Selecting A Pickleball Paddle That’s Right For You

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My new sponsor, Armour Pickleball, provided me with the amazing opportunity to design and develop my own “signature” pickleball paddle.  The research, testing, and development process in which I’ve have been engaged, has taught me a great deal about what makes a great pickleball paddle.  So I thought I would share what I’ve learned about pickleball paddles to help others select a paddle that’s best for them.

This article offers guidelines and resources you can use to help you select a pickleball paddle that’s right for you.  First of all, understand there is no such thing as THE UNIVERSALLY BEST pickleball paddle.  Our physical differences, style of play, budget, and several other factors determine which paddle is best for any one of us.  I’ll begin by discussing six critical factors you should consider when purchasing a pickleball paddle.  The six critical factors you should consider as you search for the pickleball paddle that’s right for you are: shape, core material, hitting surface, thickness, weight, and grip size.


Paddles come in a wide range of shapes, but be aware the USAPA limits the combination of a paddle’s length plus its width to less than 24“ in total.  A size of 8” wide by 15” in length is often considered “standard.”  Many players prefer longer paddles, so they will have a bit more reach for poaching and reaching more lobs.  Other players want their paddles wider to create a “sweet spot” that’s more circular rather than elongated.

The shape issue also involves the length of the paddle handle.  Many players are now making two-handed shots, particularly those with backgrounds in tennis, so they need longer paddle handles.  Longer handles mean a bit less hitting surface because these paddles have less surface area, but having two hands for punch and drop volleys from the kitchen line can be a real advantage.  Table tennis players often prefer pickleball paddles with shorter, stubby handles so they can place one or even two fingers on the hitting surface of the paddle.  Some players believe putting a “finger up” on the paddle gives them better control.

Core Material

Nearly all paddles (other than the Gearbox) are constructed with a honeycombed core material sandwiched between the hitting surfaces.  When pickleball started to become popular, wooden paddles were quickly abandoned because of their weight and lack or power.  Next came cores made of nomex because paddles with these cores were relatively light and powerful.  But nomex cores tend to be quite loud – disturbing the folks who live near pickleball courts. 

Most paddles these days have a polymer core that provides a softer “feel” to the paddle that also produces less noise.  There are also a few paddles made with aluminum cores.  These tend to be very light, but lack in power.  Various manufacturers boast of unique and sometimes patented core designs and materials, but most pickleball players still prefer a polymer core.

Hitting Surface

Paddles made with a graphite surface tend to enjoy the advantages of being lighter and provide the player with greater control.  The increased control offer by these paddles derives from the softer nature of the graphite surface which allows the ball to stay on the paddle just a bit longer when compared with composite paddles. 

When a ball is hit with a paddle made with a composite surface, it tends to “pop” off the paddle, making these paddles generally more powerful. Composite paddles also provide the player with a greater ability to add spin to their shots.  Composite paddles generally weigh more, but cost a bit less to produce.

So “power” players tend to prefer composite paddles, while “finesse” players mostly have graphite paddles.  When serving, the composite paddle will allow the player hit with greater power and spin, but the graphite paddle will make it easier for the server target their shots.  Take for example, two players at the no volley line and their opponents blast a third shot drive at them.  The player with the composite paddle will have a better opportunity to hit a powerful punch volley, but the player with a graphite paddle will have a better chance to execute a successful drop volley – a more delicate shot.  One has to simply decide whether their style of play will be more successful with a more powerful, composite paddle or a graphite paddle that will provide more control and more accurate targeting.

Recently, several manufacturers have introduced paddles using carbon fiber and certain hybrid materials.  These paddles should last longer because of their extra strength and offer the potential for outstanding power along with good control, but they do not have much of a track record yet.  We can say for sure, however, these paddles are more expensive.


More and more paddle manufacturers are designing paddles that are thicker.  Paddles with thicker cores tend to produce more consistent shots even as the ball is struck further away from the paddle’s “sweet spot.”  A thicker paddle is simply less likely to twist in your hand as the ball strikes your paddle out near the edges of your paddle.

Many years ago as nomex paddles became popular, core thicknesses were typically around .40”.  As more polymer paddles were introduced, it was not unusual to find paddle thicknesses of .50.”  The 2020’s have brought many new paddle designs featuring thicknesses in the .60” to .75” range.

These thicker paddles definitely provide better control, but they do not produce greater power.  So if you want a paddle with a composite surface, for example, but are willing to sacrifice a bit of that power for better control, look for a paddle with a thicker core to go along with that composite surface. 


The heavier the paddle, the more power it should have.  That’s a simple rule of thumb.  But, you cannot move/swing a very heavy paddle as quickly as you will likely need, to block shots and win rapid volley exchanges.  Paddles that are too heavy for you can also cause or exacerbate injuries to your wrist, arm, and shoulders.

So you need to find that right weight that will provide the power and speed you need, without causing injury.  A good starting point for you to consider is what is considered a “middle-weight” paddle – 7.8 oz. to 8.3 oz.  You might be tempted to consider a very light paddle because it takes so little effort to swing the paddle, but be aware that you will have to swing that light paddle much faster to generate the power you need.  For most of us, those faster swings will result in lessening your ability to target your shots accurately.  Keep in mind you can always add a bit of weight to a paddle using leaded tape, so generally speaking, you’re better off purchasing a paddle that’s a little too light rather than too heavy.

Grip Size

Here is a simple method to determine your grip size I’ve paraphrased from the Pickleball Galaxy website: “With your hitting hand palm facing you open it with your fingers extended and closed together. Your hand has two long creases running horizontally across the center, measure the distance from the bottom crease to the top of your ring finger. This distance should match your optimum grip size.”

If you find a paddle you love, but the grip feels too small – don’t worry because it’s a simple matter to use a pickleball over grip to increase the size of the grip.  It’s also possible to remove your standard grip material, apply tape to increase the size of the grip, and then re-apply the permanent grip over the tape you just applied.  You can also play with a glove if your paddle handle feels a bit too small.  While it is possible to slightly reduce the size of your grip, this is often not so easy to do and generally not recommended – particularly with paddles featuring thicker cores.

Try Before You Buy

Just because a pickleball pro or a good friend likes a certain paddle, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will like the paddle as well – so try to play couple games with a new paddle before you buy it.  Borrow a friend’s paddle, rent a paddle, or play with a dealer’s paddle.

The core materials of most paddles do, however, eventually develop “dead spots” and need to be replaced and that’s when you know you need a new one.

Visit to view the different types of paddles.
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