Ready to see what all the pickleball fuss is about? Good call: This massively popular game is one of the fastest growing sports, easy to learn, incredibly fun to play and a pretty good workout, even for beginners. Plus, unlike some sports (looking at you, skiing), it's very affordable. All you need is a pickleball paddle and some friends, although just the former is sufficient: Find a neighborhood court and you can jump right into the rotation of pickup pickleball games. New friendships will ensue. (I'm speaking from experience here. Pickleball players are the best.)
For those unfamiliar with the game, pickleball combines elements of tennis and ping-pong, with some volleyball-style scoring thrown in for good measure. (Actually, scoring is arguably the hardest thing to learn. Even after a year of playing, I still have to remind myself how it works.)
Not sure what gear to get? Below, I've rounded up my top picks for the best pickleball sets, a couple of them equipped with portable nets so you can practice or even play just about anywhere. Some of the best overall picks are based on overwhelmingly positive customer reviews; others I've chosen from personal experience. Now get out there and have fun! This game is about to change your life.
If you're a newcomer and don't want to spend a lot upfront, the Amazin' Aces pickleball set serves up four wooden paddles for just $40. (The list price is a bit higher, but the "sale" has been running for over a year now). You also get four balls and a mesh carrying case for them, although you'll have to find your own pickleball bag for the wood paddles. These paddles are a good entry-level set for the sport. Note that while the user ratings are overwhelmingly positive, some of them apply to other sets.
Never mind the inexplicable alphabet-soup branding; this is the starter pack I chose over a year ago when I was new to pickleball, and it has served me extremely well. The comfortable grip and paddle face are of good quality and holding up nicely, and the paddle itself has survived a few "love taps" on the court (unforced errors, argh!). The set includes a zippered carry bag and four balls: two indoor balls, two outdoor balls. If you're a beginner to the game but plan to become an advanced player, these graphite paddles are a great choice, because they fit all skill levels. Note that there are often coupons or price drops that bring the set closer to $40.
Got a paved driveway? An open chunk of parking lot? You can practice your dinks just about anywhere with this set, which includes not only a pair of paddles and tournament-approved balls, but also a collapsible half-width net. I purchased the latter separately; it snaps together and comes apart fairly easily, but I wish it had a drawstring duffle for easier storage. Still, if you're serious about better control, learning and practice, this is a great option.
Most paddles are pretty boring, visually speaking. If you're an art-minded player or just want something with a little retro flair, choose one of the five incredibly cool designs offered by Vinsguir. (The one shown here is Cartoon Doodle.) Thankfully, these two paddles aren't just form without function: These high-quality paddles are USAPA-approved, so you're ready for the next level tournament circuit. The set also includes four balls and a carry case. User ratings: overwhelmingly positive.
Want to get the whole family involved? Olanny's set includes four paddles in one set instead of the usual two, and each one is a different color so it's easy to tell whose is whose. You also get six balls (three indoor, three outdoor) and four replacement grips (though these are described as "soft" grips and there's no explanation as to what that means). I especially like the inclusion of a full-size duffle bag that can hold everything in the set. Note that for the same price tag, Olanny offers similar sets with a few minor differences (paddle design, ball colors, etc.). All of them collectively earned a very high rating from Amazon customers.
Anyone looking to play pickleball like the pros will want a paddle like the pros use. Selkirk's distinctive Vanguard Power Air features a cut-out near the handle, allowing for quicker strokes and accurate shots. I haven't yet had the chance to test-drive one, but I see them all over the courts, and players positively gush about the craftsmanship. I'm saving all my paper-route money for this one.
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