Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. This paddle sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis into a fun game that can be enjoyed by players of all ages and skill levels. With its growing popularity, many pickleball players are left wondering if they can use existing tennis or paddle tennis courts to play their favorite sport. One question that often comes up is whether you can play pickleball on a platform tennis court.
Platform tennis, sometimes called paddle tennis, is a sport with some similarities to pickleball but also some key differences in terms of equipment, rules, and court specifications. While platform tennis courts may seem like they could work for pickleball at first glance, there are several important factors to consider before attempting to use a platform tennis court for pickleball play.
This comprehensive guide will examine the equipment and court requirements for both platform tennis and pickleball. It will compare and contrast the sports to determine if a platform tennis court can adequately and safely accommodate a pickleball game according to official pickleball rules and dimensions. Equipped with this knowledge, pickleball players can decide if platform tennis courts in their community can double as pickleball courts or if separate dedicated pickleball courts are needed.
What is Platform Tennis?
History and Overview
Platform tennis, sometimes abbreviated as platform tennis or paddle tennis, is a racket sport that originated in 1928 in Scarsdale, New York. The game was invented by James Cogswell and Fessenden Blanchard who constructed an outdoor tennis court and raised it onto a wooden platform to allow for play during the cold winter months. This modified court became known as a platform tennis court.
Platform tennis is played on an elevated wooden deck that is surrounded by wire fencing. The fencing, overhead screen, and height of the platform help contain the ball on the court. Platform tennis uses a soft, spongy ball and solid paddles rather than stringed rackets. Games are one set of 11 points and players serve underhand.
Over the decades, platform tennis grew into an organized sport with sanctioned tournaments and clubs. While it never achieved the widespread popularity of tennis, platform tennis has an enthusiastic following in certain areas of the United States. The sport is governed by the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA).
The equipment used in platform tennis includes:
- Paddle: Platform tennis paddles are solid wood paddles without strings. They have small round or teardrop-shaped heads approximately 5 inches in diameter. The face of the paddle may have a textured surface to add spin and control. Paddles weigh between 12-16 ounces.
- Ball: Platform tennis balls are soft, spongy rubber balls approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. They are much less bouncy than tennis balls. The low compression ball is designed to perform well on the enclosed platform court.
- Court: Platform tennis is played on an elevated wooden deck 36 feet long by 16 feet wide. The recommended height is 30 inches above ground level. Wire fencing and overhead screening surround the court to keep the ball contained.
Rules and Scoring
Platform tennis follows these basic rules and scoring:
- Played in doubles only (two vs two players)
- Underhand serve must land within service court
- Let serves are played (no re-serves)
- No-volley zone extends for 7 feet from the net
- Games are played to 11 points
The underhand serve and no-volley zone, also called the kitchen, are two rules that platform tennis shares in common with pickleball. However, there are differences between the sports in terms of court layout, equipment specifications, and other details.
What is Pickleball?
History and Overview
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in Bainbridge Island, Washington. The origin of the sport’s unique name is debated, but one theory is it came from Pritchard’s dog Pickles who would chase stray balls. Others attribute it to the “pickle boat” term from crew racing.
Whatever the origin of its name, pickleball quickly spread throughout the Pacific Northwest and then across the U.S. as a fun recreation and competitive sport. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) formed in 1984 to promote pickleball and develop official rules.
Like platform tennis, pickleball is played with a perforated plastic ball and solid paddles on a small court. But pickleball paddles have a larger face and the ball bounces more like a whiffle ball. Courts are the same size as badminton courts.
As of 2022, pickleball is played by over 5 million Americans, making it one of the country’s fastest growing sports. Look for pickleball courts now at many parks, schools, rec centers, and senior living communities.
Pickleball gear includes:
- Paddle: Pickleball paddles have a face approximately 6 inches in diameter (larger than platform tennis paddles). The paddle face contains a textured polymer surface surrounding a lightweight aluminum or Nomex core. Paddles weigh 7-8 ounces.
- Ball: Pickleballs are made of plastic with a lowered internal pressure that produces less bounce compared to tennis balls. The ball has holes like a whiffle ball. Regulations balls are 2.9-3.0 inches in diameter with 26-40 holes.
- Court: Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court that measures 20×44 feet. The total playing area with safety runoff is 30×60 feet. Courts can be indoors or outdoors on hard surface.
