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Playing Pickleball Indoors vs Outdoors: What's the Difference?

Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Pickleball is usually played outdoors, but you can also play indoors if you prefer to.

Although both are fun to play and watch, they each come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let's talk about all the essential details that differ from one playing format to the other.

Pickleball Courts

First, indoor and outdoor pickleball courts have the same layout and dimensions - 20 x 44 feet (6.10 x 13.41 m). They also have the same minimum playing surface of 30 x 60 feet (9.14 x 18.29 m) and the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen. However, indoor pickleball is usually played on existing badminton or basketball courts with wooden surfaces, while outdoor pickleball is usually on tennis courts.

Most outdoor pickleball courts have concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces, while indoor courts use gym wood floor surfaces. The net height requirements are also the same, as well as the playing rules and the scoring system. But while you can use outdoor pickleball balls indoors and vice versa, we strictly don't recommend doing it. This is because the balls for outside play differ significantly from those indoors.

Pickleball Balls

The main difference between indoor and outdoor pickleball is related to how the enclosed or open environments impact ball control. Indoor pickleball courts are fully enclosed, so players do not have to account for wind or weather conditions affecting the ball's flight. On outdoor courts, which are open to the elements, players have to adjust for factors like wind that introduce variability in controlling the ball.

However, there are well-established specifications for standard pickleball balls used indoors and outdoors. So, regardless of the court type, players can choose from a wide selection of balls that meet consistent size, weight, bounce, and durability criteria.

According to the USA Pickleball Official Equipment Standards Manual, the diameter of a pickleball ball should be between 2.87 and 2.97 inches (7.29 and 7.54 cm) and have 26-40 circular holes. There are no specific rules about the exact measurement and number of holes, but indoor balls usually have 26 holes, while outdoor balls have 40. In short, indoor pickleball balls have larger holes but fewer than outdoor pickleball balls.

Indoor balls have larger holes, while outdoor balls are heavier in wind conditions. Outdoor balls with more numerous but smaller perforations and extra weight withstand wind better. Since indoor courts are enclosed, and limit wind, balls with fewer, bigger holes suit these playing spaces. The different ball specifications help optimize control, whether playing inside or outside.

Playing Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleball: Pros and Cons

Aside from using different balls due to the wind factor, indoor and outdoor pickleball games also differ in advantages and disadvantages.

Below are the most significant ones and some tips to help you play better depending on which one you're doing:

Indoor Pickleball

As mentioned earlier, wind is not an issue in indoor pickleball games. Here, players can expect a consistent ball flight and can focus more on their playing strategies, especially for beginners. Indoor games are also a great advantage against rain, snow, and heat (which can be miserable). As we all know, playing exhausting sports during summer can lead to dehydration and heat stroke. Even spectators can suffer, and they don't even have to play.

Indoor pickleball facilities allow for controlled lighting and temperature, providing player comfort. They often have amenities like restrooms and food options nearby. Courts adapted from hardwood basketball or badminton surfaces limit injury risk from falls. Overall, indoor pickleball offers a regulated environment optimized for play.

On the other hand, noise is a significant concern in indoor and outdoor pickleball. The sound of a pickleball ball hitting a paddle can reach up to 70 decibels and has a frequency of about 1.2kHz. But although there are possible solutions for reducing noise in pickleball, it can still be painful to the ears, especially indoors, where sound produces an irritating echo effect.

Outdoor Pickleball

Outdoor pickleball's exposure to wind makes ball control more difficult, appealing to advanced players seeking a challenge. The faster balls used outside also enable a quicker pace of play and hard-hitting shots. With balls that bounce well off harder ground surfaces, the outdoor game offers seasoned picklers an exciting, fast-paced experience.

Outdoor pickleball requires sun protection like hats and sunscreen. Locating courts away from neighbors reduces noise disturbances. Lacking roofs leaves outdoor courts vulnerable to disruption from heavy precipitation and snow. Players must come prepared for outdoor elements that can otherwise hinder play.

