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Playing Pickleball on a Tennis Court: Is It Possible?

pickleball on a tennis court
(Image credit: Pickleball Portal)

In 1965, in the small community of Bainbridge Island off the coast of Washington State, the first-ever game of pickleball developed. Three dads, Bill Bell, Barney McCallum, and Joel Pritchard, decided to invent a new game to cure their children’s summertime boredom. The first match evolved on existing badminton courts, proving pickleball is adaptive. Given the popularity of tennis, is it possible to play pickleball on a tennis court — a court much longer and wider than regulated pickleball courts?

Is It Possible To Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court?

In the game’s earliest iterations, pickleball was a casual family game. Rules were relatively lax as the creators toyed with form and function. As the sport evolved, adopting official rules and a more competitive angle, so too did court and equipment specifications.

That said, can you play pickleball on a tennis court? Yes, though it depends. The rules stipulating court size and boundaries do not change, regardless of location. Whether you can or should play on a tennis court depends on your intention or objective for playing.

Casual vs Regulated Play

Tennis courts are relatively common additions to public parks or athletic fields. In contrast, pickleball courts are rare, though the number of courts is increasing. According to USA Pickleball, the National Governing Body for the sport, there were 10,724 official pickleball courts nationwide at the end of 2022. The number is continually growing, and to find local courts, players can check the USAPA’s dedicated locations website: www.places2play.org.

The current shortage of pickleball courts in the country can make casual play challenging. Fortunately, because leisure play is not official, players can easily retrofit existing tennis courts to play pickleball. Many courts have pre-existing lines to make it easier to play pickleball on a tennis court, or pickleball players may leave tape or markers in place with permission from court owners.

Most tournaments and regulation matches require an official pickleball court. Makeshift courts can satisfy local or neighborhood match demands, but professional pickleball tournaments must meet official court specifications.

Pickleball vs Tennis Court Size

A tennis court is 78 feet long. The width of the court varies between singles and doubles. A singles court is 27 feet wide, versus a doubles court, which is 36 feet wide. A pickleball court is much smaller — 44 by 20 feet.

Tennis court compared to pickleball court
(Image credit: Pickleball Portal)

The interior court divisions also differ between the sports. Tennis has a service area that includes the first 21 feet from the net on either side; valid serves must land within the zone. Pickleball has a 7-foot zone extending from the net on either side called the kitchen or non-volley zones.

How many pickleball courts fit on a tennis court? You can fit one pickleball court within a standard tennis court, or using the out-of-bounds areas, you can fit up to four. To place four courts for pickleball on a tennis court, players use the singles outside boundary as the center line for the pickleball courts and use the service area as a rough placement for the backend of the kitchens.

How Do You Play a Pickleball Match on a Tennis Court?

Players can make a pickleball match on a tennis court as complex or straightforward as they want. If players want to stick to precise pickleball rules, they must measure out court dimensions, affix boundary lines, and adjust net heights. For easy and casual play, players can maintain existing net measurements and use simple boundary markers.

The level of detail and time put into court adjustment depends on the purpose of your play. Do you want to practice for official tournaments, or are you simply looking to have fun with friends? Tournament practice dictates a stricter adherence to pickleball rules and court dimensions because the objective is to prepare you for regulated play.

Line Differences

Playing pickleball on a tennis court requires some adjustments because the lines and dimensions of a pickleball court differ from tennis courts. Tennis courts have a much larger field of play with limited rules about playing near the net.

Pickleball limits access to the net by creating non-volley zones. The 7-foot non-volley zones prevent players from taking unfair advantage during a game and smashing every return. Without the kitchen or non-volley zone, defenders have the edge over drop or volley serves. The same is true of the offense when returning volleys.

Whether for leisure or serious practice, pickleball players should define the different boundaries on a tennis court. Boundaries provide clear indications of the zones, reducing the risk of disputes.

Net Differences

A standard tennis court net is 42 inches high at the posts and 36 inches at the center. A pickleball net is 36 inches high at the posts and 34 inches at the center. These differences may seem minor, but even a few incremental shifts can affect gameplay.

To play pickleball on a tennis court, you have a few options relating to the net. First, if the existing net is adjustable, adjust it to the required height for the game. Adjustable nets are becoming more popular on tennis courts but are not yet the norm.

Second, if you are playing casually, you can leave the net height alone and play as-is. Finally, it is customary to place two pickleball courts on a tennis court — one on either side of the tennis net. You can bring your own net to set up a regulation court on one-half of the tennis court, avoiding the tennis net altogether. A portable net is the next best thing if a tennis court does not have an adjustable net. You can purchase portable nets for less than $200, and they are easy to transport and set up in minutes.

Tennis-to-Pickleball Court Conversions

To create a court for pickleball on a tennis court, you need a tape measurer, chalk, and tape. Creating a pickleball court is essentially a six-step process:

  1. From the center of the tennis net — the center line of the service area — measure 8 feet out and make your first chalk mark; this is the first back boundary of the pickleball court. 
  2. Measure 15 feet from the back boundary to reach the beginning of the kitchen. 
  3. Measure 7 feet to find the end of the kitchen and the center of the court. 
  4. Place the net.
  5. Repeat the process in reverse on the other side of the pickleball net. 
  6. To get the proper width of the pickleball court, measure 8 feet in on either side of the tennis court. 

How Can You Legally Convert a Tennis Court to a Pickleball Court?

Playing pickleball on a tennis court does not require the use of permanent paints or the destruction of property. Attempting to alter an existing tennis court without an owner’s permission is illegal. Even adding temporary lines may violate the owner’s rights, so it is always in a player’s best interest to ask for permission before altering a tennis court.

If an owner finds a benefit to adding pickleball boundaries to their tennis court, they may agree to permanent changes, such as painted lines and adjustable nets. Even if an owner does not want to make permanent adjustments, players may make a case for using temporary materials, such as chalk and painter’s tape.

Remember that permanent changes cost money, which some owners may find prohibitive. In some cases, tennis court owners may allow pickleball players to make minor cosmetic changes if the players are willing to cover the costs.

Court Conversion Costs

Adding permanent lines to define pickleball boundaries can cost upwards of $600 when done professionally. Converting a tennis court to an official pickleball court is even more expensive, with estimates in the tens of thousands of dollars.

However, with the growing popularity of pickleball, it is possible to convince property owners and cities to install courts for pickleball on a tennis court. If you want to pitch a pickleball development in your town, do your research. Many municipalities prefer to work with organizations or clubs to sponsor the redevelopment of existing tennis courts. Private landowners likely want to see pitches that include potential funding sources.

Pickleball players may better convince property owners of conversion projects by focusing their efforts on tennis courts in disrepair, those neglected or abandoned. Cities, neighborhoods, and private landowners want properties to remain attractive. If a pickleball court can help with curb appeal and beautification, property owners may be more willing to entertain proposals.

Are You Ready To Learn More About Playing Pickleball on a Tennis Court?

Pickleball began as a family-friendly activity and has grown into a competitive sport enjoyed by both professional and amateur athletes of all ages. However, your neighborhood may not yet have a dedicated pickleball court. While the game does have its own official courts, with temporary tools and portable nets you can adjust to play pickleball on a tennis court. To learn more about how to turn a standard tennis court into one appropriate for pickleball or anything else about this amazing sport, check out Pickleball Portal.

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About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

1 thought on “Playing Pickleball on a Tennis Court: Is It Possible?”

  1. You can set up two pickleball courts on a single tennis court by using portable pickleball nets and posts. You can place them parallel or perpendicular to the tennis net, depending on your preference.

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