although this paddle is within regulations, there are many players that will tender that they are accustomed to a smaller, more compact paddle that aligns more fully to the hand. Both the larger panel and elongated grip can make one clumsy when switching to this paddle.
- Extra room on grip
- Large panel
- Designed by veteran players
- Cushioned grip
- Regulation sized to avoid switching for tournaments
- More unwieldy than other paddles
- Thicker than usual
3. Rally Graphite Power 5.0
Nearly all pickleball paddles are made with multiple layers of material on the panel to provide different return volley characteristics. This paddle packs on the punch with several distinct layers, each with different qualities.
- 15.75 inches long
- Eight inches wide
- Weight seven ounces
- Two grip options
What We Like About Rally Graphite Power 5.0
The layers in this paddle consist of a textured outer coating to grip the ball better on return, a flexible middle coating for elasticity, and a bonding layer that holds both to the thicker and more rigid inner core for added weight behind each shot. Every layer adds something else to your volley to make it the best-rounded shot possible.
What We Don’t Like About Rally Graphite Power 5.0
Having multiple layers on the paddle head makes this susceptible to a phenomenon known as decomposition, in which the glue holding the layers together becomes cracked and brittle to the point where the layers begin to peel away from the core. Similarly, while the interchangeable handles are generally speaking a boon to players with different styles, they present a weaker spot in the paddle which is regrettably easy to snap while in transit.
- Standard thickness handle for tournament play
- Thinner handle allows a tighter grip
- Multilayered panel head
- Force dispersion head saves tricky edge shots
- Moisture-wicking grip tape.
- The neck socket can snap in transit
- Paddle head decomposes with relative ease
4. Champion Eclipse Graphite
This is a midrange paddle designed to sit squarely in the middle of the many brackets created by official tournament rules, affording the ideal balance of comfort and shooting power. Of particular note are the grip cushions, which can serve as a valuable added degree of comfort and purchase during longer games.
- Weighs seven and a half ounces
- Seven and three-quarters inches wide
- 15.5 inches long
- Polymer honeycomb core
What We Like About Champion Eclipse Graphite
The use of a plastic polymer instead of a graphite core gives the paddle more natural elasticity and changes the reflection of the ball as it comes off the paddle, making your hots trickier and harder to return. A heavily cushioned paddle with a comfortable end cap to ensure that you won’t lose hold at a crucial moment in the match
What We Don’t Like About Champion Eclipse Graphite
By making a paddle that is so carefully centered on the permitted brackets, the manufacturers have neglected the possible added surface area and weight that pushing those brackets to the limit would afford. This can negatively impact a player’s game and means that their paddle will require more finesse to handle.
- Balanced weight and length
- Secure grip with end cap
- One year manufacturer warranty
- Minimal dead spots
- Reinforced neck and edge
- Does not excel in any one area
- The use of plastic instead of graphite core reduces the weight behind each shot.
5. Gamma Poly Core RZR
This paddle is built for maximum speed on the court with a far lighter weight than one might otherwise find, aiming to use material engineering of the paddle to make up for the drop in weight by concentrating the added speed of every swing. Changing grip and going backhand are both easier as well, making this the right choice for the agile player.
- Weighs just a little more than seven ounces
- Four-inch handle
- Textured grip
- Carbon polymer core with graphite outer layer
What We Like About Gamma Poly Core RZR
At nearly two ounces less than the average paddle, this item makes it easy for even newer players to switch grips and make the desperate swings you sometimes need to save a match. A moisture-wicking honeycomb tape on the handle gives you plenty of purchase to ensure that the paddle stays firmly in your palm despite the faster strokes you’ll be making.
What We Don’t Like About Gamma Poly Core RZR
As a lightweight paddle, this choice will be more susceptible to air resistance and turning in your hand than other, heavier paddles might be, making it more important than usual to keep a tight hold of the paddle during a match. Players will also need to contend with the smaller sweet spot of a lighter paddle, making this inadvisable for new pickleball players.
- Highly maneuverable
- Textured grip tape
- One year warranty
- Good sensory feedback
- Easier on the wrists for tricky shots
- Smaller sweet spot
- Harder to control
6. PickleballCentral Rally Tyro 2
This paddle was designed and manufactured by one of the world’s leading pickleball outlets, giving it the qualities of material and advantage in play that only come from knowing the sport over to cover. With over 200,000 customers, you can be quite sure that this was designed by the right people for the job.
- Six and a half ounces
- Four-inch grip circumference
- Five-inch grip length
- Fiberglass surface over polymer composite core
What We Like About PickleballCentral Rally Tyro 2
The considerable experience of the designers shows through in this super lightweight paddle, which despite its low weight nevertheless boasts an impressive sweet spot. A heavily contoured grip makes for the most comfortable hold possible for the maximum number of natural hand shapes to increase the chance of a perfect fit for any buyer.
