If you’re just getting into pickleball and you’re looking to find the best pickleball paddle for beginners, you have a few ways to go about it. Right off the bat you probably shouldn’t focus on getting a top of the line paddle because a) as a beginner you won’t get the full benefit of the paddle’s features b) you will end up paying more for a paddle that will get beat up as you learn the game.
There are probably over 100 paddles out there to pick from! And while paddles don’t come clearly delineated between beginner, intermediate and novice, don’t worry, we’ll help you cut through the noise.
If you want to get straight to the recommendations, here they are. Remember these are specifically based on considerations that are important for beginners. If you’re an advanced or intermediate player, your considerations will be different.
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Check out this excellent pickleball video training course from High Performance Pickleball Academy. (Affiliate link) They break down the game into 8 key skills and instruct you on how to master them.
Best All Around Beginner Budget Pickleball Paddle
It’s the right price and ticks all of the right boxes for a lower priced beginners paddle: the Rally Tyro 2 Composite Pickleball Paddle.
- Low price for a good paddle
- Polymer core
- Big sweet spot
- Will last longer than cheaper paddles
- NOT approved for official USAPA tournaments
- If you hit hard with it you may dent the face – paired with the light weight it’s not the best bet if you’re a heavy hitter
Best All Around Higher Priced Beginner Paddle
- Polymer core so it’s on the quieter side
- Medium weight – perfect for most players
- This paddle has been around for a while
- (I’ve heard) This is a good option for people transitioning from tennis to pickleball
- This is on the higher end of cost for a beginner paddle
Best Higher Performance and Higher Priced Beginner Pickleball Paddle Option
- Great for power players
- Graphite face that allows for putting good spin on your shots
- Nomex honeycomb core
- Large paddle face and a large sweet spot
- Since it has a Nomex core it will be louder than polymer core paddles
- This is on the higher end of cost for a beginner paddle, but if you think you are in it for the long haul, a good choice
Best for KIDS (who can destroy it) or people on a SUPER TIGHT BUDGET or people who just want to play with a WOODEN PADDLE for some reason
- Doesn’t get much cheaper than this
- For a wooden paddle it’s on the lighter side
- Great if you’re buying a bunch of paddles for a group of players.
- Don’t get them wet!
- Will not last as long as higher quality paddles
- Sub-par performance when compared to paddles made of modern materials
Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide: things to consider when buying a pickleball paddle as a beginner
Pickleball Paddle Cost
Pickleball paddles can range from $10 to $200. The aim with this guide is to give you a good range of super low budget (if you are just trying out the game and don’t know if you’ll play regularly) to mid-range paddles because as mentioned above, as a beginner you probably won’t benefit by buying a top of the line paddle right off the bat.
- If you’re willing to spend $50 to $100 you can find some really great mid-range paddles.
- Unless you know you are only going to use a paddle a few times and are trying things out, avoid anything under $25 or so.
- Generally anything below $30 is CHEAP. Above $120 are EXPENSIVE.
Pickleball Paddle Weight
The range of weights go between about 6 ounces up to 13 ounces. The heavier the paddle the more power you can get behind your shots. Lighter paddles are good for better control and finesse and will help you play longer and decrease arm fatigue if you are playing for extended periods of time.
One consideration is whether you have any injuries or (such as pickleball elbow) not. If you have a joint or shoulder issue or tennis elbow, avoid the heavier paddles. (I’m not an expert in this but I’ve read it’s actually best to buy a mid-weight paddle rather than a light weight paddle because with the light weight you might be inclined to swing hard which could hurt an existing injury.)
As a beginner, as with some other features of the paddle, you are probably best going with a mid-weight paddle. As you develop as a player you can then move up or down in weight when you buy your next paddle depending on the type of player you become. I’d stick below 9 ounces.
If you don’t have any injuries or anything, then you should be good with staying between a 7 to 8 ounce paddle. Go below 7 ounces if you have any kind of wrist, elbow or arm issues or injuries.
Beginners should stick with light or mid-weight paddles.
What is it made of?
Back in the day, the original paddles were made of plywood.
Core Material is the inner part of the paddle and influences the weight of the paddle significantly. Materials can be wood, polymer, Nomex, or aluminum.
Polymer paddles are generally the quietest and are softer than others. Better suited for control players and also the best suited for beginners.
Aluminum cores are strong and light, great for people who like to play with finesse and control rather than strength. (Not recommended for beginners)
Wood will generally be the cheapest option but also the heaviest. The first paddles produced were made of wood. They are durable. (Not recommended unless you are really going for a bargain basement casual play paddle.)
