In 2014, news reports called pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America. This oddly named sport has been around since 1965, but in the last decade, its emergence onto the scene as a popular alternative group outdoor activity has catapulted it into the national spotlight.
Part of that popularity is due to the fact that pickleball is easy to play and just as easy to set up, even if you don’t have an official court. As long as you have a large enough flat surface, indoor or outdoor, you can have your own pickleball tournament. Here, we will explain how to make your own pickleball court in no time at all.
The Pickleball court
Pickleball was invented by three fathers on Bainbridge Island, just outside of Seattle, Washington. They were looking for a fun activity to entertain their bored progeny. When an attempt to start a game of badminton was foiled because they couldn’t find the shuttlecocks, the dads got inventive.
Pickleball is played on a 20’x44’ court, the same size of an official badminton court. Instead of playing with a net elevated into the air, though, the 36”x22’ net is hung at ground level, the way a tennis net would sit. A game can be played one-on-one or with teams of two, again similar to tennis.
You can download a larger version of this official diagram from the USAPA website to print out (link will open PDF).
The court is split with two 7’ non-volley zones directly on either side of the net and two 15’ areas past those zones where the players stand. Each 15’ zone is split in half for a right service area and a left service area.
The Pickleball rules
Pickleball is a cross between tennis and ping pong. The ball is always initially served from the right service area and must be served to the opposite side using an underhand serve with the paddle kept below your waist. After each successful volley, the server switches and serves to the opposite service area. The ball must get past the non-volley zone on the serve and bounce once before the receiving team can return the ball. The serving team must also let the ball bounce once before it returns.
After those initial bounces, the teams can volley (hit the ball without letting it bounce first). As the name suggests, a player cannot directly volley in the non-volley zone. Only the serving team can score a point and the game goes to 11, with the winning team needing to win by at least two points.
Anyone even slightly familiar with other net and paddle sports will recognize the basic structure of pickleball. As the sport has grown in popularity, the number of official pickleball courts have grown, to nearly 6,000 in North America. Even with that many locations, though, there is still a chance that you won’t have one near you (you can use this website to search for courts in your area).
Even if you don’t have any courts nearby, that isn’t a problem: you can make your own. While you really need concrete, asphalt or similar hard surface (can’t play on grass), many people are able to find enough room for a court on their driveway or neighborhood cul-de-sac.
There are four essential things you need to play pickleball:
- Playing area
- Materials for marking lines
- Paddles and balls
- Net and stands
When searching out a location, be sure it’s a large enough space to not only provide room for the court itself, but room for players who will run beyond the court. It is recommended that, at minimum, the entire playing area, including the open space outside the court, is 30’x60’, but the more space the better. An average-sized basketball court is 50’x94’, for a point of reference.
Materials for marking lines
Once you’ve found your spot, the second thing you’ll need is a means of marking the lines of the court. It’s not enough to just mark the boundaries of the court, you will want clear barriers drawn to indicate the different areas. For this, you can use sidewalk chalk or large crayons, or you can go with colored tape or official vinyl court lines.
Chalk like this Jumbo Sidewalk Chalk or toddler crayons are quick, cheap, and easy to use. They last awhile and should withstand being stepped on. They’re ideal for using if the location where you intend to play isn’t going to be a permanent pickleball court, like in a public park or on a basketball court. Chalk will fade but unless you get a heavy rain, the should last for a week or and can easily be touched up to make them more visible.
Tape is a slightly more permanent option that will allow you to play on a court all weekend without having to remake the lines. If you have a large enough patio area or flat driveway, or if you’re making your court indoors, this option is ideal. If you do go with tape, you’ll need roughly 200 feet of it to make a full court, which is a little more than a full roll. (*the total of all the lines of an official court add up to exactly 198 feet).
While some companies market “pickleball court tape” like this one from Pickleball Central, I would personally go with a gaffers tape because it’s designed to stick well to rough surfaces and also is easier to remove with leaving sticky residue behind. I think this is a good option, it comes in 30 yard rolls. and comes in several different colors. You’d need 3 rolls to do one pickleball court but would have quite a bit left over on the 3rd roll. Some readers have recommended GreenFrog Tape as another good option (2″ width is better for visibility).
