Pickleball is one of the rare sports that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors. This means the game can be played any time of year, rain or shine, making it a perfect hobby for anywhere in the world. There is not a difference between the way that indoor and outdoor pickleball is played, but there is a difference in the equipment.
You use the same type of racket regardless, but indoor and outdoor pickleballs are different, and this article will break down the differences between the two types of balls so that you know which ones are best for your desired location of play.
Pickleballs are similar to whiffle balls. They are plastic balls with holes in them, usually brightly colored, and as mentioned, the type of ball you play with varies depending on whether you’re playing outdoors or indoors.
There is a lot of room in the USAPA regulations for pickleballs, but of course, there are standards that the ball has to meet. Those standards are listed below:
- The ball must be 2.87 inches to 2.97 inches in diameter.
- The ball must weigh between 0.78 ounces and 0.935 ounces.
- The ball must have a bounce of 30 inches to 34 inches.
- The ball must have a hardness of 40 to 45 on a Durometer D scale at an ambient temperature of 70°F.
- The ball must have a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 40 circular holes.
There are not specific regulations required for the type of court that you are playing on, but certain types of balls are better for certain locations of play. Naturally, you’ll want to play with a ball best suited to where you’ll be playing.
You’ll also notice that there is not a regulation on the color of the pickleball. They come in all kinds of colors, the most common being yellow, orange, and bright green. They are colored this way brightly so you can see them during play, but the specific color does matter.
We will discuss this further below as we discuss the difference between outdoor and indoor pickleballs.
- Don’t bounce as high as outdoor balls
- Weighs about 0.8 ounces
- Made from softer plastic than outdoor balls
- Wears out by going soft, instead of going out of round or cracking
- Indoor balls are tailored for smoother court surfaces and the still air
- Indoor balls allow for more control in your serve, which can lead to longer rallies due to having less power than a powerful outdoor game
- Lighter than outdoor balls
- Fewer holes than outdoor balls, usually about 26 holes
- If you get hit by an indoor pickleball, it hurts a lot less than getting hit by an outdoor one.
- Made from harder, smoother plastic than indoor balls
- Yellow is the most popular color outdoor pickleball color, followed by orange.
- Have more numerous smaller holes than indoor balls, usually about 40.
- Bounces higher than indoor balls
- Weighs about 0.9 ounces
- Make more noise than indoor balls
- Outdoor balls are harder in the cold and softer in the heat
- Most popular brands: Onix, Top, and Dura
- Must be replaced more often than indoor balls because they are exposed to the elements and bounce off of rougher surfaces
- Heavier so they are less affected by the wind
- Less control than indoor balls, but allows for harder and faster shots which usually leads to shorter rallies
A lot of determining what ball to buy comes down to two factors: trial and error and personal preference. When you start out playing pickleball, it’s a good idea to simply buy a variety pack of pickleballs and try out a bunch of different ones.
You can even get a pickleball set that includes paddles, balls, and everything else you need to play pickleball successfully.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t like a ball right away. It can take some time for a brand new ball to wear down to its ideal condition for play.
That being said, balls can become unplayable after just a couple of games. Therefore, you should always have a few balls on hand in case one gets worn out.
Try a lot of different brands and types of balls to find which one is ideal for you. Remember to give each type of ball some time and patience so you don’t miss out on your favorite ball. Some people even prefer to use indoor balls all the time or outdoor balls all the time.
Indoor balls give more control and longer rallies, and outdoor balls let you hit harder without as much concern for control. You can try each type of ball on its opposite court, although you may have problems with skidding or noise if you’re playing on the wrong court with the wrong ball.
The easiest way to tell the difference between types of pickleballs is the holes. Indoor pickleballs have larger holes and outdoor pickleballs have smaller holes. Furthermore, you can also tell by the number of holes. Pickleballs can have any number of holes between 26 and 40. Indoor balls will be on the lower end of this scale; naturally, because they have larger holes.
Meanwhile, outdoor balls will have more holes because they are smaller.
Most competitions are held outside, and the most common ball competitions use is the Dura Fast 40 outdoor ball. This is a good ball to practice with if you are looking to eventually go pro, as it will give you the closest experience possible to tournament play. If you choose to get a pickleball machine, buy a lot of these balls. Besides the Dura Fast 40, there are actually 33 pickleball brands that are approved by the USAPA and IFP.
You can view a list of these pickleball brands here. Always be sure to check with the tournament you’re going to compete in to see what ball they will be playing with. If you’re not going to play in a tournament, you can play with any ball that you want to!