What We Don’t Like About PickleballCentral Rally Tyro 2
The fiberglass coating of this paddle produces a texture that can easily disqualify it from tournament play, even if the player did not deliberately introduce it to the paddle, rendering this a poor option for tournament play. The contouring of the grip, while helpful for most players, is likely to be more uncomfortable than usual for those whose hands do not conform to the grip.
- Exceptionally light
- Large sweet spot
- Easy to grip
- 30-day warranty
- The thin grip makes holding easier
- Not tournament legal
- The grip can get awkward
7. Gamma Sports 2.0
This paddle is made without the troublesome protruding rims that so many players have seen send their shots awry. With a flush-fitting bumper and a reinforced connection between grip and panel, you can play assured of your new paddle’s durability as well as its accuracy.
- Seven and a half ounces
- Aramid core
- Honeycomb grip
- Fiberglass coating
What We Like About Gamma Sports 2.0
Despite its fiberglass coating, this paddle still conforms to regulations, thanks to a careful lamination of the outer surface to prevent inadmissible textures from developing on the paddle. Reinforcements at all edges of the paddle give this product extra durability and keep it smooth all the way across to prevent the ball from careening off the edge and ending the volley against you.
What We Don’t Like About Gamma Sports 2.0
This is one of the more expensive paddles out there but does not represent a concrete improvement over the more budget-friendly models. The grip is almost bare, with only a thin layer of honeycomb tape that does not provide much cushioning or grip and should be reinforced prior to the match.
- Tournament legal
- Smooth edge minimizes errors
- Reinforced connection to handle
- Moisture-wicking grip
- Rough surface for spinning shots
- No way to adjust handle width or length
- Softer surface than other paddles
It takes more than just a paddle to play pickleball; even if you have everything else, you’ll need at least two paddles to make a fair and enjoyable match. This set comes not only with the two paddles, but also some balls and a highly convenient carry bag to keep everything together.
- Kit includes two paddles, four balls, and a carry bag
- Paddle weight eight ounces
- Paddle face 10 inches
- Grip width four and a half centimeters
What We Like About Niupipo
At eight ounces, this paddle is one of the heavier ones available, making it a prime choice for those interested in a little more blasting power behind each shot. The paddle face carries the weight spread evenly over a thicker and more solid panel than other models, making it less likely to turn or roll in your hand during play.
What We Don’t Like About Niupipo
With a thicker and chunkier profile than other paddles, this paddle may prove less maneuverable than players are used to, and offers considerably more air resistance to the swing and sharper edges to send the ball in unexpected directions. While the extra equipment is a boon to players just starting out, some might find it unnecessary baggage to the paddle itself.
- Heavier paddle for more shot power
- Two paddles to equip a pair or play an opponent
- Four balls for the complete game experience
- Carry bag included
- Easier to control
- Less maneuverable at high speeds
- Thick and awkward edging
9. Gonex 4
Another set intended for everyone on the court, this bag includes four paddles and balls, giving you enough for a full game of either doubles or singles. Along with a comfortable carry bag and easygoing, light construction, this makes a great choice for equipping a club or getting friends started on the sport.
- Four balls
- Four paddles
- One carry case
- Seven-ply wooden construction
What We Like About Gonex 4
Getting a group interested in pickleball has never been easier – with these light and forgiving beginner’s paddles and a supply of spare balls in case someone hits one out, you have everything you need to get a game going with anyone. Using wood makes these addles cheaper as well, giving you four for the price of one.
What We Don’t Like About Gonex 4
Wooden paddles are generally considered to be of inferior quality to graphite or polycarbonate models, suffering from warping, splintering, or decomposition far faster than paddles made from synthetics. Additionally, they tend to be smaller and lighter than other paddles, and are considered for casual play only in most cases.
- Full game kit
- Ideal for beginners
- Carry bag included
- Environmentally friendly
- Less expensive than other models
- Casual play only
- Paddles are less durable than man-made materials
10. Rally Flare Graphite
This paddle goes in a new direction entirely with neoprene covering on both the bag and the paddle itself. This, on top of a full game kit, makes this a choice for teams or clubs looking to outfit themselves for competitive play.
- Two paddles
- Carry case
- Four regulation balls
- Paddle weight seven and a half ounces
What We Like About Rally Flare Graphite
By sheathing the paddle in neoprene, the manufacturers have guaranteed it a considerable added boost on the return volley, as the natural elasticity of neoprene rubber will add to the force of the player’s own swing. The neoprene also acts to preserve the paddle, rendering it resistant to scrapes and decomposition.
