Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleball Ball: Specifications and Differences

Est. Reading: 4 minutes

You can play pickleball either indoors or outdoors using the same paddle. But when it comes to the ball, there are some rules you should follow. After reading this guide, you will learn the several differences between indoor and outdoor balls,

Before we continue, you must know that indoor and outdoor pickleball have the same rules and court sizes. But because their surroundings and court surfaces are different, the balls used indoors and outdoors also differ.

So, before playing pickleball, read carefully to know which one you should use.

Pickleball Ball Specifications

Pickleball was invented in 1965, and the first ball used was a plastic wiffle ball with holes. While the inventors established the rules, the construction of the wiffle ball inspired the design of the pickleball ball. Here are the specifications for pickleball balls set by USA Pickleball, the nation’s governing body of the sport.

Construction and Color

Section 2.D.1 of the USA Pickleball Official Equipment Standards Manual states that pickleball balls “shall be made of a durable material molded with a smooth surface and free of texturing. The ball will be one uniform color, except for identification markings. The ball may have a slight ridge at the seam, as long as it does not significantly impact its flight characteristics.”

Size and Weight

According to Section 2.D.3, pickleball balls should have a diameter of 2.87-2.97 inches ( (7.29-7.54 cm). The maximum allowable out-of-round diameter variance is +/-0.020 inch (0.51 mm). Section 2.D.4 states that all balls must weigh 0.78-0.935 ounces (22.1-26.5 grams). These specifications apply to both indoor and outdoor balls. 

Number of Holes

Section 2.D.8 states that pickleball balls “shall have a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 40 circular holes, with spacing of the holes and overall design of the ball conforming to flight characteristics.” There is no rule about the hole diameter.


Section 2.D.5 states that pickleball balls “shall have a bounce of 30 to 34 inches (76.2 to 86.4 cm) to the top of the ball when dropped from a height of 78 inches (198.1 cm) onto a granite surface plate that is a minimum of 12 inches (30.5 cm) by 12 inches (30.5 cm) by 4 inches (10.2 cm).” The test should be done at an ambient temperature of 70°F (plus or minus 5°F.

Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleball Ball: What’s the Difference?

Pickleball started as an outdoor game but later became indoors, too. This was when the differences between indoor and outdoor balls came in. Below are the most significant ones:

Indoor Balls are Softer

Pickleball balls are usually made of plastic, resin, or polymer but differ in hardiness. USA Pickleball used to have a rule on hardness test using a durometer, but they removed it. Despite this, indoor balls are softer than outdoor balls. This design was made because indoor pickleball courts have hardwood or gym floors.

Outdoor Balls are Heavier

Because outdoor balls are made of harder materials, they are heavier than indoor balls. Aside from having harder surfaces, outdoor courts are open, and wind can change the direction and trajectory of lighter balls. Therefore, heavier balls are better outdoors. Consequently, outdoor balls travel faster and bounce more compared to indoor balls.

Indoor Balls Have Larger Holes

Despite no rule about the hole diameter, indoor balls have larger holes than outdoor balls. This design allows more air to pass through the ball, which is also why they are slower than outdoor balls. It also makes sense that indoor balls are lighter and bounce less. More importantly, larger holes mean fewer holes.

Outdoor Balls Have More Holes

Despite being heavier than indoor balls, outdoor balls are faster because they have more holes. As mentioned earlier, pickleball balls must have 26-40 holes. Therefore, indoor balls ideally have 26 holes, while outdoor balls have 40. But what about the pickleball balls with 32 holes? Well, they are usually designed for outdoor games.

Are Indoor Balls Quieter Than Outdoor Balls?

Theoretically, indoor pickleball balls are quieter than outdoor balls. Because they are softer and lighter, they have less impact on paddles and court surfaces. However, indoor courts are enclosed, and sound creates an echo. Therefore, the difference in noise between indoor and outdoor balls is not the only concern but pickleball noise in general.

Can You Use Indoor Pickleball Balls Outdoors and Vice Versa?

Yes, you can use indoor balls for outdoor games and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean you should. If you use outdoor balls indoors, expect more noise and faster balls. This scenario will make it more challenging to control the ball. If you insist on doing it, your opponent might get annoyed, and both of you will not enjoy the game.

On the other hand, using indoor balls outdoors is definitely not recommended. First, they will easily wear out because the material is not designed for concrete floors. Second, wind can interfere with the flight of lighter balls. Third, indoor balls will not bounce well on outdoor courts. Simply put, indoor balls are not appropriate for outdoor play.

Related Post: Pickleball Ball Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Ball

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the differences between indoor and outdoor balls are made for many good reasons. Aside from allowing you to play smoothly, you can also save money since you don’t have to buy balls more often. On the other hand, a disaster is waiting to happen inside the court if you use the wrong ball. So, be wise; play smart.

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