Beginner’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Pickleball Paddle

Est. Reading: 8 minutes

As a pickleball player, the paddle is your best partner in winning matches. If you’re new to the sport, you may be overwhelmed with the different choices available. You should also understand the rules and standards before picking one.

Luckily, you don’t have to look further. After reading this comprehensive beginner’s guide, you’ll fully understand how to choose the correct pickleball paddle for you.

Different Parts of a Pickleball Paddle

Before anything else, you should know what a pickleball paddle looks like. At first glance, it resembles the paddles used in tennis or table tennis since they all have a head and a handle.

However, pickleball paddles are unique in so many ways. To give you some ideas, below are the different parts of a pickleball paddle:

  • Edge Guard - Encircling the perimeter of the paddle's face, the edge guard shields it from damage when hit by hard surfaces, ensuring the maintenance of its shape.
  • Face - This part is used to hit the pickleball ball. It can be made from carbon fiber, fiberglass, graphite, or wood. Its shape varies, depending on the model.
  • Core - The core is the thickness of the pickleball paddle lying beneath the paddle face. It is usually made of honeycomb-style polymer or Nomex.
  • Throat - This tapered part connects the paddle head to its handle and is typically composed of the same material as the paddle's face.
  • Handle - As the name suggests, this is where the player holds the paddle during a game. Pickleball paddle handles can be long or short.
  • Grip - Also called grip tape, this is the outer part of the handle and where the player's hand actually touches. Paddle grips are often made of rubber, leather, or synthetic substances such as polyurethane (PU).
  • End Cap - Located at the base of the handle, the end cap safeguards the bottom of the handle. Also referred to as a "butt cap," it also slightly extends the paddle's length.

Pickleball Paddle Dimension Rules

According to Section 2.E.3 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook, "The combined length and width, including any edge guard and butt cap, shall not exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There is no restriction on paddle thickness." Section 2.E.4 states, "There is no restriction on paddle weight." Therefore, pickleball paddles are smaller and lighter than tennis rackets.

Factors When Choosing a Pickleball Paddle

There's a wide range of sizes, handle lengths, weights, and materials of pickleball paddles to choose from. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you can pick any paddle that looks good to you. Remember, these elements matter a lot when it comes to hitting the ball. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the different factors in full detail, along with some useful tips.

Paddle Shape (Standard vs Elongated)

Standard pickleball paddles are 15-16 inches (38.10-40.64 cm) long and around 8 inches (20.32 cm) wide. On the other hand, elongated pickleball paddles are 16-17 inches (40.64-43.18 cm) long and 6-8 inches (15.24-20.32 cm) wide. Based on this, the elongated paddle has a more rectangular face than the standard. As you can see, both of them follow the specifications mentioned in the Official Pickleball Rulebook.

The main difference between the standard and elongated paddle is that the former suits every player, especially beginners. Because of its shape, this traditional type of paddle provides a balanced reach and “sweet spot” on the hitting surface. It also offers a more circular center of gravity, making it easier to maneuver. However, the challenge is how to make sure that the ball hits the center of the face if necessary.

On the contrary, the elongated pickleball paddle offers more power and reach. It also has a narrower "sweet spot," providing more jump off the paddle when hitting the ball. This paddle type has a more rectangular shape, which helps users have more power in the non-volley zone (kitchen) and in reaching for overhead lobs. Therefore, elongated paddles are more suitable for experienced or advanced players than beginners.

Paddle Handle Length

Before going to the weight, you should know that pickleball handles have two different lengths—short and long. As a side note, 5-inch (12.7 cm) handles and below are considered short. The handle length of the paddle affects how much the hitting surface of the paddle face has. Hence, it directly impacts your play, just like the other factors. In short, you should find the right paddle handle length to use.

Pickleball paddles with a longer handle have a slightly smaller hitting surface than those with a short one. But since the "sweet spot" is higher, the top of the paddle moves faster when you swing, giving you more power. Additionally, long handles allow players to hold the paddle with two hands and are perfect for doing two-handed backhand or forehand strokes. These playing strategies are very common to former tennis players.

Meanwhile, pickleball paddles with shorter handles have larger hitting surfaces. Therefore, it helps prevent players from hitting the ball incorrectly. However, short handles provide less power once you hit the ball compared to those with long handles. Because of this, short-handle paddles are ideal for beginners and intermediate players. They are also a better option for players with smaller hands and don't do two-handed shots. 

Paddle Weight

As mentioned in the official rule, there's no specific range required for the pickleball paddle weight. But the question is, "How heavy should your paddle be?" Standard paddles are usually lighter than the elongated ones. This is also why they are ideal for beginners. Pickleball paddle weights can be categorized as lightweight (below 7.2 oz), middleweight (7.3-8.4 oz), and heavyweight (8.5 oz and above). For more information, we have a dedicated post on How to Choose the Right Pickleball Paddle Weight.

