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Pickleball 101

What is Pickleball?

by JB Jones on

[Updated October 2023]

Pickleball is America's fastest-growing sport. It is a hybrid sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It’s estimated to be played by over 48 million people nation-wide.

Looking for a guide to all the pickleball terminology? Check our dink-tionary.

Questions we'll cover:

Who Invented it & Why is it called Pickleball?

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington by Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell. There are two running theories as to why it’s called pickleball. The first is that it references the “pickle boat” in rowing where leftover oarsmen from other crews join together to create a team.

The second is that it was named after the Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles. Recent research though has uncovered that Pickles the dog was born after the game was invented.

Did you know that Bill Gates and his family were some of the first people to play the sport?

What equipment do you need to play?

Starting is easy — and you don't need a ton of equipment that will break the bank. In fact, you only need to following four items:

  1. A pickleball court
  2. A pickleball net
  3. Two paddles
  4. A pickleball

What is the size of a pickleball court?

A pickleball court is similar to tennis and badminton, but has unique features that make it different.

The court itself is 44ft in length and 20ft wide, close to half the size of a tennis court. It is made up of two service squares and a non-volley zone that is also known as 'the kitchen.'

The non-volley zone extends the full width of the court and 7ft away from the net. Players cannot hit the ball while standing in this zone unless the ball has bounced first. The center line divides the serving boxes. It only matters when serving, as the ball must bounce diagonally in the server's box.

Looking to build your own makeshift court? Check our guide to doing it yourself.

A diagram of a standard pickleball court
A pickleball court is 44ft by 20ft, with a non-volley zone that extends 7ft either side of the net.

What is a pickleball made of?

The actual pickleball is a plastic whiffle ball. A different ball is depending on if you're playing indoors or outdoors. The outdoor ball is firmer with 40 holes, while the indoor ball is softer with 26 holes.

There are more than 30 different companies producing pickleballs at this point. Check out our full guide to select the right ball for your game.

An outdoor pickleball
Standard outdoor pickleballs have 40 holes whereas indoor ones have 26 holes

What are pickleball paddles?

Pickleball paddles are unique to the sport but share similar qualities to pong pong paddles or padel padles. There are hundreds of pickleball paddles on the market and finding the right one can seem overwhelming.

Paddles are made from graphite, composite, or wood. A paddle's size cannot be more than 24 inches in total.

Typically, paddles are around 7-8 inches wide and 15-16 inches long. Paddle widths are usually 14mm or 16mm. Thinner paddles give more power, while thicker ones give more spin and control.

The paddle surface ranges from a smooth finish, through to painted grit or carbon fiber texture. Many people prefer a grittier paddle face to generate more spin on the ball.

Typically, the cores consist of a honeycomb-like material called nomex or a softer material called polymer. Paddle weights vary from 6 to 14 ounces. Some players use lead tape to adjust the weight or balance of their paddles.

Take a look at our guide to pickleball paddles.

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What are the rules & gameplay of pickleball?

Pickleball is a very easy game to learn and is great for beginners. It can be played in singles or doubles but is more commonly played in doubles. Games are played to 11, win by two, and most matches are played best 2 out of 3 games.

To start a point the ball is served underhand from behind the baseline into the diagonal service square on the opposite side of the net.

The return of serve can be hit anywhere into the server's court but must bounce before it can be played. From there it is a free-for-all of fun and chaos. Points end like tennis points, by the ball being hit out, into the net or bouncing twice on one side of the court.

See our how to play guide for getting started.

Screenshots of the Pickleball Master Course
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Where to play pickleball?

Pickleball courts are popping up across the country to meet the increasing demand for the sport. Generally, there are lots of free-access public courts to chose from as well as an increasing number of private, indoor facilities to reserve courts.

To find a place to play and people to play with, check out our where-to-play series or download the PicklePlay app. Open play is great for meeting new players or jump right into a tournament or league to test your skills.


What is the kitchen?

The kitchen refers to the non-volley zone which is the area 7 feet from each side of the net. You are not allowed to hit the ball while standing in the kitchen unless it has bounced first, this includes if your momentum carries you into the area after hitting the ball.

Why is it called the kitchen?

Many theories on why it is called the kitchen exist. The general belief is that it was copied from the term used in shuffleboard.

What are the dimensions of a pickleball court?

The court for singles and doubles is 20 feet by 44 feet. The non-volley zone is the width of the full width of the court and extends 7 feet away from each side of the net. The serving boxes are 10ft in width and extend from the baseline to the kitchen line.

What are the different surfaces for pickleball courts?

Outdoor courts are similar to typical asphalt or concrete tennis and basketball courts. Indoor courts can also feature the typical gymnasium wood and rubber surfaces.

How much do pickleball paddles weigh?

Paddles range in weight from around 6 ounces to 14 ounces. Most paddles fall in the 7.5 oz. – 8.5 oz. range. Typically, the heaviest pickleball paddles are made out of wood. Check out our Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide to find the best pickleball paddle for your game.

JB Jones

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