Outdoor balls wear out faster from environmental exposure and intense play. The game's faster pace and hard surfaces also increase injury risks like strains and falls.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball can be enjoyed indoors or outdoors, but starting venue often depends on skill level.

For beginners still learning fundamentals, indoor courts provide a more controlled environment to develop techniques without dealing with added variables like wind. Indoor lighting, climate control, and surface consistency also facilitate picking up the sport.

Once players attain higher competency with shots like serves, volleys, and returns, moving the game outside introduces new elements to challenge advanced abilities. Outdoors tests ball control adaptability with wind and ground speed variation.

Just ensure you transition at your own pace, guided by enjoyment rather than feeling forced into intensive play prematurely. The key is tailoring the venue to your current skill, fitness, and preferences. Seasoned picklers often relish the finesse required outdoors, while novices might initially prefer indoors.

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Picklebuzzy
Picklebuzzy
4 months ago

“Hence accidental falls or slips may not lead to severe injuries…”

? Elaborate please.

Dennis hardin
4 months ago

Indoors anytime😜

Sean Dattoli
Sean Dattoli
4 months ago

Terrible article. No most indoor pickleball courts are NOT basketball courts. Lifetime fitness alone is spending 1/2 billion on pickleball (most of it indoor). This doesn't include all the pickleball chains and independents popping up everywhere with official OUTDOOR playing surfaces....indoors. On those surfaces, we use an OUTDOOR ball.

The Indoor balls are for wood floors, not surfaced or resurfaced pickleball courts. How is this still misreported in 2024?
There's still time to correct this article.

DGPickleball
DGPickleball
4 months ago
Reply to  Angel Cuala

Sean is correct in stating that outdoor surfaced courts are popping up everywhere but in many communities where space and cost is an issue many gyms and rec centers have utilized their wooden courts to triple up with basketball and volleyball use. This is the case in many of your city run recs. As the sport continues to gain popularity I believe that the demand for playing time on shared space will lead to more outdoor surfaced courts dedicated for pickleball use only. The author is absolutely correct about the multiple sports lines on shared facilities. It takes some adjusting to the many different boundary lines on these shared courts. I thought the article was on point with just a few clarifications needed. Great job!

Maddie jayne
Maddie jayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Angel Cuala

I teach at an indoor facility with basketball courts,we had to put down lines for the pickleball courts. Indoor balls allow me to hit the ball harder and it still stays in, i can spin the ball and it stays in, i can do more with the ball and it stays in, but more times than none that ball is coming back when i think i had a winning shot. So, the points do last longer indoor than outdoor for the most part. I enjoy playing indoors and outdoors. I dont like the outside heat and i do suffer from heat stroke and over heating outside, i have to be careful and hydrate before i play. I have students that rather play indoors for many reason; skin cancer issues, heat, cold, comfort etc. So, pickleball played indoors or outdoors, it is still pickleball and fun!

Kel
Kel
4 months ago
Reply to  Angel Cuala

Yes! I play pickleball indoors on my church's basketball court. The taped lines, over the basketball lines, are distracting at times and have caused me to make errors. But I'm grateful to have excellent lighting, central air conditioning and heating, immaculate restrooms, and protection from the elements.

George Dennis
George Dennis
4 months ago

The first time I entered an indoor pickleball playing facility with 9 courts the noise was very significant but not at or over the threshold of pain. Probably at the 60-70 db vs. 90 db. Most difficult task by the server is announcing the score, especially for doubles play. The facility used the 40 hole outdoor balls in lieu of the 26 hole indoor ones. I really didn't notice the difference in speed or spin. More predictable with no wind. Written by an intermediate pickler with 6 months of PB experience after 50 years of tennis. Only 1/3 the court to cover and service aces are rare. A fun game for 2 hours of good exercise

Vincent
Vincent
4 months ago

I think the line after highlighted "score system" has an error. I think you meant that outdoor pickleballs can be used indoors, rather than the paddles.

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