If you've recently caught the pickleball bug, we know exactly how you're feeling right now. You thought the rules were easy to understand, and you loved that you were playing your first match within minutes of being on the court. You had a blast and want to play more. But your friend's loaner paddle felt weird - so you've decided to purchase the perfect paddle and head to Google and key in "pickleball paddles for beginners."
And BOOM. A wall of search results fills your screen. You now have a ton of questions and choices to make. Should you choose graphite paddles over fiberglass? What is dinking? What is a honeycomb core? Midweight or heavyweight? What's the right grip circumference? If only selecting the right paddle was as easy as learning the rules of the sport, right?
Don't stress, we've been there before. That's why our Paddle Experts have created this comprehensive resource for beginners. In this article, we'll quickly show you three important components of a paddle to look at before purchasing, because each has a big impact on how a paddle plays. Then we'll shift gears and focus on the 5 best pickleball paddles for beginners, with a detailed look at why.
These paddles are in no particular order and are all fantastic options for a first-time player. Let's jump right in.
Pickleball Paddle Buyer's Guide for Beginners
In this section, we will look at three of the main factors to consider before purchasing a paddle - the weight of the paddle, the role of two materials, and grip sizes.
Pickleball Paddle Weight
When you first picked up a paddle, you might have been surprised at how light it was - most pickleball paddles will be in the range of 6 to 14 ounces. Although, USA Pickleball (the governing body in the United States) has no restriction on paddle weight.
Arguably, the most important decision you'll make when selecting a paddle is deciding what weight to select.
Why is a Paddle's Weight Important?
From a performance perspective, the paddle's weight influences power and control. A heavier paddle will add power to your game, but it can give you less control of your shots. And you guessed it, lighter pickleball paddles will give you more general control of your shots, but at the expense of power - without a certain level of power you won't even be able to control your shot.
From a physical perspective, think about how often you'll be swinging the paddle every time you play. Heavier paddles can drain your energy far quicker than lighter paddles, even if only an ounce of difference. This repeated motion can also add stress to your body; and if you have any sort of active injury or previous trauma, a heavier paddle can add even more stress. In general, someone new to pickleball will often opt for a lighter or middleweight paddle.
It can be easy to solely focus on the performance factor, but if you wind up with a paddle that stresses your body to the point of injury, then you won't even get to make good use of the paddle. Make sure you account for both performance and any physical considerations.
Pickleball Paddles Are Classified Into Three Weight Classes
- Lightweight Pickleball Paddles: Roughly 7.5 ounces and below
- Midweight Pickleball Paddles: Between 7.5 ounces and 8.4 ounces
- Heavy Pickleball Paddles: Greater than 8.5 ounces
At first glance the weight difference between pickleball paddles might make you chuckle - could someone actually feel or experience the difference between a lighter 7.3-ounce paddle vs. a heavier 8.5-ounce paddle? On paper, it does look funny, but the answer is absolutely "yes."
A seasoned player might even be able to guess the weight just by holding the paddle. But the point of the weight goes back to performance and physical considerations. And perhaps the most important note here is how the weight impacts the ball. USA Pickleball has sanctioned that a ball has to weigh between .78 ounces ad .935 ounces.
That's incredibly light.
Pickleball paddles can weigh anywhere from 6 to 18 times the weight of a ball, the difference in paddle weight makes a tremendous impact on each shot. There are some more specifics to this though, so let's have a look at each weight class.
Lightweight Pickleball Paddles For Beginners (<7.5 oz)
What's often overlooked on a lightweight pickleball paddle for beginners, is that it lets someone new to the sport, play more naturally. In other words, there is less resistance to where your arm/wrist/hand are moving, letting you react closer to your intention.
As mentioned, you'll have more control of the ball with a lighter paddle, but it will lack some power. This is often a good choice for those who are new to the game or are playing doubles (lots of play at the net.)
Or, if your style of play in other paddle or racquet sports is all about finesse shots - think quick flips of the wrist - then lightweight could be a great choice.
Midweight Paddles For Beginners (7.5 oz - 8.4 oz)
Midweight is a great starting point for new players since it balances the lightness for control with a bit more weight for power behind your shots.
It's a big reason why the most common weight purchased for newcomers tends to be midweight.
If you're playing a mix of singles and doubles, this is helpful too - since a midweight paddle lends itself to dinking in doubles, and power for singles, where there will be less dinking.
Heavy Paddles For Beginners (>8.5 oz)
We alluded to it earlier, but heavier paddles are going to give you more power behind your shots, yet they will require a bit more skill to maintain control and placement of your shot.
That's not to say that you can't have both power and control with a heavier paddle, but it will likely take some time - and some practice - to get used to.
If you primarily play singles, a heavier paddle becomes more important - singles play relies more heavily on power shots (see what we did there?)
