by Kelly Campbell
Are indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball the same? Trackithub has the answer –– read on to learn everything you need to know about taking pickleball indoors.
It is officially August –– which means that summer is almost over. Cooler temperatures, unpredictable weather, and more time spent indoors are coming soon. For players who live in areas with cold winters, this likely also means transitioning from outdoor pickleball to indoor pickleball.
We typically think of outdoor pickleball as the default; many major pickleball tournaments are played outdoors, like the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour and USA Pickleball National Championships. Indoor pickleball can be just as fun and challenging as outdoor pickleball, and possibly more convenient, but there are some differences you can expect when you play indoors.
Although indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball don’t vary much in terms of rules and technique, it is a bit more complex than just taking your outdoor game inside.
No matter your preference, as a pickleball player, you’ll likely have to execute aces, smash hits, and impressive dinks on both indoor and outdoor courts. Even though there are minor indoor and outdoor variations, the most important thing is to get out and play –– no matter what pickleball gear you have and what pickleball court is available.
Read on as TrackitHub covers the pros, cons, and main differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball.
What is the difference between outdoor pickleball and indoor pickleball?
The good news is that no matter where you are playing, pickleball is pickleball. The rules and court size will be the same whether you’re inside or out, but serious picklers should be aware of a few variations.
The most significant difference between outdoor and indoor pickleball is the ball type. There are pickleballs designated for outdoor play and balls specifically for indoor use. Indoor pickleballs are lighter and have more and larger holes, making them easier to control. They’re made of a softer plastic that can create better top spins and go farther with less power. Outdoor pickleballs are heavier and made of more durable material to withstand different outdoor conditions. Because of this harder material, they make a louder pickleball pop off of the paddle and are more prone to cracking. They also tend to bounce lower, move faster, and hit off the paddle quicker and harder. Of course, you can technically use an outdoor court indoors and vice versa, but you won’t get the same ball response and bounce.
Another typical variation is the material of indoor courts versus outdoor courts. This might not seem like a big difference, but court materials can change how the ball bounces, and some surfaces might also be harder on joints than others. Outdoor pickleball courts are built with a harder material to withstand different weather conditions, and indoor courts typically have more cushion and bounce.
What are the pros of playing Indoor Pickleball?
Guaranteed courts – To play indoors, you typically need to reserve a court in advance. One of the great things about indoor facilities is that you know you’ll always have a court when you go to play.
Consistent Conditions – It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, or storming –– you can always play pickleball on an indoor court.
Always Cool – Intense games will leave you sweaty, hot & exhausted. Luckily, indoor facilities are typically climate-controlled, which will keep you playing harder for longer.
Better Ball Longevity – Indoor pickleballs live don’t spend as much time on hard and rough surfaces, meaning fewer cracks, scratches, and other wear and tear. Because indoor courts are enclosed, you can easily track any out-of-bounds hits, so you won’t need to keep replacing lost or damaged pickleballs.
Access to Amenities – When you’re playing indoor pickleball, everything’s in one place. If you need water or Gatorade, a bathroom, locker room, or shower, it’s likely all under the same roof as the court. That means less time spent off the court, and more time in ready position.
What are the cons to playing indoor pickleball?
Background Noise – Although indoor pickleball limits distractions from unpredictable outdoor sources, there can still be a lot of annoying noise inside. As much as we love the classic pickleball pop sound, it can be nonstop inside indoor facilities when multiple games are being played at once. Between loud echoes of enclosed gym spaces and the sounds from other games, indoor pickleball with multiple courts can have some annoying background noise.
Temporary Courts – Indoor courts are often multi-purpose and temporary. If you’re at a gym or sports facility, courts might have various uses, and pickleball is just one sport on the list. Court lines might be taped and nets can be flimsy and easily removable. With these temporary fixes, your game can likely get interrupted. It’s also easy to get distracted or confused if indoor courts have markings and lines leftover from other sports.
Pay to Play – Indoor courts can be costly and exclusive. Indoor facilities are often members-only, so you’ll have to pay a membership fee. At a public indoor facility, you’ll often have to pay to reserve a pickleball court. While it may not be too expensive per game, If you play indoors consistently, this can add up.
Shared Spaces – When you’re playing indoors, you’re often sharing the space with other players. Courts can be very close to one another. Any out-of-bounds hit can easily roll onto your court from another game or vice versa, disrupting the game.
Limited Motion – Indoor courts are enclosed, which can limit your mobility while playing. You’ll have to consider your proximity to walls and other courts as well as ceiling height. In indoor facilities, walls are usually somewhat close to sidelines and baselines. This can make it harder to go for difficult shots and make saves with momentum that can lead you off the court.
What are the pros to playing outdoor pickleball?
FREE – Of course, outdoor pickleball tends to be free!
Better Availability – As pickleball grows, so many more courts are being built. Public parks everywhere are seemingly always adding courts to keep up with demand. In outdoor spaces, there’s usually more than one court, too, so you can just show up and play without a reservation.
Pickleball-specific – Most outdoor courts are dedicated to pickleball only, so they’re here to stay. They’re typically built well and have permanent nets and court markings. You won’t have to share them with another sport, and will likely only run into other pickleball players there.
Larger Space – Outdoor courts typically have more space around the perimeter than indoor courts. This allows more room for spectators and greater space to give it your all for all-star plays.
Individual Fences – Luckily, there tend to be individual court fences that separate. This makes ball pickup easier and minimizes interference from other games.
Views & Vitamin D – Depending on where you’re playing, many outdoor pickleball courts have amazing views, from beautiful greenery to mountain scenery. Playing pickleball outside in the sunshine is also a great way to get some Vitamin D and improve your overall mental health.
What are the cons to playing outdoor pickleball?
Inconsistent Conditions – With outdoor pickleball, you’re never sure what conditions you’re going to get. Even on the most beautiful days, sudden winds can mess up your shots and affect your game. Intense sun, animals, passing showers, and background noise are all uncontrollable factors that you might have to prepare for.
Wait Times – Although you won’t have to make a reservation with outdoor courts, if they’re full, you’re out of luck. Depending on how popular pickleball is in your area, and how many courts you have access to, there are no limits on court use. If there are no available courts, you’ll have to wait until one opens up or go home.
Seasonal – Depending on the location, outdoor pickleball courts are seasonal; even though outdoor courts do not usually close, winter temperatures and snow, damage during hurricane season, or intense desert heat and sun can take them out of commission.