What We Don’t Like About Rally Flare Graphite
Neoprene may cause an allergic reaction in some players, particularly when new out of the package, and may give results so unlike ordinary paddles as to be detrimental to the player as much as to opponents. This is also one of the more expensive kits on the market, coming in more than two times the cost of other paddles.
- Highly weather-resistant
- Rubberized for greater power to the ball
- Neoprene coating gives better grip
- Full play kit
- Flared end cap for a firm grip
- Neoprene is unfamiliar to many players
- On the pricey side
11. Rally PXL Graphite
From the same manufacturer comes another novel means of getting an edge in pickleball – reimagining the paddle’s traditionally square panel into something more advantageous to the player. While maintaining roughly the same surface area, this paddle gives the player the extra reach they need to make unlikely shots that would otherwise be out of reach.
- Paddle length 16.5 inches
- Paddle width 7.25 inches
- Paddle weight 7.8 inches
- Grip length 4.25 inches
What We Like About Rally PXL Graphite
By making the paddle a rectangle instead of a square, Rally has given their players several more inches of reach with which to catch shots that would otherwise have gone wide or long. The careful trade of width for length means that the paddle remains within regulation standards for panel area, keeping it tournament legal despite the odd shape.
What We Don’t Like About Rally PXL Graphite
Although an interesting idea to improve a player’s game, the rectangular paddle is liable to leave experienced players learning the game all over again with a new shape of a paddle, with different sweet spots, dimensions, and limitations that are likely to trip up a player who has not learned on it from the first. Additionally, this paddle’s grip is shorter than usual, making it uncomfortable for players with larger hands or a habit of changing grip midplay.
- Longer reach
- Tournament legal
- Graphite face for reliable return
- Trusted manufacturer
- More leverage against the ball
- Can trip up experienced players
- Uncomfortable grip
12. ONIX Graphite Z5
As we mentioned above, volleying sports are far older than pickleball; tennis, one of the earliest such sports recorded, is centuries older and still hugely popular around the world. This model features a grip that deliberately takes after the grip on the more popular tennis racquet, allowing players familiar with tennis an easier transition into pickleball.
- Paddle length 15.5 inches
- Paddle width eight inches
- Specially reshaped tennis grip
- Paddle weight 7.2 ounces
What We Like About ONIX Graphite Z5
For those players who have mastered the more popular sport and are looking for a new way to pass the time or stay in shape, this paddle presents a uniquely thoughtful way to slide into the sport of pickleball.
Instead of the standard grip that is to be found on most paddles, the manufacturers have lifted the contoured grip of a tennis racquet to give new players an immediately recognizable feel. A solid graphite panel is mounted on top, giving all the pop and weight that made it the material of choice for professional pickleball paddles in the first place.
What We Don’t Like About ONIX Graphite Z5
As useful as it is to have the familiar feel of a tennis grip to ease you into the sport of pickleball, most regulation events will require you to switch to a paddle with a different grip. Additionally, a solid graphite paddle costs more than comparable models with a multi-layered approach, putting this well beyond what most pickleball players are ready to spend on a paddle.
- Tennis grip adapts new players to the sport
- Solid graphite face for superior return power
- Honeycomb core concentrates striking force
- The twined tape gives added purchase on the handle
- Thick plastic edge preserver
- Not tournament legal
- Far more expensive than most alternatives.
Final Verdict: OWN THE NET Pro
There is a lot to be said for any of these paddles, even the ones that don’t make the cut into regulation play. As relatively unknown a sport as pickleball might be, it nonetheless has the same degree of exacting engineering in its equipment as any other modern sport, with every piece designed by people who know that the one millimeter more or less on your swing can mean the difference between a match won or lost.
Given that this is a volleying sport, though, pickleball paddles all come down to which one will offer you the best chance of returning the service successfully, and the way to do that is by getting the largest possible surface area into a paddle while keeping it light enough to maneuver properly.
OWN THE NET Pro meets both of those descriptions, and in fact, includes so much surface area that it is within fractions of an inch of being disqualified for excessive surface area. This exceptional panel size brings with it a proportionately larger sweet spot, meaning that not only are you more likely to make contact but that the ball is more likely to actually go where it was aimed.
It is worth noting that although this paddle is the best option, it is by no means the only one. If for any reason you can’t get your hands on the OWN THE NET Pro, you (and, in turn, your opponents) will still be well-served by any of the other options here. Additionally, this is only the best paddle for the price. If you are willing to put out more, you will find yourself with a considerably larger array of potential paddle choices, including some that are truly top of the range.
