Pickleball is a sport that’s rapidly growing in popularity, and all the sports manufacturers want to jump on the bandwagon. Everyone’s making paddles and balls for pickleball these days. With such a wide variety of pickleball ball brands, how on earth do you choose the right one? Which balls are approved and are official pickleball balls?
The Franklin X40 and the Dura Fast 40 are both official balls of the US Open Tournament Championship and have been played with numerous times in tournaments. But as long as the ball is listed at USAPA and IFP, then it is an official regulated ball and approved to be played in any pickleball match.
There are approved balls for outdoor and indoor play, each with its own specifications based on wind resistance and curve. However, all approved balls can be played in either indoor or outdoor matches and are acceptable. There is a list of the approved balls on the websites of the USA Pickleball Association and the International Federation of Pickleball.
The Official Pickleball Ball Specifications
The specifications of balls you will find have a few grey areas regarding how many holes they have, their size, weight, bounce, and hardness. These factors depend on whether the ball is approved according to indoor or outdoor specifications. As mentioned, you may play any approved ball either indoors or outdoors, but there are advantages to using the correct ball.
Official Ball Design
The official pickleball ball has a minimum of 26 and a maximum of 40 circular holes around the outside. The spacing of the holes and the design of the ball must conform to official flight characteristics, meaning the ball has to be stable and consistent in the return shot, the path needs to be straight, and the velocity needs to be stable. The manufacturer or supplier must include its name or logo on the ball, either in printing or embossing on the ball’s surface.
The ball’s color is bright and usually yellow, green, or orange. These are the most common colors. Even if different colors are used, the colors must always be bright because bright colors are easier to see in outdoor light and high-brightness conditions.
A list of the approved balls is available on the websites of both USAPA and IFP. When a tournament is planned, the tournament director will choose an approved ball from this list. The balls selected are usually the Franklin X-40 or the Dura Fast 40 because they are the two balls that have been played with numerous times in the US Open Tournament Championship, so the brands are well-trusted.
Construction Of The Ball
The official pickleball ball is made to be durable. It has a smooth surface, and it’s free of any texturing. Nothing must significantly affect the ball’s flight characteristics. This includes textures on the ball’s surface and on the ridges at the seam. The ball can have a slight ridge at the seam, but it’s not allowed to impact the ball’s speed, spin, and return.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor Ball Specifications
Balls For Indoor Play
You will find that indoor pickleball balls are the balls with bigger holes in them. They have only 26 holes and are a little softer with less bounce in them. This ball will give you more control over your serve. A softer ball is also more forgiving since it removes some of the finesse that is required when you’re playing with a harder ball.
The outdoor pickleball ball weighs about 0.8 ounces, and it will get softer as it wears out. So when the ball starts getting softer, it is advisable to replace it with a new ball.
Balls For Outdoor Play
The pickleball ball for outdoor play will have 32 to 40 holes in it, and the holes are a bit smaller than the indoor balls. Outdoor balls are significantly harder than indoor balls. They are heavier and have a bit more bounce in them.
These balls crack when they get worn out. They may even lose some of their roundness, and some will start to wobble. It is estimated that you can play about three to ten tournaments with one of the outdoor balls before it cracks. It truly depends on how harsh the environment is and, of course, the quality of the ball. You can not expect these balls to last as long as tennis balls.
An outdoor pickleball ball weighs about 0.9 ounces. They wear out faster than indoor balls because of the weather elements, and they get softer in the heat and harder when it’s cold. Outdoor balls have to be able to withstand wind, so the holes in an outdoor ball are smaller so that the wind won’t affect the ball by blowing it around too much.
There is plenty of confusion surrounding the way the two different balls wear out. Because of that, some people expect indoor ball behavior from an outdoor ball. This is not achievable; they are manufactured from different materials, the number of holes differs, and because of this, the balls will behave differently. It all depends on weather conditions and how hard the ball has been played.
How Long Does A Pickleball Last?
Some balls are more durable than others and will last a bit longer. Some players report that they only played with a ball once before it started to crack. In other cases, the ball should be capable of handling between three and ten games. In reality, it is a bit unpredictable. You can look out for some things that will tell you it is time to replace your pickleball ball:
- When you are playing with an outdoor ball, that is hard, and suddenly it becomes softer and loses some of its bounce in the process.
- Once it becomes softer, you may notice that the ball starts an egging process. This means that it will bend to look like an egg if you play with it (you can also press on the ball to determine how hard it is and if it is egging), which will affect how the ball flies and bounces.
- Once the ball becomes softer, you will not be able to hit the ball as hard as you used to, which changes how you can play. This is clearly not a good thing since it places more strain on the players.
- If you hit the ball when it is soft, you will also notice that the way it connects with the paddle feels wrong. You feel like you can’t even hit the ball; it could almost feel like you didn’t hit anything.
- When a ball cracks, blisters away, or even breaks in half at the seam, it is time to throw it out because it is now as old and useless as your old boots.