Let's now jump into what impacts these weight classes - and that starts with the materials used.
Pickleball Paddle Materials
There are endless combinations of materials used in making pickleball paddles - and different materials for different parts of the paddle. The grip, the handle, the edge guard, etc. To simplify, we are going to focus on the materials of the paddle surface and core, since they represent the clearest impact on play.
What Are Paddle Surfaces made out of in Pickleball?
Paddle face material comes in a few different options, including wooden paddles, which has been in the sport since day one. You'll see carbon fiber (a form of graphite) and hybrids as well.
But the most commonly used materials for paddle surfaces today are fiberglass and graphite. Due to the prevalence of fiberglass and graphite, it's where you should primarily focus as a newcomer.
Both have a unique impact on play and should be an important consideration for your first paddle.
What's the Difference Between Fiberglass and Graphite Pickleball Paddles?
As it relates to playing, fiberglass leans more towards power, whereas graphite is closer aligned to control and finesse.
And if that brings your mind back to weight, then you can probably guess that fiberglass is a heavier material than graphite.
Graphite is a miracle material - it's incredibly strong and lightweight. In a match, graphite paddles will have a nice feel, because when the ball hits the paddle face, its rigid structure will spread the ball impact evenly across the paddle.
Fiberglass paddles, on the other hand, are going to have more give to them. When the ball hits the face of a fiberglass paddle, it lets the power sink in a bit, then slingshots it right back. This is part of what gives the fiberglass face more power than a graphite face.
What is the Core of a Pickleball Paddle?
There are a few options on core materials - Nomex, aluminum, and polymer. Nomex paddles have been around for quite a while, and Nomex core can add extra power to play, but the most popular core material in use today is polymer, sometimes referred to as polycore or polypropylene core.
Polymer core is a durable and flexible plastic material in paddles. It provides a nice balance of power and control. This should be your default core material as a new player. The bigger consideration for polycore should be around thickness.
Should a Beginner Choose a Thick or Thin Paddle Core?
A thinner core is going to create more power than a thicker core. For beginners, a thicker core is going to give you more control and create a bigger sweet spot, which is great for adding forgiveness to where the ball hits your paddle.
For anyone new to pickleball, it's recommended to choose a paddle with a thicker core.
Pickleball Paddle Grip Sizes
Grip size, also referred to as grip circumference or grip thickness, is the measurement around the base of your grip and one of the areas you'll want to give some thought to.
Every paddle manufacturer will list the circumference of their grips, which makes it easy to compare options. You'll have a lot of options on this front too: the most common sizes you'll run across will range from 3.875" to 4.25", increasing in increments of one-sixteenth inches.
What is the Recommended Grip Thickness for a Beginner?
Grip size is a matter of personal preference and what feels comfortable in your hand.
That said, there are a few common trends that can help you make an informed decision.
- The most commonly purchased grip sizes are 4" and 4 1/8" - this size provides a lot of room for players to customize the thickness with tape to fit their hand perfectly
- Err on the side of small if you aren't sure - you can also build up.
- JustPaddles offers 30 Day Paddle Assurance, so you can test the right grip and get it right the first time.
JustPaddles has a great resource for all the factors discussed above - even a chart that looks at your height and provides a recommendation on the best fitting grip size. Since we only scratched the surface of all the different factors in picking a pickleball paddle, if you need more details head over to the Pickleball Paddle Resource Guide.
Now that you know how to evaluate a paddle, let's dig into the 5 best pickleball paddles for beginners - these paddles are in no particular order and are all fantastic options for a first-time player.
What are the Best Pickleball Paddles for Beginners?
You can’t go wrong with Vulcan pickleball paddles. Vulcan is a highly regarded manufacturer in pickleball and other racquet sports. The Vulcan 530 clocks in at 8.5 oz, which puts it in the heavy category, and its carbon fiber surface helps the paddle generate serious power. Sure, its weight and material make it an incredible paddle for smashes, but don't let that fool you into thinking that's all it can do.
With a widebody shape, the Vulcan 530 uniquely offers a huge sweet spot that adds extra forgiveness to your shots. Meaning you'll be able to compete at the net or anywhere on the court for that matter. Which any beginner or pro could appreciate. If you're a former tennis player making the transition to pickleball, this will feel great in your hands. The paddle has a large grip size at 4 3/8". So if you have smaller hands, this may not be the best choice for you.
- Paddle Weight: 8.5 ounces (heavy paddle)
- Carbon Fiber V-Skin Surface (paddle face)
- Grip Size: 4 3/8”
- Core Thickness: 16mm
- Vulcan Max Control Grip (great feel with tack, control, and comfort)
Why It Made The List
It's rare to find a paddle that provides maximum power and still has a level of control over it. For a beginner player who loves to smash, the Vulcan 530 Heavyweight had to represent the power paddles.
