If you take a badminton court, lower the net, use Tennis rules, and exchange your racquet for paddles, you get the racket sport Pickleball.
But, unlike tennis and badminton, pickleball has a standardized custom on the style of ball used when indoors or outdoors. Although not a large difference, each design of the ball aims to improve a player’s game based on where they are. Keep reading to find Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleball – What’s the Difference?
If you’re looking for a complete beginner’s guide check out: Pickleball Strategy: Complete Beginners Guide!
Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleball: Brief Overview
Pickleball is a relatively new game only coming to fruition around the 1960s. Pickleball began in a casual and domestic setting. Since then, the sport has grown into a recreational sport played across the country. While it bears many similarities to tennis and even ping pong, it differs in one main aspect. There is a distinction between indoor and outdoor pickleball.
Pickleball has yet to stake its claim in the broad landscape of racquet and paddle sports. Games such as tennis and badminton still hold a higher distinction. But, pickleball is on the rise. Although designated pickleball courts exist, they are not as common yet.
As it is, pickleball often exists within the margins of sports like tennis and basketball. These sports already have established courts in their name. Basketball is not a similar game to pickleball. But, its vast popularity has warranted thousands of courts country-wide. Fortunately, pickleball can capitalize on this for indoor play.
Pickleball courts, indoor or outdoor, are set as being 44 feet by 20 feet. They are not large courts, being the same size as a badminton court. They are also far smaller than a tennis or basketball court. This makes it easy to use these courts for pickleball games.
When played indoors, pickleball often utilizes one half of a basketball court. This amounts to roughly 94 feet by 50 feet. This excess of footage of 47 feet by 50 feet allows plenty of room to contain a pickleball court with ease. Given the extra space, two pickleball courts can be set up on a basketball court at once.
Many people prefer to play pickleball inside because the experience is consistent. When playing indoor pickleball matches you don’t have to worry about things like the sun, wind, rain, etc. Competitive players also usually prefer indoor play. Since the atmosphere is controlled they can play a more precise game.
There is one fairly large downside when it comes to playing pickleball indoors and that is the noise. Don’t get us wrong, the cheerful tapping of the ball hitting the paddle is pretty great in both an indoor and outdoor setting. However, if there are echoes going on and even worse, multiple games going on in one arena—the noise can quickly become too much.
Do keep in mind playing on an indoor court can also get a little complicated. Most indoor pickleball courts are used for multiple sports, including basketball and volleyball. This can be difficult, especially for a new pickleball player, because you may have to sort out multiple criss cross lines when you’re trying to keep track of your playing area.
When you’re playing indoors, please be sure to take walls and ceilings into cinsideration. Especially if you’re playing in a location that has lower celings or if you’re playing near a wall.
Often times when pickleball is played on an outdoor pickleball court, a tennis court is used. A tennis court has more than enough space for a match of pickleball. Players can tape or use other means of court adjustment to mark new court lines for pickleball. Players can also adjust outdoor basketball courts if need be in the same way as they do indoor ones.
If you’re playing outdoor pickleball, you don’t have to worry about noise, walls, or low ceilings like you would when playing indoors. However, there are things you need to be aware of. The biggest ones are the sun and the wind.
Most would think it would be great to play pickleball outdoors, and most of the time they’d be right. It’s a great way to get out there and get some fresh air. However, it’s not so great when you realize where you’re playing requires you to directly face the sun, and you can’t see the usual bright green or yellow pickleball coming straight at you.
Unfortunately, the sun is not your friend when it comes to playing a pickleball game. It can make it difficult to see or hit the ball. There are ways around this. Of course, you can wear sunglasses and hats to help keep the sun at bay.
The wind can really wreak havoc on a pickleball ball. Even on a day that seems relatively quiet, the smallest amount of wind can send your ball to a place you didn’t want it to go to.
So be sure to be aware of wind strength and direction when playing outdoors. If your playing and have to hit the ball against the wind you may have to hit the ball with much more force to have the same result as if there was no wind. If your playing with the wind coming from behind you, you just barely have to hit the ball to send it pretty far and fast.
The size of a pickleball court must remain consistent whether indoor or outdoor. But, one thing that players cannot always avoid is the difference in court materials.
Players can repurpose an indoor basketball court the same way an outdoor one can. But an indoor and outdoor basketball court does not have the same surface material. This leaves pickleball players with inconsistency for a playing surface. If they go from an indoor basketball court to an outdoor one or a tennis court, they must deal with various floors.
When using a basketball court indoors, it follows that one’s pickleball court will be wood. Although not deemed unacceptable, it does somewhat affect how players’ gameplay.