Nomex™ material has the loudest hits but you get the most power and speed from these types of cores. It is a hard material that is in the shape of honeycombs
Paddle face material, which can be carbon fiber, fiberglass, graphite, and composite materials.
Graphite will be most expensive but will be light, strong and long lasting. These provide good ball control but due to the light nature of the paddle are less powerful. They can run around $55 and up.
Composite paddles have a composite core and a carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle face. These can run about $40 and up. They will cost less than graphite paddles.
Carbon Fiber. Great for control. Durable but due to being light they are less powerful.
Use this guide to decide on a grip size. If you are not sure between two sizes, it’s safer to choose the smaller size. Note if the paddle you get is too small you can always buy some grip tape to match your size – hence if you’re unsure between 2 sizes get the smaller one. Under 5’2”, go with the Small/4 inch grip size. Taller than 5’9” go with the Large/4.5 inch size. In between? You guessed it: Medium/4.25 inch size. (Grips also come in a tennis style, so if you are a tennis player and are used to that type of grip look for a paddle with that style grip.)
You can measure your grip: hold your dominant hand flat, use a tape measure to measure the point from the middle crease of your palm up to the tip of your ring finger. Generally, you should end up with a measurement between 4 and 5 inches.
Small grips allow for more movement and wrist action while larger grips are more stable.
This helps protect the paddle from damage as you play. Excellent to have as a beginner! Some paddles are edgeless, but I would recommend avoiding those until you are more sure of yourself and your game.
Aspects of Paddles that you shouldn’t worry about
- Style of play. The variables that will affect the style of play are the weight, materials, length and shape. Now, if you are a beginner, you might not know yet if you’re more drawn to power play or finesse play. But if you are (or were) a tennis player and you loved nothing more than slamming the ball back with all your might, you’re probably a good bet for a power player. While if you enjoyed playing tennis by placing the ball exactly where you wanted it with accuracy you might lean more towards paddles that provide more control.
- When you start playing more and refine your playing style more you might want to start considering this aspect more in your paddle selection. For example, if you primarily play singles you might want to go for a slightly heavier paddle in order to hit the ball farther versus a more control oriented paddle for doubles.
- Graphic style. Paddles come in various options in terms of color, patterns and styling. Pick what you like! Get a matching style with a partner or match your favorite pickleball shirt! Go nuts.
- Status of Approval by the USAPA. The USAPA (the United States of America Pickleball Association) has specifically approved equipment such as balls and paddles that they will allow in officially sanctioned tournaments. If you’re at all planning on playing in a tournament, stick to the approved paddles.
- Advanced Technology. Not something you should be too concerned with as this primarily applies to the highest end paddles. Try not to get pulled into the hype here, since as a beginner you probably won’t even notice the difference.
- Size of paddles. The most prevalent type of body is the wide body paddle but you can also buy oversized and elongated paddles. Stick with the standard wide body if you’re a beginner since you will have the best and largest sweet spot for hitting with the wide body and are more forgiving.
- Grip style. Higher end paddles come with better grips. If you get a lower end paddle, you can always buy a premium grip.
- Noise. Hitting pickleballs with pickleball paddles can cause some noise issues, so if you are playing on a court where you think that might be an issue, buy a quitter paddle made with a polymer core. You might see paddles labeled as Green Zone approved – this refers to the practice of some clubs requiring that quieter paddles be used in Green Zones and louder ones in Red Zones.
- Buying a set vs just the paddle. You can buy a nice inexpensive pickleball paddle set that includes a few pickleballs a paddle.
And one quick note on indoor versus outdoor play: while indoor and outdoor pickleballs do differ, there aren’t indoor or outdoor paddles, it’s the same regardless of where you’re playing.
When you have picked the paddle you want, note the size and then take a look at the best pickleball paddle covers to find one that will fit your paddle.
Finally, there’s no men’s or women’s paddles, all paddles are made for everyone!
Looking for the most expensive paddle out there (just for kicks)? Play in style with the Paddletek Tempest Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle, Large 4 3/8″.
(Okay, you might be able to find a more expensive paddle out there, but this is the most expensive I’m aware of. If you see one, email me or post a comment. I’m curious how high up they can go!)
Where can you buy these? Well we’ve linked directly to places where you can buy most of the paddles listed in this article, but you can generally find some paddles where you’d expect: Pickleball paddle manufacturer sites, Amazon, Walmart, and Dick’s Sporting goods.
Agree or disagree with any of this? Email me or drop in a comment below!