Rules and Scoring
Pickleball rules and scoring include:
- Typically played in doubles (2 vs 2 players)
- Underhand serve must land diagonally in service court
- Service lets are replayed (no volleys)
- Non-volley zone is called the “kitchen” spanning 7 feet from net
- Games go to 11 points, win by 2
Platform tennis and pickleball clearly share some DNA in terms of underhand serves, non-volley kitchens, and low-bounce balls. But there are also some distinct differences between the sports that impact whether a platform tennis court can accommodate pickleball.
Key Differences Between Platform Tennis and Pickleball
While platform tennis and pickleball may seem very similar at first glance, there are some important differences between the sports that affect whether platform tennis courts can work for pickleball. Here are some of the key differences:
One major difference is the court dimensions. A regulation platform tennis court measures 36 feet long by 16 feet wide. This gives a total playing area of 576 square feet.
In contrast, official pickleball court dimensions are 44 feet long by 20 feet wide. With total playing space of 880 square feet, pickleball courts are significantly larger than platform tennis courts.
The smaller platform tennis court places limitations on pickleball play. The shorter length means less room to dink and maneuver. The narrower width makes it harder to execute crosscourt shots. Lack of runoff space outside the court boundaries also confuses calls on shots near the sidelines.
Another key difference is the bounce of the ball. Platform tennis balls have an ultra-low bounce to perform well on the small wooden platform court.
Pickleballs have a slightly higher bounce than platform tennis balls, with some comparing the action to a whiffle ball. This gives pickleball players more ability to lob and play groundstrokes. The ball bounce is well-suited to the standards of a hard-surface pickleball court.
Trying to play pickleball with a dead platform tennis ball would significantly alter shot strategy and enjoyment of the game. The mismatch of ball bounce and court surface makes for poor play.
The sports utilize different net heights. Platform tennis nets are shorter, with a height of 30 inches at the sidelines and 33 inches at center. This works well with the underhand serve and kitchen rules.
However, pickleball nets are taller at a height of 36 inches from end to end. This gives clearance for lobs and overhead slams, which are more frequent in pickleball versus platform tennis.
The lower platform tennis net would negatively impact pickleball play by causing more shots to hit the top of the net. Players would have to alter natural shot trajectory and form.
Another equipment difference is the paddle surface. Platform tennis paddles have a solid wood face. Pickleball paddles have a textured polymer hitting surface surrounding a lightweight core.
The wood paddle is ideal for the soft platform tennis ball. But pickleball players often find the solid wood does not generate enough spin or control for pickleball shots on a hard, non-compressed ball.
Polymer pickleball paddles maximize control and generate spin needed for strategic pickleball volleys, drops, and serves.
Finally, platform tennis and pickleball utilize different court surfaces. Platform tennis courts feature a wooden deck. In contrast, most pickleball courts are poured asphalt or concrete.
The wood deck offers appropriate bounce for the soft platform tennis ball. But the platform court does not provide the firm, consistent bounce needed for quality pickleball play. Ball bounce can be erratic moving from wood plank to seam. Plus, the deck can suffer damage from pickleball’s harder plastic balls.
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Can You Play Pickleball on a Platform Tennis Court?
Now that we’ve compared the key differences between platform tennis and pickleball, can we definitively answer whether you can play pickleball on a platform tennis court?
According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the official governing body for the sport, the dimensions and specifications of a regulation pickleball court cannot be modified to accommodate play. The court, net height, paddles, and balls must meet strict standards for organized, fair, and safe competition.
For a court to be sanctioned for tournament play, it must adhere 100% to the rule book with no deviations. The USAPA says altering any parameters negatively impacts how the game is meant to be played. Players’ muscle memory and strategy depend on standardized metrics.
Based on the smaller court size, lower net height, dissimilar ball bounce and other factors, the USAPA would consider a platform tennis court incompatible with official pickleball play.
For casual recreational play, groups of friends or families may be willing to bend the “official” rules and use a platform tennis court. Minor rule tweaks could help accommodate pickleball on a platform court:
- Use pickleball portable nets to get regulation net height
- Play “kitchen-less” pickleball without non-volley zone
- Start service line further back
- Call balls in/out very generously
- Don’t strictly score games
However, any seasoned or competitive pickleball player will likely find the makeshift court frustrating and restrictive. Shots will frequently hit the lower platform tennis net or go out-of-bounds. The small court size will restrict movement and strategy. Inconsistent ball bounce off the wooden platform affects quality of play.
