Pickleball is an exciting sport that takes elements from games like tennis and badminton.

It can be played either indoors or outside, and because an indoor game is so much different from an outdoor one, the pickleballs used in each have slightly different characteristics.

Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleballs

What does a pickleball look like?

Pickleballs are plastic balls that look somewhat similar to a whiffle ball. They’re made of a relatively thin material, and they have holes in them that help the ball fly across the court.

Pickleballs only weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces, and they’re 2.874 to 2.972 inches in diameter.

Most pickleballs are brightly colored, which makes them much easier to see, particularly if you’re playing outside.

Pickleballs are designed to be hit with a solid paddle. This paddle looks similar to a tennis racket, except there are no holes, and the ball slams off the paddle’s solid surface.

This can make for some very hard, fast shots, which keeps the game of pickleball moving.

yellow pickleball

Overall Size

In general, indoor pickleballs are a little bit smaller than outdoor pickleballs, and they’re made of a softer, lighter material, so they weigh less.

Outdoor pickleballs must be a bit heavier so that they aren’t as affected by wind.

The added weight and size of an outdoor pickleball also means that it can stand up to harder shots and will carry farther, traveling at a much faster speed than an indoor pickleball.

This also means that getting hit with a serve or shot hurts more when you’re playing outdoor pickleball.

Because they’re harder and heavier, outdoor pickleballs also make play louder.

outdoor pickleball

Hole Amounts and Size

Both indoor and outdoor pickleballs have holes that allow you to see right through the ball.

Outdoor pickleballs usually have 40 holes, while indoor pickleballs have fewer. Indoor pickleballs can have as few as 26 holes.

However, the holes on an indoor pickleball are a bit bigger. The holes allow for different airflow, which can change how the ball soars across the court or how it reacts to wind.

Outdoor pickleballs have more holes so that wind can pass through easily.

Indoor Pickleball

Strength and Durability

Many people feel that outdoor pickleballs have more durability because of their material, but both types of pickleballs will gradually wear out over time.

Indoor pickleballs are made of a slightly soft, textured plastic. The texture helps to give the ball added spin.

Most indoor pickleballs will never actually come apart, but they do get softer over time, and they can develop soft spots that can affect how the ball responds to being hit.

Outdoor pickleballs, on the other hand, are made of a much harder plastic with a smooth surface, which gives the ball great speed.

Outdoor pickleballs can also become soft, but before that, they usually crack. This is because, although the plastic material is tougher, it also allows for the ball to be hit much harder.

Outdoor pickleballs will slam into the paddles or the pavement surface of the court, so they can be damaged.

The hardness and therefore the way an outdoor pickleball plays can also change depending on what the weather is like.

On a warm day, the plastic will be a little softer, but on a cold day, it will be very hard.

If your pickleball has a crack, it won’t fly correctly, so it’s time to replace it. You can also check to see if an indoor pickleball has gotten too soft by serving it and watching the spin.

If it wobbles or flies without too much spin, it’s time to replace the ball.

Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleballs

Bounce and Drag

Because they’re lighter and have a somewhat rougher texture than outdoor pickleballs, indoor pickleballs have a bit more drag.

This means that they won’t cut through the air quite as well, and they don’t zoom across the court as quickly as an outdoor pickleball might.

This also means that they don’t respond as well to hard shots.

However, because they’re slower, they also have a longer hang time, which gives players a tiny bit more time to respond to a ball coming their way.

Indoor pickleballs are also usually a little less bouncy. An indoor pickleball doesn’t need to fight the wind, so it doesn’t have to bounce off the paddle as hard.

The floor of an indoor pickleball court is also usually softer and bouncier than pavement, so an indoor pickleball doesn’t need the bounce that an outdoor pickleball does.

bucket of pickleballs and rackets

Control

Either an indoor or outdoor game of pickleball can be exhilarating and fast-paced.

However, outdoor games are usually a bit more chaotic, as the ball flies faster and harder. In addition, because it’s not quite as fast, indoor pickleballs offer players more control.

Players generally have more time to think about how to respond to a shot, and they can often use a bit more finesse when delivering the ball to the other side of the court.

This added control often makes for longer rallies, or back and forth play, between each serve.

men playing pickleball

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