It can be challenging to use outdoor pickleballs inside as they will skid and slip across the gym floors. However, some people do use indoor pickleballs outdoors. Indoor pickleballs offer more control, which leads to longer rallies.
That being said, indoor balls have less mass and will therefore be more affected by wind than their outdoor counterparts, so if you want to try switching it up, make sure it’s a calm day outside. Calm days are ideal even if you’re playing with an outdoor pickleball, as any pickleball can be affected by wind.
It’s also crucial to pay attention to the color of your ball relative to where you are playing. A brightly colored ball may be best if you are playing outdoors, especially at night, as it will be easier to see. You can use more darkly colored balls indoors that contrast with the color of the court and the walls.
The best thing you can do is look at the surrounding area and ambient light and compare it with the color of the ball you’ll be playing with. You want to make sure there is enough contrast. It seems like such a meaningless change, but it greatly improves visibility during play and can give you an edge that leads to longer rallies, so it’s certainly worth considering.
And no, you cannot just use a whiffle ball. Whiffle balls aren’t designed for pickleball; their weight and mass are completely wrong and you won’t experience good game play. It’s best to avoid whiffle balls altogether.
If you’re looking at tournament play, you can view all of the USAPA tournament regulations in the USAPA rulebook. Many of the regulations were also listed earlier in this article.
Pickleballs wear out just like any other piece of sporting equipment. They are made of very durable plastic, but they go through a lot of hardship being hit hard across the court, particularly during outdoor play.
Therefore, over time they will crack, wear down, or go out of round, meaning the ball isn’t round anymore. This is why every pickleball player should always have a few balls on hand ready to replace a ball that’s ready to retire.
How long a ball lasts depends on a number of different factors. It depends on the brand of the ball, weather conditions, and how hard it is being hit. Some balls might not even last a full game, whereas others can last a few! There’s no way to know for sure how long a ball is going to last.
These rules apply whether you’re playing inside or outside; you should always have extra balls ready to play.
That being said, outside balls do tend to wear out faster. Weather exposure, rougher court surfaces, and even exposure to the sun will cause pickleballs to go out of round and crack. Weather can even make the ball more brittle and more likely to crack.
Players on a particularly hard court might find that their balls last only a game or two. Meanwhile, indoor balls might last through weeks or even months of play before they get too soft.
You can find out if a ball is out of round by hitting it straight up in the air with some spin. If it veers to the left or right on its way down, the ball is likely out of round. This test only works if there isn’t any wind outside.
Dura Fast 40 Outdoor Pickleball: As mentioned earlier, this is the pickleball most often used in tournament play. The “dura” stands for “durable,” and to meet that goal they have thick walls to withstand tough outdoor conditions. This ball weighs 0.92 ounces and is 2.9375” in diameter. It has a bounce height of 32”, making it a lively ball for pickleball play.
Franklin X-40 Outdoor Pickleball: This is another pickleball that is used often in tournament play. It also weighs 0.92 ounces and is a bit smaller than the Dura Fast 40 at 2.91 inches in diameter. Regardless, it meets the USAPA standards for pickleball and provides excellent bounce rate and visibility.
Penn 40 Outdoor Pickleball: This ball is perfect for outdoor players who want a softer playing ball. This ball offers more bounce than its competitors and offers a slower style of play that is ideal for newer players or those who want a more relaxed match. It’s 2.90” in diameter with 40 holes.
X-26 Performance Indoor Pickleball: This ball is extremely durable. It has 26 holes and weighs 0.92 ounces, with a 2.91” diameter. It also comes in bright colors for maximum visibility. It also meets all requirements for indoor tournament play, so it’s perfect for professionals and beginners alike!
ONIX Fuse Indoor Pickleball: The ONIX Fuse’s seam welding gives it an edge when it comes to durability. This ball has a slightly lower bounce than its competitors, offering more control. It weighs 0.92 ounces and has a diameter of 2.90”. And of course, it’s tournament-ready!
GAMMA Photon Indoor Pickleball: This ball’s bright optic green color makes it easy to see in any background. Its thicker construction makes it easier to control than a lot of other balls. It has a 2.9” diameter and weighs 0.85 ounces, making it much lighter than its competitors. It has a bounce height of 33”. It is an indoor version of an outdoor ball.
Picking the right pickleball is a process of trial and error that may take a long time to figure out for the beginning player. Be patient, however, as it’s crucial to find the right ball that gives you an edge on your game and makes you the best player you can be.
Be sure to find a ball that gives you what you’re looking for, whether that be power or control, and lasts a while based on your style of play. Hopefully, this guide helps you determine whether you prefer outdoor or indoor pickleball, and which pickleball may be best for you.