The perforated plastic ball is the key to Pickleball.
What Makes the Pickleball Ball Special?
The Pickleball ball is a lightweight plastic ball with holes all over it. This kind of ball is often called a “wiffle ball”. The holes in a wiffle ball allow air to pass through the ball. This creates less air resistance so the ball can move smoothly through the air.
A tennis ball has a fuzzy felt surface that catches the air. This slows the tennis ball down as it moves through the air. The plastic Pickleball wiffle ball does not have this fuzzy surface so it moves faster without slowing down.
The light plastic material and all the perforations make the Pickleball ball bounce and move in a consistent way. This gives players better control over ball placement. The ball is easier to hit accurately because it reacts predictably when hit with the paddle.
Why Use A Perforated Ball Instead of A Felt Tennis Ball?
Tennis balls and Pickleballs behave very differently when hit:
- Tennis balls have more air resistance and slow down more as they move through the air. Pickleballs maintain speed better.
- Tennis balls bounce lower on the court surface. Pickleballs bounce higher due to the light plastic material.
- Tennis balls can pick up moisture and get heavier in humid or wet conditions. Pickleballs maintain consistent weight and bounce in all weather conditions.
- Fuzzy tennis balls create more friction and spin when hit. Pickleballs spin less and slide off the paddle smoothly.
- The felt on tennis balls shreds over time. Pickleballs are durable plastic and maintain quality longer.
The perforated plastic material gives consistent performance and makes Pickleball easier to play recreationally. The ball bounces true and maintains better control during shots.
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Official Size and Weight Specs
For a ball to qualify as an official Pickleball ball, it must meet strict size and weight specifications:
- Diameter: The ball must measure between 2.87 inches to 2.97 inches.
- Weight: The ball weight must be between .78 to .98 ounces.
- Holes: The ball surface must have regular perforations spaced evenly across the entire surface.
- Bounce: The ball must bounce to a height of 4.5 inches to 5.5 inches when dropped from a height of 60 inches onto a hard surface.
- Shape: The ball must be spherical with minimal out-of-round variance.
Balls used in USAPA sanctioned Pickleball tournaments must pass these specs. The uniform size, weight, and bounce create fair play.
Why the Precise Size and Weight Matter
The exact sizing matters because it affects:
- Speed – A ball diameter near 3 inches has good speed off the paddle face.
- Control – The weight around 0.9 ounces gives players better control and accuracy.
- Bounce – The size combined with the plastic material results in the right bounce height.
Without regulated specs, balls could be too big, small, light, heavy, or bouncy. This would affect the playability too much. Officially approved balls ensure a consistent and fair game.
Materials Used to Make Pickleballs
Pickleballs are made from durable polymer plastics like:
- Polypropylene plastic
- polyethylene plastic
- ABS plastic
These smooth molded plastics are formed into a sphere shape with the signature perforated surface.
Some indoor Pickleballs use plastic resin materials with a hard glossy finish. The resin surface gives the ball extra bounce off indoor floors and walls.
Outdoor balls use UV-resistant plastics that won’t degrade or warp in sunlight over time. They stay protected against color fading as well.
Why Plastic is Ideal for Pickleballs
Plastics have properties that make them perfect for Pickleballs:
- Extremely durable for long lifespan
- Lightweight for better ball control
- Easy to mold into a perfect sphere
- Can be made brightly colored for high visibility
- Holes can be molded in during manufacturing
- Low cost compared to other materials
- Consistent physical properties in all temperatures
Synthetic polymers revolutionized ball production starting in the 1970s. Materials science paved the way for the ideal Pickleball ball.
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Official Pickleball Ball Rules
For competitive league and tournament play, balls must follow the USAPA rulebook specifications:
- Made of non-cellular, homogeneous molded material
- With a surface design consisting of regular geometric patterns
- Must be 2.87 to 2.97 inches in diameter
- Must have a weight of .78 to .98 ounces
- Must have a bounce of 4.5 inches to 5.5 inches when dropped from 60 inches
Additional USAPA rules:
- No colors or designs can be too similar to the background colors
- Ball surface cannot be perfectly smooth and must have texturing
- Must have 26-40 circular holes evenly spaced across surface
- Must be approved by the USAPA before use in sanctioned events
Recreational players can use any plastic perforated ball for fun. But official tourney balls must meet the strict standards.
Consequences for Using Non-Regulation Balls
If competitors use balls that do not meet the exact specs, it can negatively impact fair play:
- Lighter or smaller balls can move too fast, making play too difficult.
- Heavy or oversized balls can move too slowly for good rallies.
- Smooth balls without holes will behave erratically.
- Oddly shaped balls create unpredictable bounces.
Players might complain about bad “ball luck” instead of their own skill. Only regulation balls remove these equipment issues.
Top Pickleball Ball Brands
You can find many brands of USAPA approved Pickleballs for different settings:
- Onix Fuse Indoor – Most popular indoor ball with glossy finish
- Gamma Pickleball – Affordable indoor ball with true bounce
- Dura Fast 40 – Premium indoor ball for elite tournaments
- Franklin X-40 – Excellent visibility and durability for outdoors
- Gamma Vortex – Long-lasting outdoor ball for all skill levels
- Onix Fuse Outdoor – Textured grip gives great outdoor control
- Pickle-Ball Rocks – Assortment of 4 bright balls for visibility
- Champion Sports – Low cost set of 6 balls in two colors
- Wilson Reaction – Premium assorted pack of 4 pickleballs
There are many options at different price points and quality levels. Always check for the USAPA certification logo before buying new balls.
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Pickleball Ball FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Pickleballs:
What is a pickleball made out of?
Pickleballs are made of molded polymer plastic materials like polypropylene or ABS. This gives them lightweight durability.
Why are pickleball balls perforated?
The holes reduce air resistance for consistent bounces and better control. Smooth balls wobble more in the air.
How much does a pickleball weigh?
Regulation pickleballs weigh between .78 and .98 ounces. This lightweight aids control.
Can you use whiffle balls for pickleball?
Yes, perforated plastic whiffle balls can work but pickleballs are optimized for weight and size.
Do pickleballs come in different colors?
Yes, they come in colors like green, pink, orange, yellow, purple, blue and more for visibility.
Can you play pickleball with a tennis ball?
No, tennis balls are much heavier, don’t bounce as high, and lack the perforations.
The unique perforated plastic ball is essential to pickleball. The regulated size, weight, bounce, and hole pattern create consistent playability. Brands like Onix, Gamma, Franklin, and Dura make balls for indoor or outdoor pickleball. While whiffle balls can work, official USAPA sanctioned balls ensure fair tournaments and competitions. The pickleball wiffle ball gives the sport its signature play style and accessible fun for everyone.