If you are practicing with dozens of pickleball balls or you just have a bad back, bending over repeatedly to pick up pickleballs of the court can be hard on your back. Luckily there are a few simple solutions. “Tennis ball tubes” or ball retrievers have been around for years. While tennis balls and pickleballs are not exactly the same diameter and not all tubes will work, some tennis tubes like this one are made to accommodate pickleballs and other balls with different diameters like foam and practice balls.
But if you’re handy and don’t want to spend money on a store-bought ball retriever, these contraptions really are very easy to make. If you’re up for a quick DIY project you could make one of these tubes using PVC pipe for under $10 and about 10 minutes of your time (once you’ve got the materials) since this first solution is pretty much just a piece of pipe and a little bit of handy work at one end using zip ties to keep the pickleballs from falling out.
Here’s a quick video (from Pickleball Channel) with pickleball legend Steve Paranto showing this DIY piece of pickleball equipment.
PVC Pipe DIY Pickleball Picker-Upper or Ball Retriever
What you’ll need to make this DIY Pickleball Picker Upper:
- 3.5” (outer diameter) piece of PVC (approx 4 feet in length).
- Electric drill
- Zip ties
- About ½ from the bottom of the PVC drill five ¼ inch holes.
- Run zip ties through the holes, zip tight, and cut off remaining ends.
This is not an exact science so you may have to experiment a bit. Different brands of pickleballs are slightly different diameters, zip ties are slightly thicker or thinner than others, etc. If you don’t get a tight enough fit, drill an extra hole for another zip tie (more zip ties will reduce the space of the opening and give a tighter fit). The larger hole you see at the bottom of the tube is optional but can be useful for seeing if there are balls in the tube.
As you can see in the video, the length of the PVC is about 4 feet (you could make this longer if you want to be able to fit more balls. I think 4-5 feet in length work best.
While you can fit a lot more balls in a 6 foot or longer piece of pipe, it gets pretty unwieldy and hard to handle, especially when you turn it up to unload the balls into a caddy or pickleball hopper…also consider the length if you are going to be taking this to a court (Will it easily fit in the trunk of your car?).
Since you can buy the pre-made tennis ball tubes for around $30-40 you can save some money by making them yourselves, especially if you made several for a club or pickleball group the savings would add up (and you’d probably get pretty good at making them) so it probably comes down to whether you are more of a DIY person or prefer the convenience of buying them.
Simple Scoop Picker-Upper
The most recent recommendation (and probably the simplest) we’ve seen is this recent youtube video tip from Pickleball Ambassador Phil Dunmeyer Tustin Pickleball Club. He’s just using a large heavy-duty dustpan to pick up the balls.
I’m pretty sure he’s using this one by Quickie -or one that is very similar. The idea is just to use it like a big scoop and save your back by not having to bend over. Simple but very smart idea!
PickleUpper Paddle Attachment -Reader recommendation
Thanks to one of our regular readers who contacted us recently we found out about this simple paddle attachment.
The suction cup goes directly on the end of the handle. The patent-pending design is simple but also pretty ingenious – why don’t I think of stuff like this! When I first saw this I was skeptical – it looks like the flared suction cup would get in the way or make it awkward to grip the handle.
However, reading through the reviews, that doesn’t seem to be a real complaint. The one thing that several people have pointed out is that it doesn’t work well sticking to a brand new ball but even after a few minutes of play is enough to scuff the ball slightly and make it stick to the suction cup. It seems a bit pricey for what it is but it could help relieve your back and is practical compared to carrying around a long tube.
Kollectaball Ball Collector
Another recent innovation by Kollectaball is this ingenious cage on a rotating spindle that can be rolled around the court to pick up balls.
Unlike hoppers or ball tubes that have to be lifted up and pushed down onto the balls, you simply roll this contraption around the court and it traps the balls inside. For some reason, it reminds me of an old-fashioned bingo hall hopper where the wooden balls tossed around inside.
It was originally marketed for tennis balls but is compatible with pickleballs and there are actually videos on Youtube of it being used for everything from baseballs to apples!
The main benefit is that it’s is handheld and portable. It’s also very easy to use. The main drawback is the price, it seems expensive for what it is, but then again for some people, protecting your back and preventing injury from repeated bending over could be well worth the price of this gadget.
While originally only sold through the company’s UK website and shipped in Europe, the Kollectaball was recently made available on Amazon in the USA (click to check current price).
BRAD: the Ball Retriever And Dispenser
When it comes to tools to use to pick up pickleballs, this is a step up as far as size and capacity and automation. It’s also quite a bit more expensive than the previous options but could be a good investment for clubs, recreation centers or coaches. It would also be a nice companion to one of these pickleball ball machines (click see our full comparison to the top three selling models) since there are a lot of balls to pick up when practicing drills with a ball machine (100+ capacity on some of them).
BRAD (Ball Retriever and Dispenser) is a ball mower on wheels that is designed to collect balls. It also holds a ball hopper and is set up so that when you incline the mower, the balls drop down the chute and into the hopper.
I’ve spoken with Rusty Tarwater, the inventor, and owner of BRAD. He has confirmed that while it was designed for tennis and admits that it wasn’t originally intended to use for pickleball, good fortune has it that pickleballs are perfectly compatible and BRAD picks them up with ease. We’ve planned to arrange a way for me to test out one of these. While that hasn’t happened yet, he has confirmed that it does work and we hope to post a video soon of it being used to pick up pickleballs.
After 25 years of experience as a tennis teaching professionally for over 25 years he decided to come up with “BRAD” to fill the gap that other, more costly, ball mowers failed to solve: easily collecting the balls off the court and easily transferring them to a ball hopper.
BRAD is 24″ wide, weighs 23 pounds, and breaks down to fit in the back of many cars (Rusty shows pictures on his website of it in the back of his Toyota Prius).
The BRAD (Ball Retriever and Dispenser) is now available on Amazon (check price).
I noticed that it recently (Oct 16th, 2018) received its first review to date which unfortunately is very negative about the assembly instructions. While I have not put one together, I do want to mention that the owner of the company, Rusty, has promptly answered all of my questions and been very informative and helpful – so I would suggest to anyone that buys this reach out to him directly through the contact page on his website for any follow-up support after purchasing.
DIY Trash Bin Pickleball Picker Upper: Ball Caddy / Hopper
While I have not tried making this style, I am intrigued. When I have some spare time, I’ll have to do this DIY project and post the results. In the meantime, here it is in case any of our readers decide you want to try it out (please report back with results if you do make one!).
This project simulates a tennis ball caddy so often seen on the courts. Traditionally these ball hoppers are made of metal resembling a cage- and have a space that is just big enough so that with a bit of pressure, the balls will squeeze thru the opening and into the hopper (without coming back out). This simple version uses a kitchen trash bin with a hole cut in it and then intersecting lines of bungee cord to create the parallel lines used to pick up the balls by “trapping” them and keep them inside the bin.
Items needed for the project:
A simple but effective pickleball picker-upper.
- A kitchen trash can (preferable unused)
- 4 bungee cords
- 1/2″ PVC pipe with 4 elbows
- Strong glue
- Cut a hole in the bottom of the trash can.
- Drill holes on all four sides for the bungee cords.
- Make three sides of the handle.
- Drill holes for the handle, insert the pipe for the fourth side through the can.
- Glue the pipe together for the completed handle. Paint before assembly if you wish.
The project shared from instructables.com: See the full DIY project here:
If you have found any other creative ways to pick up pickleballs, please let us know in the comments below.