When borrowing an outdoor basketball or tennis court, this means the material of the court will most likely be asphalt or concrete. Courts made for pickleball specifically are often made of asphalt, anyway. But, unlike tennis, pickleball is not played on clay.
How Courts and Atmosphere Affect Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleball Matches
If the material for indoor and outdoor courts differs from each other, then the ball itself adjusts depending on the setting. Aside from the court material itself, other circumstances around the game also affect Pickleball.
A ball will not respond to wood the same way it does to asphalt or concrete. Air pressure and wind are not much of an issue indoors. When playing outdoors, they become a point of consideration.
When altering between indoor and outdoor play, these points change what ball you use. Although not a hard and fast rule, there is a custom to use different balls for indoor and outdoor games.
While both indoor and outdoor pickleball adhere to very similar standards, they differ on a couple of different points. These points are recognized throughout the sport and are the main differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleball Balls: Main Differences
The largest difference between indoor vs. outdoor pickleball is the ball itself. Their structure differs and they intend to serve players in slightly different ways. The gameplay is not meant to change drastically. If anything, these minor differences between balls help to keep all games consistent across all court styles.
While the courts vary from indoor vs outdoor pickleball, this is often because pickleball borrows them. The courts are often repurposed basketball or tennis courts.
However, the main difference between indoor and outdoor play is the ball. It’s an officially recognized aspect of the game that authorities stress players should adhere to. Since the surface and atmosphere of gameplay is different, the ball used in play should complement this. Due to this, indoor and outdoor balls differ on two key features.
Number of Holes
The pickleball ball used in both indoor and outdoor pickleball is similar to the Wiffle ball. They are both made of plastic, are relatively lightweight, and bear the distinctive feature of containing numerous holes on its surface. However, pickleball has specific kinds of balls that Wiffle balls should not replace.
Indoor Pickleball Ball
An indoor pickleball typically has 26 holes which are larger than those belonging to its outdoor counterpart. They also are made of a softer plastic than outdoor balls for better control on the court.
Outdoor Pickleball Ball
An outdoor ball generally has 40 holes which are smaller than the indoor variety. Manufacturers say the multiple holes help negate wind interference. This could potentially and significantly interfere with gameplay.
The other key difference between indoor and outdoor pickleball is their weight. This feature is the second of the two that helps adjust the gameplay to be more suitable depending on the location of the game.
An indoor ball is lighter in weight than their outdoor equivalents. Its design requires no weather resistance of any kind. The surfaces these balls interact with are much less abrasive, as well. This eliminates a need for a degree of the hardiness of the balls.
The design of outdoor balls accommodates something indoor balls need not address: the weather. A little extra weightiness for an outdoor ball helps resist wind during gameplay.
Since outdoor pickleball games typically occur on a different surface than indoor games, the extra weight of an outdoor pickleball also aids in its durability when played on concrete and asphalt. These are harsh surfaces that can damage a ball, so the outdoor ball’s design suits that need.
Ball Selection Guide for Pickleball
The Top Outdoor Pickleballs:
The TOP Pickleball is used for outdoor play. TOP balls are heavy, this is a common feature in outdoor pickleballs. It weighs 25 grams or 0.88 ounces. The TOP ball is constructed through a rotationally molded one-piece construction process. After the ball cools, holes are drilled into it. TOP balls have thick wall construction for increased durability. The TOP ball is available in orange, green, yellow, and white.
The Dura pickleball can be used for both indoor and outdoor play, however, we really recommend using this ball in an outdoor setting only. Its name is short for “Durable”. This ball was formerly called Dura 56 balls, the manufacturer has changed the name to Dura Fast 40. The Dura 56 and Dura Fast 40 pickleballs are the same – they just have different names. The ball is made by inserting a single glob of hot plastic into a mold. The mold is then closed and is continuously rolled in all directions to spread the plastic evenly around the mold. Once the mold is completely covered, it is opened and the new ball is removed. The balls have 40 holes, that vary in size. Dura Fast 40 pickleballs are available in yellow, orange, green, and white
The Onix Fuse G2 Pickleball is 3x as durable as the original Fuse pickleball. These balls respond consistently and are made with exceptional seam welding. This means they resist splitting and can be used for many games. It has small precision-drilled holes that minimize wind interference so you can concentrate on your game. This ball only comes in two colors, yellow and green. These pickleballs also have an excellent balance and weight distribution.
The Onix PURE 2 Outdoor Pickleball was designed to perform well in all outdoor conditions. The PURE 2 Pickleball is produced using an injection molded process and has holes that are all the same size, this is not like other outdoor pickleballs. Most outdoor pickleballs have holes that vary in size. This process generates a long-lasting ball that flies true and bounces consistently throughout its life. This ball weighs more than indoor pickleballs. This ball only comes in one color, yellow.
