Pop. Pop. Pop.
For those of us that love to play pickleball, there is something cool about the sound of a pickleball ball popping off the face of a pickleball paddle and the noisy action pickleball volley action at the net.
I actually get a little excited once I get within earshot of that sounds as I walk up to the local courts and hear the activity of several pickleball games being played at the same time.
I guess for me, it’s the anticipation of getting to play the sport I love and the fun time I know I am about to have. But for many non-pickleball-playing residents that live near pickleball courts the sound can sour their view of the sport and lead them to question if the noise level should be limited.
Even some pickleball players we’ve spoken to agree that while they are playing they don’t even really notice the popping sound, but once off the pickleball court they do realize it’s pretty loud...and they do understand how it could be kind of annoying. Here's a short video showing this exact problem where residents near Gilchrist Park in Punta Gorda, Florida have complained to the local city council.
As the sport of pickleball continues to grow it’s still one of the fastest growing sports in the US, if not the fastest (depending on who you ask) and more and more communities are including pickleball courts within their residential areas.
Not only are courts being built in public parks and many tennis courts being converted to pickleball as popularity surges, but retirement communities, luxury condominiums, 55+ communities, gated golf communities and homeowners associations are including pickleball as one of the amenities they offer to attract new residents and meet the increased demand for pickleball facilities.
One of the noticeable changes in recent years has been the big shift from tennis to pickleball, as the demand for pickleball increases many idle tennis courts are being converted to pickleball. Tennis is relatively quiet, the sound of the ball coming off the racket strings is very muted compared to the clack, clack, clack of pickleball paddles hitting the ball. There is really no disputing that pickleball is louder than tennis (although it wasn't a totally scientific study, I have seen someone test decibel levels on tennis courts vs pickleball courts... and pickleball was noisier.
Also many of these old tennis courts were sitting empty for much of the day. There are eight tennis courts just a few minutes walk from my house and I don’t remember the last time I saw them full during the week. In comparison, the closest Pickle-ball courts hand are jam packed with every time slot taken almost every day of the week.
So as an example...for someone who lived across the street from 8 tennis courts that were recently converted to pickleball, the area could easily have changed from a very quiet park to a bustling scene with 32 people playing at a time, more people coming and going at the top of every hour and the constant popping sound that accompanies any pickleball game (multiply that sound by 8 games being played simultaneously!). I can understand why they are not happy.
We’ve heard a few non-pickleball residents jokingly say they pray for rain to get relief from the pops and pings they hear coming from the nearby pickleball courts!
Solutions for Pickleball Noise:
Soundproofing material placed around the entire pickleball court such as "Acoustifence". Tests have shown that this acoustic fencing can reduce pickleball noise up to 50%. While this is an effective solution for newly built courts and cities and communities that have the funds to upgrade their courts, many local municipal courts and communities do not have the budget for this upgrade.
Quiet Pickleball Paddles:
The best and easiest solution for most players that live in noise restricted communities is to buy a quieter pickleball paddle.
Interestingly, there is a published list of quiet pickleball paddles online. Sun City Grand Pickleball Courts, located in the City of Surprise, AZ, just 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix has tested a wide variety of popular pickleball paddle on the market and published a list of “Approved (Green Zone)” and “Banned (Red Zone)” paddles for use on their pickleball courts. The pickleball association actually contracted an independent sound study company to measure the noise level in decibels and prohibit the use of paddles that exceed this level.
Here are some of the top selling paddles from major pickleball brands from the list. Again, this is not an official list and has not been verified outside of Sun City Grand but may be useful when looking to buy a quiet pickleball paddle. For convenience, we've also published a full list here with links to all the paddles if you want to read reviews or check current prices.
This list is not sanctioned by USAPA and although this is not an official list with any authority outside their own community it has become a useful guide for many players looking for a quieter pickleball paddle and has been since used by other local pickleball communities as a reference for quiet vs noisy paddles. The list is updated regularly and new paddles on the market are tested and added to the list.
For a full updated list, see the Quiet Pickleball Paddle Approved/Banned List Noisy Pickleball Paddles list.
Polymer core paddles are the quietest pickleball paddles on the market. After poly-core paddles, aluminum core are slightly quieter than Nomex. Composite (fiberglass face) are also quieter than graphite. These are just general guidelines and there are exceptions to those guidelines, your best bet would be to opt for a polymer core pickleball paddle.
The quietest pickleball paddle?
Patriot Pickleball Paddle designs and manufacturers "Quiet" Pickleball Paddles specifically designed for low noise. They've already launched their first patent-pending paddle called the "Sniper" . The Paddles are made from polypropylene honeycomb core with rigid polyurethane foam center which dampens noise.
There are a couple quieter balls on the market of foam like this one and this one from Gamma Sports. These can be great practice tools (hitting against the wall on a rainy day 🙂 and are good for warming up.
If you really can’t play with a regulation pickleball (after hours or noise restrictions) you could still have a lot of fun with these and play a game of pickleball but honestly we don’t see these practice balls as total solution since very few players are going to use these to play a competitive game of pickleball. Although the ball is similar in size, because it is soft it really does not have the same touch or feel of a real pickleball.
As the sport continues to grow, there will inevitably be more debate regarding pickleball noise between pickleball players and the people who live near pickleball courts (especially those that do not play). To minimize the number of confrontations city planners and the people who design and construct courts (or convert tennis courts) will really need to make noise reduction a priority.
Pickleball is such a great sport and has so many benefits to the people that play it, especially the positive aspect of building friendships and community based on a common love for the sport that we would hate for the noise issue to leave a negative mark.
Pickleball equipment manufacturers now have the challenge of coming up with quieter paddles and quieter balls. We’ve already seen some new products launched to help meet the demand for quiet paddles and will hopefully see pickleball companies coming up with more solutions to help make the game quieter without negatively impacting the game play.
Research and development takes time, but it will be interesting to see what kind of paddles we are playing with a decade from now! With all of the recent advances in paddles, I would be surprised if the noise levels didn’t come down somewhat by then.
There have been so many advances in paddle technology and the materials used to make paddles. If you take a look at newly released pickleball paddles, they are more lightweight, durable and designed to improve game performance (spin, touch, feel, balance, etc).
Because of these advances we’re pretty sure that paddle noise level will also be addressed in future as newer paddles come to market and more players demand it. It is also in the pickleball brands' best interest as there are already posted lists of banned paddles in some communities which must have some effect on sales of those paddles named on the list.
The bigger issue with pickleball noise that would have the most impact is really court acoustics and sound dampening and that will take time and budget to resolve. Acoustic walls, protective fencing and logical city and community planning is needed to make pickleball facilities that best meet the needs of players while respecting the rights of local residents to peace and quiet.
Pickleball players can also do their part by limiting unnecessary noises (large groups, etc), playing only during allowed times and respecting noise levels especially early morning and late evening, playing with soft foam practice balls if needed. And when possible, selecting quieter paddles (when requested by local communities and respecting any posted ban on “noiser” paddles).
Although some people have proposed a decibel rating be placed on paddle, up until now there has been no official noise rating on paddles. It seems unlikely that this will be a reality anytime soon considering there are several factors involved: the paddle, ball used and force of the stroke that each pickleball player would create a unique sound...and it may easily vary from one hit to the next.
To me it seems like there are just to many variables, unless the USAPA or other governing body like the IFP comes up with a standard paddle noise testing requirement such as firing a pickleball (specific brand/model?) at x/mph from a certain distance?
If you have any comments about pickleball noise please add your comments below. Thanks!