Paddle Core

The core of a pickleball paddle is the material inside it which is sandwiched between its two faces. This core cannot be seen outside, but it plays a vital role in the performance and "feel" of your paddle. Therefore, picking the right kind of paddle core material is also essential. Below are the three different choices:


Polymer is the most common core material in pickleball paddles, covering about 95%. Also called “polypropylene (PP),” polymer is classified as plastic and is therefore durable, flexible, and recyclable. The polymer core is packed in big honeycomb cells that offer maximum control and a soft touch. Most importantly, it produces the least amount of noise among them all. However, polymer paddles are the most expensive.


Nomex is the first material used for pickleball paddles, but it was originally used in the military and aerospace. Invented by DuPont in the early 1960s, this cardboard-like material is fire-resistant, durable, and relatively lightweight. It also has a tough exterior, which results in faster ball bouncing. But then, it’s also the noisiest of all the core materials. Despite this, Nomex core pickleball paddles are a very popular choice.


The best characteristic of aluminum is that it is lightweight. Needless to say, aluminum paddles are easy to swing. Therefore, this is an advantage for kids and beginners but a massive disadvantage for advanced players and pros. Aside from offering less power, aluminum cores are also very noisy and flimsy. So, unless you have an arm injury or can't play with extra power, avoid using aluminum pickleball paddles.

Core Thickness

Like the core material, the thickness also affects how you hit the ball. Since there’s no rule about it, some paddle makers don’t include it in their specifications. Yet, paddle core thickness is usually expressed in millimeters. The common range is between 13 and 16mm, but some paddles can be thinner or thicker. Ideally, paddle cores with a thickness of 16 mm and above are considered thick, while 14 mm and below are thin. 

Thick Core Pros and Cons


  • Easier to control
  • Can create a larger sweet spot
  • Reduces miss-hits
  • Helps improve shots and blocks
  • Limits vibrations
  • Ideal for beginners and intermediate players


  • Generates less power
  • Not for hard games
  • Not as common as thin cores

Thin Core Pros and Cons


  • Generates more power
  • The ball comes off faster
  • Ideal for singles matches


  • Less forgiving due to vibrations
  • It may cause elbow and arm injuries
  • More challenging to control and maneuver
  • Produces louder noise

Pro tip: Choose a paddle core that suits your playing skills and style. If you want more control, thick cores may be just for you. But if you want more power, go with thin cores.

Paddle Surface Material

Unlike the core, the surface of a pickleball paddle is an external part and is the one that directly touches the ball. Therefore, it's important that you also consider it when buying a pickleball paddle. Below are the different types of paddle surfaces, along with their characteristics:


Wood was the first material used when pickleball was invented in 1965. Although it's no longer as popular as it used to be, you can still find some durable wooden pickleball paddles in the market. They are the cheapest among them all but are the heaviest and lack technology enhancement. There's nothing wrong with using old-fashioned paddles, except that they are difficult to control and not ideal for spins.


Graphite pickleball paddles are the most expensive type but are very light and produce significant power. Their core can be made of aluminum, polymer, or Nomex. The thin layer of graphite also makes it the thinnest among all the options. Therefore, you can feel some vibrations when the ball hits the paddle's face. With that, they are ideal for competitive plays and tournaments. However, they are less durable than carbon fiber.

Carbon Fiber

In a nutshell, carbon fiber is a form of graphite that undergoes some processes to form fibers. Due to its strength, carbon fiber is used in airplanes and NASA's space shuttle. When used in sports equipment such as pickleball paddles, carbon fiber doesn’t react with the other components, making it more durable than steel and graphite. Carbon fiber paddles are lightweight but produce some vibrations compared to graphite and offer less power.


Fiberglass pickleball paddles are lightweight, stiff, and versatile. Because they are created for accuracy instead of power, they are easy to maneuver and control. Not to mention, fiberglass paddles are super durable and could last longer than graphite and carbon fiber. Although quite heavier than graphite, fiberglass is a bit cheaper. This type also offers a smaller sweet spot, which some beginners may find challenging at first.


Some people use "fiberglass paddles" and "composite paddles" interchangeably. However, since "composite" means "more than one substance," composite pickleball paddles are made of fiberglass and other components such as graphite and carbon fiber. These hybrid paddles are designed to combine and balance the behavior of these components when the face touches the ball. They also add texture to the paddle's surface.

Paddle Grip Size

Regardless of the shape and core of the pickleball paddle you choose, you still cannot play well if you're not comfortable holding it. In fact, it can also lead to hand injury. This is when the correct paddle grip size comes in. If you choose a smaller grip size, it might slip off your hand. If the grip size is too large, it could limit your wrist’s movement. Hence, you may need to apply more force while holding the handle.

Obviously, you cannot reduce the grip size of a pickleball paddle. But if it’s too small, you can add an overgrip to increase it. But before doing that, you should know your hand's correct paddle grip size. There are three ways to measure your grip size - the index finger test, the ruler test, and the height test. Since this topic is broad, I wrote a separate article - How to Measure Your Pickleball Paddle Grip Size.

Final Thoughts

While there are many factors to consider when buying a pickleball paddle, they all lead to three things—power, control, and comfort. Of course, you should also make sure that it is approved by USA Pickleball, the sport's governing body in America. To do that, try searching the list on their official website. Lastly, you should also consider the price. Note, however, that it does not necessarily dictate the quality of a pickleball paddle.

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