When it comes to pickleball, it seems the popularity of the game is moving faster than common area courts and parks can accommodate. Given that the rise of pickleball has been on a steady — and rather abrupt — incline since 2014, it’s easy to understand how the past seven years just haven’t given recreation areas a real chance to catch up to all of our insatiable pickleball needs.
That means that there are going to be times when we want to play pickleball, but the only thing anywhere around with a net is going to be a tennis court. All things being equal, there are ways around this issue, and to be honest, in the absence of an authentic pickleball court, it’s really not that bad of a second choice for most.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to play pickleball on a tennis court, what will change when you do, and how to adjust to a tennis court when you’re using a paddle and a pickleball as opposed to a tennis racket and a tennis ball.
If You Can Alter the Tennis Court, Start With the Net First
The first question you will need to ask yourself will be, “Is this a tennis court I can alter in any way, or do I have to leave it as-is and deal with this set-up?” In the situation where you do have the ability to make alterations, the first thing you will want to change is going to be the net. Of course, you will want to ensure you get permission from whoever owns the tennis court first — the last thing you want is to make changes to someone else’s property without their permission and then be blamed for something you didn’t do later.
If you do have the ability to change the tennis net, you can grab a pickleball net at just about any sporting goods store or online for usually less than about $30 or thereabouts. You will want to make sure that the pickleball net you get is one that is portable, and not meant for permanent set-up, as this will cause you to have to go through a lot of extra steps, and could also do permanent damage to the existing tennis court that you are borrowing for the time being.
Once you have established all of this, you will carefully remove the tennis net. This can usually be done by unwinding or un-cranking the strings that tighten the tennis net to the poles on either side of the court.
Once you have loosened the tennis net, you can now tie up your pickleball net, which may be as easy as doing what you just did with the tennis net in reverse. Otherwise, you may have to get a little creative and simply tie either side of the pickleball net to the poles on either side of the tennis court. The issue with this could be that the pickleball net may want to sag to some degree in the middle of the court.
To alleviate this issue, simply tighten the net on either side of the court as much as possible without ripping or tearing your portable pickleball net. If you find that your tennis court net poles are too far apart to install your pickleball net, you may have to go back to square one.
This could mean one of two things: one, it could mean that you will have to purchase removable or portable pickleball net poles, or two, it may mean that the issue is more easily resolved by simply tying twine or string to either end of the pickleball netting to allow yourself a little more slack on either side, by which you can now tie the netting to each of the poles on both sides of the tennis court.
All in all, this entire process should not take you more than about 10 to 15 minutes.
Playing Pickleball on a Tennis Court When You Cannot Change the Net
In a scenario where you are unable to switch out the tennis net for a pickleball net, you’ll have to make do, understanding that a tennis court net is going to be about two inches higher up than a pickleball net. That said, you can still enjoy a decent game of pickleball, even if the net does not allow you to move it. But, if you have the ability to lower the tennis net, this is going to create a far more ideal setting for a game of pickleball.
To get this kind of game underway, simply lower the tennis court net to a height of 34 inches, or as close to that as you can get. Yes, this may require that you carry a tape measure in your car, but if you’re an avid pickleball player with no pickleball court anywhere for miles, you know it is well worth the trouble!
Creating the Right Dimensions: That Measuring Tape and Some Chalk Will Come in Handy
Did you know that you can fit as many as four whole pickleball courts inside of a single tennis court?! Yes, it’s true. But, all you’re really after is the net and a nice, even, flat space to play pickleball, and all of that is offered at a tennis court. But, here is where your aforementioned measuring tape, as well as some sidewalk chalk, will come into play, especially if you want to play a good game of pickleball that has any semblance of a real game on an actual pickleball court.
In order to get your correct pickleball measurements, remember that a pickleball court measures 30 feet wide by 60 feet in length. Knowing this, you can take your tape measure, center it over the tennis court net, and measure 30 feet across either side of the net to get the correct dimensions lengthwise.
Now that you’ve done this, you will want to move to one side of the court or the other to measure the proper width for your makeshift pickleball court. Once on either the far left or the far right, you will want to measure 30 feet across from the far left or far right side toward the center of the court.
With these markings now in place, and your net now hung, you are almost ready to play a great game of pickleball. All that is lacking at this point are the markings on the inner portion of the court, which include your non-volley zone, right service court, left service court, and centerline. Of course, in order for it to be fair across the board, and to ensure that everyone is playing exactly as they should, you will want to mark all of these lines on both sides of the net.
Once you have completed all of these markings, you are ready to play pickleball! And, although it might sound like a good bit of work, it is actually not that in-depth of a job, and if you have two people and two tape measures, you should be able to make all of your line markings and have your net hung within less than about a 30-minute period of time.
Have Your Tennis Court for a Long-Term Period? Consider Gaffer Tape Instead of Chalk
If you happen to have access to your borrowed tennis court for a longer period of time, and as long as it won’t bother anyone else to have you alter it, you may consider using gaffer tape to make and mark your pickleball measurements.
The reason for this is that with chalk, you may only barely be able to see the markings you are making for your pickleball court. This can create an issue known as “line confusion,” and simply put, it means that your eyes may confuse the tennis court lines with the handmade lines you made with chalk.
When this happens, you or someone you are playing pickleball with may find themselves constantly or repeatedly falling out of bounds, and this can be the cause of a lot of frustration. However, when you use gaffer tape, which is made to be used and lifted without leaving behind any damage, you’ll have clearly marked areas for serving, for your baselines, for your sidelines, and for your non-volley areas on both sides of the court.
We highly recommend gaffer tape as an alternative to simple chalk marks if you plan to have access to your borrowed tennis court for any longer period of time that makes it worth it.
Now that you know exactly how to turn a tennis court into a pickleball court, either for a single match or for a weekend or longer, there’s no excuse not to play! Be sure to pack your paddles, pickleballs, and portable net with you wherever you go — you never know when an opportunity to play could strike!