The Gamma Dart Lightweight was designed for control and power, and still pushed the boundaries on how light a paddle can be while maintaining that balance. Weighing in at around 7.4 ounces, this paddle is on the lighter side - just barely making it into the midweight classification. And yet the power it creates, makes you think the paddle is punching above its weight class.
Don't overlook the surface of the Dart Lightweight either - its textured surface has excellent grit, which will allow you to put a controlled spin on any shot. The grip is on the smaller side - but this shouldn't be a big issue even if you have large hands - just use tape to build it up to a comfortable fit.
- Paddle Weight: 7.4 (+/-.25) oz (midweight paddle)
- Fiberglass Surface (paddle face material for power)
- Grip Size: 4 1/8” (popular size, but thin)
- Core Thickness: 12.7mm
Why It Made The List
If you’re looking for true value, look no further. For any beginner wanting to get a lightweight paddle, without sacrificing too much power, and at a great price, this is a one-of-a-kind fit.
This midweight paddle is a great choice for the price-conscious player that still wants a quality paddle. Aside from price, it has a nice balance of lower weight (averaging around 7.6oz) and a large sweet spot - which is helpful in shot forgiveness to new players.
Proudly handcrafted in the United States, the textured hitting surface enhances the spin and the quiet construction decreases noise on contact - which your neighborhood courts might appreciate.
- Paddle Weight: 7.4-8.0 oz (midweight paddle)
- Carbon Fiber Surface (paddle face material for control - also has a brushed polycarbonate texture for gripping the ball)
- Grip Size: 4” (popular size, but thin)
- Core Thickness: 10 mm (thin core, which helps with power)
Why It Made The List
The best pickleball paddles can sometimes be pricey for a beginner, but often when the price point starts to get low, so does the quality. That's not the case with the PROLITE Bolt - it's one of few paddles that let beginners take their game to the next level, at the right price point.
The Onix Z5 is one of the best pickleball paddles on the market - and certainly one of the most popular.
The Z5 is extremely well-balanced between power and control. And its weight, shape, and construction offer a smooth feel on every swing. The face is wider, which is helpful for net play, and beginners in general. For beginners looking for the best pickleball paddles that have a strong balance - this is the choice. Oh, and you can't mention this paddle without pointing out that it comes in tons of colors. Pink, blue, purple - you name it, and they probably have it.
- Paddle Weight: 7.6-8.0 oz (midweight paddle)
- Graphite Surface (paddle face material for control)
- Grip Size: 4 1/4” (slightly above average)
- Core Thickness: 11 mm
Why It Made The List
Creating a top-selling paddle is no small feat - Onix is clearly doing something right. And that something is making a durable paddle that performs well every time. For beginners who may not necessarily know whether they want power or control, this takes a lot of the guessing out of paddle to make sure you can focus on your game and have fun. The Z5 isn't the most affordable paddle on the list, but it's the type of paddle that could easily make its way into the "Best Pickleball Paddles for Intermediate Players" too
Paddletek paddles are known as the winning paddles and for good reason. This Phoenix G6 model is sure to give you a bang for your buck and sting with your swing. Like a couple other paddles on the list, this is a medium weight paddle that balances power and control. What's unique about the Phoenix G6 though is its large sweet spot, quality of construction, and price point.
As mentioned, a large sweet spot helps beginner players with their accuracy, forgiveness, and overall control. Combine that with its weight pushing towards the heavier paddles and you have a paddle built for high forgiveness with intense power.
- Paddle Weight: 7.8-8.1 oz (midweight paddle)
- Velvet Textured Polycarbonate Surface (paddle face material for control - also has a brushed polycarbonate texture for gripping the ball)
- Grip Size: 4 1/4” (slightly above average)
- Core Thickness: 14.3 mm
Why It Made The List
Forgiveness has a unique meaning in pickleball, and for pickleball beginners, you might want as much forgiveness as possible.
The large sweet spot of the Phoenix G6 excels at helping new players have a solid game without feeling clunky - and this is a difficult balancing act for paddles.
Additional Resources For Selecting The Best Pickleball Paddle
You now know how to evaluate a paddle. You also know the 5 best paddles for beginners. But guess what? There are many other "best" pickleball paddles for beginners, and ultimately it comes down to what's best for you. If you want to get a more personalized paddle recommendation, check out the Paddle Coach. Answer a few questions and get a custom recommendation in just a few clicks.
And of course, JustPaddles is always ready to help you find the perfect fit as well - if you’d like help shopping for your first paddle, don’t hesitate to contact the Paddle Experts via email at email@example.com, phone at 866-382-3465, or live chat at justpaddles.com.