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Pickleballs — Must-Know Information for the Pickleball Newbie

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Pickleballs. Arguably, no other topic generates such a passionate debate and angst amongst pickleball players than these 2.87” to 2.97” in diameter plastic balls that have between 26 and 40 circular holes. Well, perhaps aside from rally scoring.

Official List of Approved Pickleball Balls

There are currently over 50 USA Pickleball/IFP approved tournament pickleballs from which the Tournament Director chooses when managing a USA Pickleball sanctioned event.

For rec play and non-sanctioned tournaments, however, any ball can be used – regardless if the ball is, or is not, on the official list of approved balls.

The pickleball selected for play in any USA Pickleball- or IFP-sanctioned tournament must be named on the official list of approved balls. The approved balls on the list have met the official ball specifications dictated by the USA Pickleball/IFP. Official ball specifications dictate acceptable parameters for the construction material, size, weight, bounce, and hardness of the ball. A listing of the USA Pickleball-approved balls can be found by clicking here.

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Outdoor Pickleballs Versus Indoor Pickleballs

While each of the approved balls is approved for indoor and outdoor use, there are, nevertheless, significant differences in pickleballs when playing indoors versus outdoors.

Outdoor Pickleballs

If playing pickleball outdoors — or indoors on a tennis court surface — outdoor balls are typically used. The “outdoor” ball – because it is slightly heavier, harder, and has smaller holes – travels significantly faster than the indoor ball.

While there are several brands of USA Pickleball-approved outdoor balls, the leading brands are the Dura Fast 40 (Pickleball, Inc.), Franklin X-40, and the Fuse G2 Outdoor (Onix Sports).

Dura Fast 40

There are 40 holes, of varying sizes, in the Dura Fast 40 ball. While the Dura Fast 40 ball is generally the preferred ball for 4.5+ rated tournament players, it is also a ball much more susceptible to breakage in colder weather (especially when temperatures fall below 60 degrees).  It’s not uncommon to break several balls during the course of a 2-3 hour session in these conditions.

Because the Dura Fast 40 is often the “official” ball for top-tier tournaments (presumably because the “pro” players “favor” this ball), the more advanced players (those who are more apt to play tournaments) also put up with the breakage so that they can practice with the same ball that is most often used in these tournaments. These same players tend to rave about the ball’s playability, speed, and overall performance — breakages withstanding.

On May 14, 2019, Onix Pickleball announced that it had acquired DURA Pickleball. As noted in the press release, “Pickleball Central is proud to have been the steward of the DURA brand since we acquired Pickle-Ball Inc. in 2016, and we feel this transaction is good for the DURA brand, and the sport, by placing the brand in the hands of a dominant pickleball manufacturer with world-class R&D, manufacturing, and marketing capabilities.”

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Franklin X-40 Pickleball

The Franklin X-40 is the official pickleball of USA Pickleball and the US Open Pickleball Championships.

It is a premium quality ball that will play well on any outdoor surface. It has 40 precisely machine-drilled holes to create a balanced flight pattern. This ball delivers the best in-game flight thanks to their machine drilled holes.

This ball uses the best PE material. Its no-seam, one-piece construction ensures a stronger, longer-lasting ball that resists dents and cracking. It can withstand hours of the most aggressive play.

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Onix Fuse Pickleball

The Onix Fuse Outdoor ball is a ball that doesn’t break to the degree of the Dura Fast 40. It has 40 holes that are all the same size.

Because of the “excessive” breakage associated with the Dura Fast 40 (and economic implications), recreational players generally prefer this softer ball. Because the ball is softer, rallies tend to be longer with this ball as it is harder to put the ball away.  The longer rallies make for fun play.

While advanced and tournament players tend to favor the Dura Fast 40, the Onix Fuse is more likely to be the preferred outdoor ball for beginning pickleball players through about 3.5 or 4.0 rated players.  Of course, this is, admittedly, an over-generalization.

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Other Outdoor USA Pickleball-approved Pickleball Balls

If the Dura Fast 40, Franklin X-40, or the Onix Fuse pickleball isn’t in the cards for your individual purchase or for your club’s purchase, other popular outdoor USA Pickleball-approved pickleball options include the Core, the Tour 40 (Engage), the Penn 40 (Penn) the Gamma Photon, the Tourna Strike, and the TOP (Pickleball Central).

My ball preference is the TOP pickleball. It is manufactured exactly the same way and by the same manufacturer as the Dura Fast 40 (just has a different “label” on it), but it has a slightly lower price point than the Dura. :-)

Indoor Pickleballs

If playing indoors on a wood/composite gym floor — like at a local, recreation center — indoor balls are generally used.

Indoor balls are lighter, softer, and have larger (but generally fewer) holes than outdoor balls. Because of these characteristics, indoor balls come off the paddle a little “softer,” are easier to control, and typically result in longer rallies.

Jugs, the Photon Indoor (Gamma Sports), and Onix Fuse Indoor Balls are the most popular indoor pickleball brands.

As for color, there is not a single color that pleases everyone. The best color is going to depend on the color of the floor, the color of the background, and the lighting characteristics of your venue.

Why So Many Balls? Can’t there be Agreement on a Single One?

With 50+ different USA Pickleball/IFP approved options, many wonder why the sport of pickleball cannot agree on a single ball.  It would seemingly make life so much easier.  This question seems legitimate – that is, until you contrast it with the sport of tennis and the number of tennis ball brands approved by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

To set the stage for the number of approved tennis balls, it’s important to understand that there are three main classes of tennis balls: Professional, Championship, and Practice. There are also four categories of balls: Regular Duty balls, Extra Duty balls, Grass Court balls, and Hi-Altitude Balls.

Finally, tennis balls can be pressurized or pressure-less. In all, according to the International Tennis Federation website, there were approximately 100s of tennis ball brands approved in 2021.

This makes 50+ approved pickleballs seem quite tame, huh?

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I would love to hear your feedback on pickleballs in the comments below. Which pickleball — and color — do you prefer?

See you on the courts!

>>READ NEXT: Pickleball Paddles 101 – How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle that is Best for You<<
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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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  1. Why not use a black or deep navy-colored ball for play on a gym floor, which is typically a light-tan or blonde wood surface? I’ve just gone from an outdoor setting, using a yellow Onix ball on a blue asphalt tennis court lined for pickleball, to an indoor gym setting, and I’m having an awful time trying to visually “pick” the yellow or orange ball out of the gym floor, net, and surroundings. I’m wondering why the indoor ball couldn’t be black, as we used in racquetball with light brown wood floor and white walls?
    Also wondering if glasses with a light tint might improve my ability to distinguish the ball.

    1. Hmmmm. Thanks, Ed, for your response. It’s rare that I play with the Onix Fuse Indoor ball anymore because most of the time I play with outdoor balls on a tennis court surface in the winter.

  2. I prefer the Jugs or Dura Fast. For some fun driveway pickleball, my family actually prefers a softer indoor ball. But it’s all just for fun. Great overview Todd.

  3. The group I play indoors with prefers the orange Onix fuse balls although we have had lots of early breakage problems with the last batch.

    1. Hi Pam, Thanks for sharing that information. I tend to like those balls as well when playing indoors — although I rarely play indoors on a gym floor anymore.

  4. My only preference is that we use only one brand, color & age balls in any games I play at any given time. I can adjust as long as I warm-up with these balls sufficiently.

    1. Hi Richard, I’m with you on that one. Don’t switch up balls on me in the middle of a game. I think you already know my thoughts on the subject!!! ;-) Thanks for chiming in.

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