Plus, repeatedly striking the platform deck with harder pickleballs could damage the court over time – angering paddle tennis players who paid for the special surface.
Shared Court Use Issues
If platform tennis players are actively using their dedicated courts, they likely won’t appreciate pickleball lines painted on the deck or drill holes from pickleball net posts. Even if they agree to share use, it takes time to switch the nets between appropriate heights. Different balls must be used for each sport.
With platform tennis and pickleball popularity growing, there is not as much impetus today to compromise on multi-use courts. Enthusiasts of each sport want predictable conditions from facilities built specifically for their game.
For these reasons, most multi-court recreation complexes now install separateadjacent platform tennis and pickleball courts rather than dual-sport courts. This allows full enjoyment of each game without cross-over conflicts and unorthodox modifications.
Converting Platform Tennis Courts for Pickleball
If you have existing platform tennis courts, is it feasible to convert them into regulation permanent pickleball courts? There are a few options to consider:
Remove Platform Structure
One method, although labor intensive, is to completely remove the platform tennis structure, fencing, and wooden deck surface. After dismantling the court, the area could be resurfaced with asphalt or concrete to create a new foundation for dedicated pickleball courts built to regulation specifications.
Add Surface Over Platform
Rather than removing the entire platform, some choose to lay a new hard court surface like Sport Court tiles over the wooden deck. This retains the fencing and uses the platform for drainage slope. The challenge is keeping the height low enough to stay within pickleball court dimensions. Any surface inconsistencies or gaps could alter ball bounce.
Convert Use For Practice Only
Players may opt to keep the platform structure intact but use the court for casual pickleball practice. This avoids major renovation costs. However, the court still won’t meet requirements for competitive, tournament-style play. And you’ll need portable pickleball nets to raise net height.
In most cases, once platform tennis courts are constructed, it makes most sense to maintain their intended use rather than converting to pickleball. The considerable investment in custom platform materials and installation is hard to justify removing for recreation facilities.
Constructing new regulation pickleball courts is recommended rather than attempting to modify platform tennis courts.
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Finding Places to Play Pickleball
With the growing excitement over pickleball, communities are looking to add more dedicated pickleball facilities to meet demand. Here are some places to find pickleball courts:
Check with your local city or county parks department about public pickleball courts. Many parks now have designated pickleball areas with multiple lined courts. These are a great option for casual play and practice close to home.
Middle schools, high schools, colleges, and even some elementary schools have added pickleball lines to existing tennis courts or basketball courts. Courts may be open during non-school hours for community use.
Recreation & Community Centers
Indoor and outdoor pickleball courts are now common features at many public recreation centers, senior centers, YMCAs, JCCs, churches, and other facilities. Day passes allow drop-in play.
Private Health Clubs
Upscale athletic clubs, tennis clubs, and fitness centers may offer pickleball as an amenity for members and daily guests. These clubs maintain top-quality courts and equipment.
For competitive events, sanctioned pickleball tournaments are held at large sports complexes with dozens of regulation courts. These professional facilities strictly follow dimensional guidelines.
With pickleball enthusiasm skyrocketing, new venues tailored specifically for the sport are appearing all the time. So grab a paddle and join the fun! Just be sure to use a regulation pickleball court rather than attempting to modify a platform tennis court. The proper equipment and court specifications will ensure an optimal playing experience.
Pickleball and platform tennis share some obvious similarities that make it tempting to consider multi-use court scenarios. However, key differences in court size, net height, ball bounce, paddles, and surface materials make it challenging for a platform tennis court to properly accommodate pickleball.
For official tournament play, the strict dimensional standards set forth by the USA Pickleball Association do not allow modifications to court, net, or equipment specifications. Casual players may be willing to adapt rules but will find poor play and potential court damage.
Due to significant investments in custom platform materials and construction, most multi-court facilities now opt to build separate dedicated courts for each sport rather than dual-use options. With the rising popularity of pickleball, new venues tailored specifically for the game are appearing in parks, schools, rec centers, and clubs across the country.
So while the answer is essentially “no” for any sanctioned play, recreational pickleballers may attempt to enjoy the game on a platform court. But for ideal playing conditions, locate purpose-built pickleball courts that adhere 100% to the exact measurements and requirements that make the sport so much fun.