If you are a competitive pickleball player, it is generally considered a good idea to change your ball after each match so that every new game is played with a new ball.
Listed And Approved Pickleball Balls
As of this moment, there are more than 80 approved pickleball balls on the USAPA and IFP websites. Some of these balls are more popular to use in tournaments than others. Almost all the ball manufacturers will have balls available for indoor and outdoor play. They are approved according to those specifications regarding construction, weight, size, bounce, hardness, and design.
This ball is one of the two preferred choices in tournament matches, a ball preferred by most of the professional competitors and athletes. It has a stable flight pattern, and the ball is strong enough to hold up in a match. This is also one of the official balls of the US Open Pickleball Championship.
How Long Will It Last?
The Franklin X-40 will last for about three matches. Because it is a ball to play hard with, it is safe to say it will last for three matches before it needs to be replaced. But as stated before, it’s better to change your thinking from “how long will it last” to “I should change the ball after every match.”
Dura Fast 40
The other go-to choice in tournament matches, the second choice (though not the second as in “the second best”), is also an official ball for the US Open Pickleball Championship, and this ball will hold up just as well as the Franklin X-40.
Another interesting fact about Dura Fast balls is that this ball truly stands the test of time. It is manufactured by Pickle-Ball Inc, which is the original Pickleball Company and the leader in pickleball equipment.
How Long Will It Last
In most cases, the Dura will not crack as fast as some of the other brands. It will become soft before it can crack or break. Once it is soft, you can discard the ball and replace it. However, because it is chosen to play in competitive tournaments, change the ball out with a new one before every new match. This way, you can be 100% sure that the ball will see you through the match.
Wilson Tru 32
This ball is innovative, and there are defining characteristics that stand out. First is its hole pattern. The Wilson Tru 32 ball has 32 holes in it, and the holes are designed to be precise with even distribution. Secondly, its composition. They tweaked the composition that limits rebound flaws, or “decay,” and it will hold up nicely in a match.
How Long Will It Last
This ball will last for a very long time since it is extra durable. You can not go wrong choosing to play with this ball. Some reviewers think that this ball is not USAPA approved; they are entirely wrong. This ball is on the list of approved USAPA balls. It is well worth the money, as it will not break as easily in a match.
You can rest assured that these balls will play well and that they will handle the game, even with the ball being hit hard in competitive sportsmanship. These balls are designed to be entirely seamless through an industry-unique rotational molding technique.
How Long Will It Last
These balls will last you through a competitive pickleball match, and they tend to go soft long before they crack. According to many professionals, this ball is well worth what you pay for it. It will not decay as fast as some of the other balls.
Tourna Strike Outdoor Pickleballs
These balls meet all the specifications set out by USAPA and IFP in terms of ball weight, bounce, size, hardness, and design. The Tourna Strike Outdoor ball is the official ball that is played at the Tyson McGuffin Signature Pickleball Camps. It is an excellent ball for players of all skill levels.
How Long Will It Last
According to the Tyson McGuffin Signature Pickleball Camps, these balls are durable and suitable for the all-around playability of tournament balls.
Vermont Indoor & Outdoor Tournament Pickleball Set
The Vermont balls are available in a set, so you know that you are covered for every situation, whether you play indoor or outdoor pickleball. They are designed to be long-lasting and tough, so they shouldn’t break in half at the seam.
How Long Will It Last
The ball is set to last you a while; it is made durable specifically for long matches. It will go softer as you play with it, which is how you know that you can replace it. This ball passed all of the tests put out by USAPA, so you know it is a reliable ball.
Onix Fuse G2
This ball is approved by the USAPA and meets the requirements for outdoor tournaments. The Onyx Fuse G2 is durable and has the required balance to fly straight consistently.
However, from the reviews, it’s apparent that many people are confused about the Onyx brand. Not all Onyx balls are USAPA approved, so look out for that. You could also get balls from Onyx that will crack in half at the seam after just a few minutes of play. Not all Onyx balls are on standard, but the Fuse G2 is approved and reliable.
How Long Will It Last
This ball doesn’t crack as quickly as some of the other balls, but it will become softer with age, which is when you should replace it with a new ball. This ball is an excellent option for players who are not into tournaments and only play pickleball for recreational fun. It is also much cheaper than some other balls, so if you’re just into playing for fun, then this is definitely the ball for you.
Balls That Are Not Approved
One of the popular balls that are not sanctioned by USAPA to be played in tournaments is the Jugs Pickleball. This ball is softer than any of the other balls and more rubberized. It is popular, though, since it is a great beginner ball and will still last a very long time. A similarly popular but unapproved ball is the Onyx Pro Focus. After just a few rallies, these balls tend to break in half at the seam.
Time and time again, the two names that are chosen to be played at the US Open Pickleball Championships are the Franklin X-40 and the Dura Fast 40. The Franklin X-40 was again selected as the official ball for the 2022 Minto US Open Pickleball Championship. If you want to play tournaments, stick with the reliable names. That way, you know you can’t go wrong.