It is also worth remembering that while this paddle is the best overall, there are some people for whom it will not be sufficient. A fine example of this is anyone looking to equip a sporting facility or form a pickleball club, where there will be a need for large numbers of paddles that will not cost too much to replace should they be damaged by amateur play; such a situation warrants the purchase of a full play kit with cheaper paddles, or even several kits, far more than getting a single high-quality paddle with no ball or pair to go with it.
If you are new to pickleball, trying to tell the difference between one paddle and the next is in all likelihood somewhat bewildering. To an outsider, most pickleball paddles both look and act the same, making the many ways in which they differ a moot point. It’s a problem in no way helped by the policy practiced in many sporting goods stores of not allowing the players to hold large, carefully recorded test matches or laboratory trials before they buy a paddle, making it harder to see which paddle is actually the superior model.
This can happen to players with some experience too, especially if they have until now been using a paddle borrowed from a fellow player or from a clubhouse. Whatever your record, unless you have a fair bit of experience to help you along, chances are you are hoping for a few pointers to make sure you don’t get the right one by accident, and we’ve got you covered in that department.
The first thing that you’ll want to do when setting out to buy a paddle – or for that matter, any piece of sporting equipment – is to set yourself a budget within which the price of the equipment in question must fall. Sporting equipment tends to represent a considerable amount of effort spent on product engineering, an expense which is all too frequently passed back to the customers; the price of manufacturing the equipment, coupled with the cost of what can prove to be surprisingly expensive raw materials, can surprise prospective sports shoppers to the point where they simply refuse to buy anything.
By deciding in advance how much you’re willing to pay, you’ll stop yourself both from being shocked out of purchasing and from spending too much. Don’t forget that to ensure that you’re getting a decent paddle, you may want to set a low end of that scale as well. By saying that you don’t want to spend less than a certain amount, you are likely to filter out any cheap imitations or more basic models of the paddle in question and leave yourself looking at only the class of merchandise you wanted to buy.
Another thing you might want to do when trying to find the best value pickleball paddle is to research the concept and the product before heading to the store to get to know the exact paddle you’re looking for as well as possible so you can make an informed decision before spending on it. Researching not only which paddle is best, but also what makes it so good, will let you better grasp your own needs when buying a pickleball paddle.
Take care not to get locked into the idea of only buying one paddle. Instead, decide on several paddles you’re willing to accept and set out to buy the best on your shortlist. If it isn’t in stock, you’ll already have decided what paddle you are ready to use if your chosen brand isn’t available at that moment.
Always ask yourself what kind of playstyle you want to experience with the paddle in question. Someone looking for a casual game with some beginners might go for cheaper wooden paddles in a full game kit; you personally may like a heavier or lighter or longer paddle; and so on. This is of particular not for competitive players; while you may have a style of some kind that you favor over other options, don’t forget that you will need to keep your style within regulation rules and guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions
What characteristics make a pickleball paddle worth a second look?
The modern pickleball paddle comes in endless colors, but only a few sizes and weights. One of the first things you should look for on a paddle is whether or not it’s tournament approved; all the best players use tournament-legal paddles, and they are the ones most carefully engineered for superior performance.
A high-traction grip is a key factor in making sure that you can keep hold of your paddle during extended games or when playing in a particularly hot environment. Look for paddles with moisture-wicking fabric tape or an absorbent handle padding to ensure that your paddle will stay in your hand; some paddles are wound about with twine or have a flared end to provide more physical purchase against the paddle slipping away.
Inside the paddle is no less important than these things, and is worth checking as well; the best paddles tend to be made of a graphite \core with a fiberglass coating, and are made in a honeycomb configuration that concentrates and reflects the incoming energy of the ball back outwards to give it the maximum speed and height possible.
People talk a lot about a sweet spot in pickleball. What is it, and how important is it when buying a paddle?
A sweet spot is where the ball creates the fewest vibrations when impacting the paddle, meaning that the minimum amount of energy is lost at the moment when you volley it back. Many people use this term to mean the point at which the ball will return to where it is aimed; while this is true to a certain extent, it leaves a few inexactitudes which should be laid to rest.
Your paddle contains several distinct spots in which the effects of the ball hitting are played out, each one with somewhat different characteristics of how much force will be kept in the ball and how much transmitted into the paddle. The first of these occurs near the connection to the grip, where the least force is transferred and the ball retains the maximum possible bounce as it goes back over the centerline.
The sweet spot is in the middle, where the vibration energy transmitted into the paddle is almost equal to the amount of energy left in the ball itself. This is the spot at which a player may not even be able to sense that they have struck the ball.
Further on is the dead spot, where all energy is transmitted into the racquet. Hitting back from the dead spot requires the player to reintroduce all the energy they want the ball to have for the next volley.