Which is more fun to play: indoor or outdoor pickleball? The answer may depend on the weather, but it also depends on you: what challenges you enjoy and what you want from your pickleball game.
Many newbies—and seasoned pickleball players, as well— may prefer to play inside simply because the experience is always consistent. There are fewer variables (like wind and sun) and fewer unexpected occurrences (think a drenching thundershower just when you’re getting really into the game). Indoor balls are also softer and often provide more control.
Competitive players may also prefer the indoor environment because the controlled atmosphere leads to a more precise game. Every shot counts, and you won’t have a stray breeze picking up your ball and carrying it in the wrong direction.
But there can be a few downsides to playing pickleball indoors. First, the noise: that cheerful tapping of paddle on ball can be delightful if you’re playing outdoors, and may even be wonderful if you’re in an indoor hall with great acoustics. But if you’ve got echoes going—and, worse, several games being played in one arena—it can easily be too much.
Indoor courts often get complicated, too. Since most indoor pickleball courts are used for multiple sports (basketball, volleyball,…), you may have all manner of criss cross lines to sort out when you’re trying to keep track of your playing area (where’s the kitchen line, what’s in, what’s out,…?).
When you’re playing indoors, you’ll also have to keep track of walls and ceilings, especially when you’ve got a lower roof or are playing near a wall. Just be aware of where they are, and try to avoid letting them mess up your good shot.
If you’re playing outdoor pickleball, you don’t have to worry about echoes, low ceilings, or annoying walls that jump out at you. But you do have to be aware that outdoor balls behave differently, and you have to be aware of outdoor’s two big pickleball enemies: the sun and the wind.
You thought it would be lovely—an idyllic game out in the spring sunshine, out where you could hear the birds sing—and then you realize you’re facing straight into the sun, and you can’t see that neon green pickleball coming straight at you. The sun is not your friend when you’re playing outdoors, and it can make the best players miss-hit some otherwise easy shots.
Sunglasses and hats/visors will help a great deal. If the ball is coming in at a really bad angle, call out “switch!” and have your partner take the ball instead. Their angle to it will be different, and—hopefully – they will be able to get a better look. If that’s not an option, focus on the area where the ball will enter your ‘hitting zone’, and not where it’s coming from.
Even on quiet days, when there’s barely a rustling in the grass, the wind can play havoc with a pickleball ball. When playing outdoors, be aware of wind strength and direction. When the wind is against you, you might have to hit the ball much harder just to have the same result. If the wind is behind you, the softest of hits can send your ball flying, so play it gently.
Indoor Pickleball Balls vs. Outdoor Pickleball Balls
The differences between indoor pickleball balls and outdoor pickleball balls lead to more differences between inside and outside games. Balls designed for indoor use are lighter, airier, and made of softer plastic. They have larger holes, and only about 26 of them (vs 40 holes for an outdoor ball). These balls are easy to control during indoor play, and you need less power to send them where you want them to go.
Outdoor pickleball balls are engineered to minimize wind disruption, which means they’re harder and heavier. Because of that extra weight, an outdoor pickleball ball will bounce lower, and it’ll move much faster than an indoor ball. That means you won’t have as much time between shots, and you’ll have to be ready to react much more quickly.
For more information to help you choose your pickleball ball, have a look at our article discussing Pickleball Equipment You Need to Get Started. [link].
Remember, the key is getting out and having fun, whether that is inside or outside. Stay open minded, and maybe your new preference will surprise you!