The Top Indoor Pickleballs:
The Jugs pickleball is mostly used for indoor play. Jugs are made of soft plastic. It also has big holes and a pretty good bounce to it. The Jugs Indoor balls measure 2.875” in diameter and weigh only 0.81 ounces. Jugs pickleballs are available in green and white.
The Gamma Photon Indoor Pickleball is, overall, a really good indoor pickleball. It’s well-balanced and has a two-piece construction that allows it to bounce evenly on any surface. Gamma Photon Indoor Pickleballs have a thicker construction in comparison to most outdoor balls. These balls have a 2.9″ diameter and weights 0.85 oz. It has 26 evenly drilled holes that allow it to be directed with ease. The ball comes in one color, neon green. This makes it really easy to see and it’ll stand out against any background. If you enjoy using outdoor balls but need an indoor equivalent, the Gamma Photon Indoor Pickleball is a solid choice.
The Penn 26 Indoor Pickleball is best for those who play on wooden surfaces regularly. It was specifically designed to give a true bounce without any skidding. It comes in one color, Hot Lava, it was created with this bright color so it easily stands out against indoor surfaces. The Penn 26 Indoor Pickleball has large holes that were drilled with precision so that the ball has maximum airflow. Their smooth surface and easily identifiable color show their top-quality design. It works well in just about any indoor setting for both new and expereinced players.
The Onix Fuse Indoor Pickleball is basically the same as the Onix Fuse Outdoor Pickleball. However, there are a few differences, this ball has larger holes, and was specifically designed to fly straighter. As well as, bounce more accurately and last longer. The seamless ball is heat-welded together to ensure maximum longevity. These balls are available in yellow and orange.
Pickleball Ball Requirements
The USA Pickleball Association sets very specific requirements for pickleball balls. When playing your pickleball ball should meet the requirements they set, especially if you want to get into tournament play. We’ll go over that in a bit. You can find an officially approved ball here. The list goes through updates from time to time. Here are just a few of the most popular officially approved pickleball balls, dura pickleball balls, jugs pickleball balls, CORE pickleball balls, etc.
- The material from which the ball is made must be smooth and molded
- The pickleball must have a uniform color and manufacturer’s branding
- The diameter of the pickleball has to fall between 2.87 and 2.97 inches
- The weight of the pickleball must be between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces
- The out-of-round variance of the ball must not exceed +/- 0.02 inches
- The bounce of the ball must be 30-34 inches dropped from 78 inches
- The hardness of the pickleball must be 40-50 on a Durometer D scale
- The pickleball must have 26-40 circular holes that are evenly spaced
When it comes to pickleball colors, the official USAPA rules don’t specify that the ball needs to be a specific color. The only thing that the rules do specify is that the ball must have a uniform color. The most popular color that you’ll see is orange. However, white and yellow pickleball balls are very common as well.
Are you looking for the best pickleball balls? If so, check out our guide: The Best Pickleball Balls for the Money-Buying Guide and Reviews!
Even Though There Are Some Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Pickleball, There Are a Few Factors That Remain the Same:
The Pickleball Court Dimensions: The pickleball court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. This is true for indoor or outdoor play. If you know you’ll be playing in a gym pretty often we recommend you purchase court tape. This is so you can clearly mark out the lines. You can also do this on an outdoor tennis court. The same court dimensions apply to both singles and doubles play.
The Height of the Net: The net height is the same whether you play inside or out. The net posts should be 36 inches at the sideline and the net 34 inches at the center.
The Rules: The rules of the game are the same whether you play indoors or outdoors.
Each type of pickleball ball only requires as many differences as are necessary to accommodate the difference in their setting. The number and size of the holes vary primarily for weather, wind, and the surface on which they bounce.
In other aspects, the balls largely remain the same. The diameter of both indoor and outdoor balls is the same. The choice of color has little to do with indoor or outdoor play, but rather its ability to be well-seen on the court.
Both styles of balls seek to reach the same standards designated by the International Federation of Pickleball. Although small, these differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball seek to improve and equalize gameplay for all players around the country.
Check out some of our other guides:
Learn: About Pickleball, Why is it Called Pickleball?, Pickleball Rules, Pickleball Court Dimensions, What is Pickleball?, Pickleball Singles vs Doubles – Strategies and Rules, and How to Play Pickleball Singles-Skinny Singles!
Equipment: What Type of Pickleball Paddle is Best?, Best Pickleball Shoes, Learn More About Pickleball Equipment and Where to Buy It, Best Pickleball Clothes for Men and Women, Best Pickleball Accessories And Must-Have Gear, and Best Pickleball Paddle.