There are two types of pickleball balls: Indoor and Outdoor. Let’s go over the differences, and answer a few common questions around pickleball ball selection.
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Outdoor Pickleball Balls
Outdoor pickleball balls are heavier, harder, made of smooth plastic and have 40 drilled holes. Due to their weight and construction, outdoor pickleballs are less effected by wind.
Outdoor pickleballs come off the paddle faster and harder than indoor balls. They are easier to hit hard due to having less drag. However, outdoor pickleballs are more difficult to control and require finesse to place accurately. With outdoor balls, rounds are typically shorter.
Outdoor balls sometimes crack or go out-of-round. Outdoor balls can last a few rounds or much longer. Lifespan depends on players’ style, playing surface, and even the temperature. To check roundness, hit a ball up into the air with spin and watch how the ball moves.
Since outdoor balls are slightly larger, heavier, and harder, they’re noisier, and getting hit with one hurts more than an indoor ball.
Indoor Pickleball Balls
Indoor pickleball balls are softer and have larger holes than outdoor balls. Indoor pickleballs are easier to control but are difficult to slam because they have more drag. Indoor balls are textured which allows players to give them more spin. Rallies are usually longer with an indoor ball.
When indoor balls wear out they get soft spots. Indoor balls rarely crack or go out-of-round like outdoor balls. Indoor balls are slightly smaller and lighter. This means indoor balls are more effected by wind, but if you are playing indoors that should not be a problem. Lastly, indoor pickleballs are quieter and getting hit by an indoor ball hurts less.
Indoor vs Outdoor: How to choose?
Outdoor pickleballs are rarely used indoors because they skip off the smooth floor and do not bounce as high. However, some players prefer to use indoor balls outside because they are more forgiving and allow for longer rallies.
Casual players usually prefer indoor balls for longer, more exciting rallies. Choosing the right pickleball paddle shape can also make or break a good rally.
|Indoor balls||Outdoor balls|
|# of Holes||26||40|
|Control||Easier to control||Harder to control|
|Lifespan||Last longer||Shorter lifespan|
|Spin||Easier to spin||Harder to spin|
|Uses||Used indoor and outdoor||Used outdoor only|
|Notes||Preferred by casual players||Preferred by serious players|
Official Pickleball Ball Rules
- Ball shall be made of smooth molded material and must have a uniform color.
- Diameter must be between 2.87 inches and 2.97 inches.
- The out-of-round varience cannot exceed +/- 0.02 inches.
- The ball must weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces.
- The ball must bounce 30-34 inches when dropped from a height of 78 inches.
- The ball must have a hardness of 40-50 on a Durometer D scale.
- The ball must have 26 to 40 evenly spaced, circular holes.
- Colors may vary.
Those are the requirements from the USAPA official rule book. However, just meeting those guidelines is not enough. To be “officially approved” the ball must appear in the USAPA’s list of approved balls. The USAPA list is updated periodically. In order for referrers to identify a particular ball, official balls must also have the branding printed on the ball. Other than the manufacture’s brand or logo, the ball must be a uniform color.
In order to ensure consistent bounce, pickleballs must be bounce tested on a very specific surface. The bounce test must be conducted on a granite surface or place that is at least 12″ x 12″ x 4″. During all tests, the ambient temperature must be between 75° and 80° F.
An official tournament will typically select a particular approved ball and use that same model for all games.
Pickleball Ball Colors
Orange is the most popular color of pickleballs. Yellow and white are also growing in popularity. Many players prefer darker colored balls because they are easier to see inside gyms. Official USAPA rules do not specify a required color. The rules only say that they must be a uniform color except for any logo printed on the ball.
How long do pickleballs last?
The lifespan of a pickleball varies from a few rounds to quite a long time. Outdoor pickleballs are harder and will crack or go out-of-round after a while. Indoor balls usually last longer and will not crack. Indoor balls will get soft spots after extended use.
The lifespan of a pickleball depends on a number of factors including how hard you hit the ball, playing surface, and ambient temperature. All things being equal some balls might just crack earlier than others. Every pickleball is injection molded and made in China. As a result, their quality can vary.
Are all pickleballs the same?
As mentioned before, there are two kinds of pickleballs: Indoor and Outdoor. Beyond the differences outlined above, all pickleballs are largely the same. For the most part, all manufacturers use the same type of equipment.
Pickleball Balls vs Wiffleball Balls
Pickleball was first played with a wiffleball ball before pickleballs were invented. In a pinch you can still use a wiffleball, but there are a few key differences.
Wiffleballs are white, slightly smaller than pickleballs, and have oblong holes on one side (the other side has no holes). This design allows pitchers to throw curveballs with a tremendous amount of movement.
A pickleball ball’s uniform holes allows the ball to fly truer and more consistently.
Quiet Pickleball Balls
Pickleball can be a noisy sport. If you are concerned about disturbing others at your gym you have two options:
Your First option is an indoor pickleball. Indoor pickleballs are made with a softer plastic which makes them quieter than outdoor balls.
Your second option is a foam pickleball ball. Foam balls are not USAPA approved but can still be used for casual play.
Most people new to pickleball like to experiment a bit with different balls. For more on getting started take a look at our guide to choosing a pickleball paddle.