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by Kelly Campbell

To most, the satisfying pickleball “pop” noise is a welcomed addition to the game. But to others, especially as pickleball continues to dominate public and private spaces, it can seem like nails on a chalkboard. 

From new pickleball courts being built in public parks to the rise in private backyard pickleball courts, as a pickleball community, we’re still trying to keep up with the demand for more pickleball access across the country, but pickleball noise pollution might actually have the power to limit some pickleball growth. 

Read on for more about how the pickleball pop is becoming a serious issue and a blocker for pickleball production, and more on what companies are coming up with to combat pickleball noise pollution. 

Pickleball POP! War 

For seemingly the first time, we are dealing with noise regulations becoming a blocker for pickleball players. Even as pickleball lovers, we can sympathize––one game might create a satisfying noise backdrop, but multiply the noise by hundreds of courts, and pickleball can get really loud––and that’s exactly what’s happening in numerous residential communities, parks, and areas with new pickleball facilities. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball has grown 158% in the last three years. USA Pickleball estimates that even after tens of thousands of courts have been built in the US, another 25,000 courts will need to be built to keep up with demand, which leads to more courts in close quarters.

The pickleball pop has been wreaking havoc on communities and pickleball hubs throughout the country, leading to pickleball bans, 911 calls, and lawsuits. HOAs are blocking residential pickleball courts, and entire communities are banning new court construction. For example, the Glendale, CO City Council recently voted to ban pickleball at one of their parks due to noise. The New York Times even reported that numerous people have compared the pickleball noise to “a pistol range, torture, and even hell.”

CNBC reports that experts found pickleball noise to be in the 70-decibel range, which makes pickleball twice as loud as tennis but is not dangerous. Sound engineer and Pickleball Sound Mitigation Founder Bob Unetich says that pickleball noise is caused by paddles that vibrate at a high pitch 1,000 times per second.  

“I appreciate the problem and frankly wouldn’t want to live next door to numbers like 70 decibels over and over and over every four seconds for eight hours a day,” Unetich told CNBC. “And I’m sure you wouldn’t either.”

As pickleball lovers, it might be easy to laugh off these noise complaints, but we indeed have a responsibility to respond as a community or risk jeopardizing pickleball in our own communities, and pickleball growth as a whole. 

Minimizing Dink Decibels

Luckily for anti-pickleball-pop folks, there is a rising response to noise complaints surrounding our favorite sport. In 2023, USA Pickleball addressed the growing concerns around pickleball noise by launching a Quiet Category for pickleball products. The goal of the Quiet Category is to “recognize pickleball products that reduce acoustic output during play without negatively impacting performance.”

“We are excited to introduce the new Quiet Category for pickleball equipment and related initiatives as a pivotal step in the evolution of pickleball,” said Mike Nealy, USA Pickleball Chief Executive Officer. “With the sport’s growth, addressing noise concerns is essential to maintain a positive relationship between residential communities and facility operators. We are continuing to develop guidance and resources that offer short- and long-term solutions that continue to enhance the sport. By working together with manufacturers and the entire industry, we can develop quieter options that benefit everyone.”

In November 2023, USA Pickleball announced their first certified quiet product––the OWL by OWL Sport. OWL claims that their paddle is one-of-a-kind and both limits noise and improves performance. USA Pickleball has proven that the paddle reduces noise by up to 50 percent, according to their metrics.

USA Pickleball has vowed that they will continue to invest in noise-reduction products and research for the foreseeable future, by “advancing the caliber of remote and on-site evaluations, materials guidance to manufacturers, and providing input to municipalities for evolving codes and ordinances.” 

Pickleball Sound Mitigation is a company that is entirely dedicated to minimizing the pickleball pop. As a consultant for USA Pickleball, they have helped provide perspective and solutions for those who complain about the pickleball pop and for pickleballers who do not want their adversaries to block pickleball development and practice. 

Can You Really Control the Pickleball POP? 

So, there are new options for those who either dislike the pickleball pop or want to appease someone in their life who does. Is there a way to get enough people on board with quiet gear to make a difference? 

Some say that many noise-reducing pickleball products really do affect their game and the bounce of the ball off of the paddle. Fortunately, even if that is the case, it appears that the USA Pickleball team is dedicated to ensuring a wide array of products is available that can limit noise without compromising play. 

What do you think? Does eliminating the pickleball pop take away from the game’s charm? Or is a quieter game better for everyone?