Contractor’s blue chalk dust: this can save you some time setting up the court since its a quick and easy way to make straight lines (compared to drawing the lines by hand). The down side is that you have to buy the tool and the chalk separately- so it costs more than just using sidewalk chalk.I wouldn’t buy ones for just one home pickleball court but for people that regularly set up courts (clubs, tournaments, etc) it might be worth the investment.
Vinyl court marker lines: another popular option are these court markers by Gamma. These vinyl court markers are made of thin rubber and are a quick way to mark out a pickleball court. A set includes 8 straight pieces and 4 corner pieces. You lay the pieces down along the lines and at the corners to make the outline of the court more clearly visible.
These are popular in clubs or parks where people are sharing the tennis courts and cannot/do not want to leave lines drawn on the court that can confuse tennis players (it’s actually a pretty common complaint).
- Quick to set-up/take down court
- Good for shared courts where multiple sports are played.
- Doesn’t leave any permanent marking that can confuse/annoy tennis players
- The main downside is that these do not stick to the court, while they stay put pretty well they will move if you kick them accidentally.
- Do not create solid lines like tape or chalk, you space the pieces out along the line.
- One set doesn’t provide enough for to clearly mark all the lines and corners (no volley zone, service areas, etc) so you would need 2 sets.
In addition to the chalk or tape or markers you decide on you will want a tape measure to make sure your lines are even. Most average measuring tapes are 100 feet long, so that will be plenty of length to measure out a full court. Having three separate tape measure will make the process easier, but it isn’t necessary.
Paddles and balls
Pickleball paddles and balls can be bought through various sporting good retailers, either in stores or online. If you are just getting started and want to try it out, you can buy a beginner pickleball set like this one that include enough paddles and balls for 4 people to play.
The ball is made of perforated polymer and looks similar to a Wiffle ball but a pickleball is slightly heavier and has more holes. The most basic paddles are made of wood while better quality ones are made of lightweight graphite or composite material. The paddles cannot exceed the length of 17” (roughly three times the length of a ping pong paddle). When combining length and width, paddles cannot be more than 24”.
Net and stands
If you’re just looking to set up a quick game, almost any type of tennis or badminton net will work for your purposes. Along with the net, you will need three stands, one for each end of the net, and one to hold the net up in the middle. If you are serious about setting up a proper court, you’d want to look at getting an official sized pickleball net (click to see our buyers guide with our top pick)
Making your own home pickleball court:
Now that you have everything you need, here is a step-by-step guide to making your court:
Step 1. Set up the net
The net serve as your point of reference for everything else.
Step 2. Sidelines
On one side of the net, roughly one foot in from the outer net stand, measure out your sidelines (22’) and baselines (20’) with the tape measure; if you have three measuring tapes, you can lay them all out at once and do all outer edges at once.
Step 3. No-Volley Zone
Using the tape measure as a guide, draw the sidelines with your chalk or tape; mark 7’ out from the net on each side (this indicates the no-volley zone).
Step 4. Baselines
Using the tape measure as a guide, draw the baseline with your chalk or tape; mark 10’ from the edge (this is the halfway point).
Step 5. Draw NVZ
Move the measuring tape to the 7’ marks you’ve made on each sideline and draw the no-volley zone border line; mark 10’ from the edge.
Step 6. Service Areas
Lay the tape measure between the two 10’ marks you made on the baseline and the no-volley line, and draw your service area dividing line down the middle of the court.
Step 7. Other Side
Repeat Steps 2 through 6 for the opposite side.
And that’s it! Get out the paddles and balls and you are all ready for your very own pickleball tournament. If you are looking for instructions on how to make a more permanent pickleball court with painted surface and lines you may want to check out this guide by the USAPA.
DIY Pickleball Court: Video
If you are more of a visual person, here is a great instructional video by the folks at Pickleball 411