As temperatures soar during the dog days of summer – or plummet as summer turns into fall – the question frequently arises as to which pickleball ball is best suited for each condition. If you’re a product of a colder weather climate, you know first-hand that some balls tend to play faster – and crack more readily – in colder temperatures. And, yet, they tend to get softer (and bounce lower) as temperatures skyrocket.
There are many different opinions and hypotheses in regards to the best pickleballs for each condition. But few have actually tested. At least, I haven’t seen any recent (and objective) reporting on the subject. That’s about to change. A pickleball friend (and engineer), Don Monich, put various hypotheses to the test with regard to the impact of the temperature on the pickleball bounce height and ball durability. In southwest, Ohio he plays during the hot, summer days in July/August and also during the cold, “wintry” days in November and December (and January & February). His findings are below.
Pickleball Ball Bounce Summary Results
Don did some bounce testing of three different pickleballs, and the data quantified what we already knew: The Dura Fast 40 bounces higher and plays faster than the Franklin X-40, and both balls play slower as temperatures get hotter. The Onix Pure 2 is a different animal altogether, however.
After all, this isn’t our experience in tennis or golf, where the balls become ‘bouncier’ as temperatures get hotter. In fact, in the world of golf, the metric is that the golf ball loses about 10 yards of driving distance every ten degrees F it gets colder.
Pickeball Ball Bounce Testing Methodology
To what degree do pickleballs bounce differently as the temperature changes? To find out, Don tested the bounce of the Dura Fast 40, Franklin X-40, and Onix Pure 2 pickleballs at four different temperatures. The Dura Fast 40 (also made by Onix) is the primary tournament pickleball, with the Franklin X-40 a distant second. He included the Onix Pure 2 (a ball not approved for tournament play by USA Pickleball) because it looked, felt, and played totally different. For each kind of ball, he tested both new out-of-the-container balls, as well as well-used balls.
His method was to heat or cool the pickleballs in an insulated container, record the temperature, drop them from a height of 78 inches, and measure the bounce at maximum height. He recorded slow-motion video with an iPhone, and measured the highest point of the bounce against a yardstick. For each ball at each temperature, he measured three bounces and calculated the average and standard deviation.
The “Official” USA Pickleball Ball Bounce Specs
Before detailing his results, here are the official pickleball ball bounce specs in the USA Pickleball Equipment Standards Manual Section 2.D.5, measured at 70 degrees F:
“Bounce. The ball shall have a bounce of 30 to 34 inches to the top of the ball when dropped from a height of 78 inches onto a granite surface plate that is a minimum of 12 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches. The test is to be performed at an ambient temperature of 70 degrees F plus or minus 5 degrees F.”
Pickleball Ball Bounce Detailed Results
Data with respect to bounce height, bounce and temperature, and new & used ball bounce are shown in the following three graphs.
New Onix Pure 2 balls at 70 degrees F bounced higher than the USAPA maximum height of 34 inches, which explains their failure to be approved for tournament play.
The bounce height data confirms our pickleball experience: The Dura Fast 40 balls play ‘faster’ than Franklin X-40s, often resulting in pickleball with a higher level of difficulty of both drops and drives.
Bounce and Temperature
The Onix Pure 2 reacted in the opposite direction, with a higher bounce at higher temperatures, and a lower bounce at lower temperatures.
Again, our playing experience is confirmed: In extremely hot temperatures, the pickleballs feel and play soft, especially the Franklin X-40, resulting in a slower-paced game. And the fastest play is with Dura Fast 40s in lower temperatures (bring plenty of balls).
New and Used Ball Bounce
There was a significantly higher bounce of new Onix Pure 2 balls compared to used Onix Pure 2 balls, however, with the new balls bouncing over 2 cm higher than the used balls.
Consistency of bounce height of new Dura Fast 40 and Franklin X-40 balls confirms these balls are suitable for tournament play, as heavy use does not ‘fatigue’ their bounce. The Onix Pure 2, however, shows significant bounce ‘fatigue’ over repeated use, and gradually gets softer and bounces lower.
Final Thoughts & Commentary
What is responsible for the difference between the Dura Fast/Franklin and the Onix Pure 2 balls? Don believes the difference is in the rubber content of the balls, with the Onix Pure 2 balls containing significantly more rubber than the Dura Fast 40 and Franklin X-40 balls. The surface of the Onix Pure 2 feels ‘rubbery’, while the Dura Fast 40 and Franklin X-40 balls are more ‘plasticy’. The Onix Pure 2 is behaving like a rubber tennis ball, while the others are acting as plastic balls, and gradually melting softer as temperatures get hotter.
The ‘rubbery’ and ‘plasticy’ descriptions also help explain the relative durabilities of these balls. The Dura Fast 40 cracks frequently, with the Franklin X-40 generally more durable, but also prone to cracking, especially as temperatures get colder and the balls become more brittle.
Are there any positives for the Onix Pure 2? Yes, for sure. First, the high ‘bounciness’ makes the Pure 2 perfect for practice hitting against a wall. Second, the high rubber content makes the Pure 2 very durable and resistant to cracking, even in cold temperatures. I happily hit a Pure 2 against a concrete wall all winter, and rarely crack one.
Dura Fast 40 balls are very common in tournament play, with the Franklin X-40 used notably in the US Open tournament. In leagues, Franklin X-40 balls are more common, most likely due to their durability advantage. Searching on Amazon, there is a multitude of other brands, with the Onix Fuse G2, Core, and Engage Tour balls having some name recognition. Pickleballs for indoor use are outside the scope of this study.
Thanks, Don, for this insightful study!
Now it’s time for your thoughts. Please let us know in the comments below your feedback on various balls at different temperatures. Do you agree with the findings?
See you on the courts!