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Pickleball: the fast-growing up and comer. Considering that Pickleball has only been around for some 55 years, it’s impressive that there are courts popping up like wildflowers, and a testament to the game’s popularity. From a small family game to a national sport, Pickleball appeals to all ages and all abilities.
But what do you do when you don’t have access to a court? The original game was set up in a backyard on a badminton court, so it’s safe to say that the mother of Pickleball is improvisation. And that is what we do now.
Related Reading: What is the Non-Volley Zone in Pickleball?
Pickleball Equipment and Court
Like in any craft, knowing the rules makes it easier to play with them, and adjust them when need be. So, let’s learn about Pickleball equipment so we can play it whenever and wherever we want!
The thing with Pickleball is that it was designed to be minimal effort, equipment-wise. There’s no crazy court, there are no goals. There are simply the paddles, the ball, and the net.
The first-ever game of Pickleball was played on a Badminton court at the home of Joel and Joan Pritchard on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
One long summer’s day, or so the story goes, the Pritchards were entertaining guests. As the kids grew restless, the adults looked for something to do. All they could find was a Wiffle ball and ping pong paddles. Pair that with their badminton court and the kids quickly discovered America’s fastest-growing sport.
Since then, there have been many changes to the Pickleball equipment since its birth on that summer’s night in 1965. The changes began as immediately as the game did. Small changes, like lowering the net. The low impact nature of the sport means that a lower net makes for a smoother game.
These days there are around one hundred types of paddles to choose from. They range in price, materials, and weight. You can pick up a paddle as a recommended retail price for anything between $13-$145, so it’s important to know what you want to get out of your paddle experience.
The weight of your paddle is everything. It dictates how you will drive your ball, affects your swing, and of course, affects the long term well being of your arm and elbow. Paddles range from about 6 ounces to fourteen ounces. A light paddle allows you ball control but may be lacking in ball drive.
With a heavy paddle, you might gain more drive, but lack control — and the strain can cause fatigue. It’s about knowing your body and your style, sometimes this comes over time, or you can talk to an expert.
A third consideration is grip size. Knowing your grip size takes the strain off the wrist and affects control. You can figure out your grip size by holding up your palm and measuring from the middlemost dominant crease to the tip of your ring finger. If you’re in between, pick the smaller size for better control.
We’re all familiar with a Tennis ball; the largest ball in the racquet-game family, hollow and ‘furry’. The Pickleball shares no similarities with the Tennis ball, other than the round factor. These days, it doesn’t even resemble its ancestor, the Wiffle ball.
Unlike the Wiffle ball, with its slats that go around the circumference of the ball, the Pickleball ball has holes through its entire plastic surface. It’s very lightweight giving it a lot of drive for a little push.
Net and Court:
A regular tennis court is about three times the size of a Pickleball court and then set up to the dimensions of a badminton court.
Court: 20 ft x 44 ft
Net Height: 36 inches
No volley zone: seven feet
Playing area: 20 ft x 15x
So Can I Use A Tennis Court To Play Pickleball?
So, you’ve got all the right equipment and you know the dimensions you need. You know how it should all look, but you’re looking at a Tennis Court. Let’s make it work.
This little, two-step process assumes that you are just setting up one game, or ‘court’ for Pickleball. Because a tennis court is so much larger than a Pickleball court, you could effectively set up four games of Pickleball on one court.
The tennis net is two inches higher than the Pickleball net. So firstly you will need to lower the net. If you find it’s too tight you can also loosen it.
Note: if you’re in a public space, don’t forget to return it back to its original height. It is a tennis court after all!
Now you’re going to mark the lines. The all-over dimensions of the court are 44 feet by 20 feet.
- Set your no-volley zone 7 feet away from the net toward the baseline, on either side
- From the no-volley zone line measure 15 feet back, this is a simple way to find your baseline
- Then find the ‘dead center’, which is ten feet on either side and mark it from baseline to baseline. This will divide the court in half, creating the right service center, and the left service center
And that is your court.
In a public space, you can use chalk or tape to make the lines. If you have your own tennis court you can have lines painted over. Tennis lines must be white, but you can paint your Pickleball lines any color you like.
Tip: Choose a color other than white so that your eye doesn’t get distracted or lose focus during the game.
Where Can You Play Pickleball, Officially?
You can find an official Pickleball court all around the country. Courts can be found at your local community center, YMCA and private clubs. The USAPA — USA Pickleball Association — has a list of courts and games that can be found on their website.