Game Review: Pickleball

Remember that post about the most popular backyard games in the United States? Well, we are based in Utah, and Pickleball has been topping the charts here the past year. During all of the corona craziness, they even had to take down the pickleball nets because the locked gates weren’t keeping people out! Pickleball is LIFE!

What is it? A mix of tennis and ping pong. Paddles on a small tennis court, with a wiffle ball. 

  • Time to set up: Just have to drive to the pickleball courts! Here’s a location list to be able to find a court near you:
  • Duration of game: 15-20 minutes per game
  • Number of players that are needed/can participate: 2-8 at the most for 1 court
  • Where can it be played? Besides the location list above, you can buy your own net to opens up various other options as well like gyms, streets, basketball courts at the park, etc.. We tried playing in Cassidy’s parents’ cul-de-sac once… the asphalt chewed up the balls and it made for some rough, uneven ground… but it works if that’s all you got. That was the day that we waited for 20 minutes at the local pickleball courts and gave up because there were so many people.)
  • How to play? There are multiple ways to play the game, but we’ll only stick to the classic game of Pickleball below, and detail other ways to play on our next post—Pickleball Game Variations. 

    Basic rules: In a two player game, the score keeping starts at 0-0-2. (The score is 0 to 0, and the last number is the server whom is serving). Only on the first play of the game, does only 1 server get to go. From then on, it goes 0-0-1 (first server), and then 0-0-2 (second server) when you lose the first point. Essentially meaning that your team has at least two tries, one from each server, to get a point. Though, you stay with that server until you lose a point. You could get to 5-0-1 and then lose a point, but the ball would stay on your side and move to 5-0-2. (HOPEFULLY THIS IS MAKING SENSE?! Pleas let us know if not, and then we will reword lol.)

    When serving, the ball has to be contacted below the waist in an underhand fashion (not sure if it’s even possible to serve overhand from below the waist). The ball has to clear the “kitchen” (the different colored box up by the net) and land on the opposite side, cross court from where the server is. You can only score a point while serving and if you score a point then you serve cross court the other direction and so on.

    You can’t enter the kitchen, (box at the net) unless the ball lands or is going to land in the area of the kitchen. This means that most of the game is spent standing about 7 feet from the net.

    Not a whole lot changes in the rules between playing with 2 players or 4 players. The only major difference is how you say the score. When playing doubles you call out which number server you are (as explained above), so you don’t lose track of who is supposed to be serving next. 

    An important rule to remember while playing doubles, is that if you are the non-serving player for the team that is serving you have to wait until the ball bounces once to return the ball after the receiving team returns the serve. Translation: the serving team has to let the ball bounce when the receiving team returns the serve. This only applies to the first return of the rally. 

Backyard Buffs’ Rating: 19

Ease of storage/portability: 5. We’d suggest getting a pickleball bag to hold your paddle and a couple balls! A simple drawstring bag works great too. 

Durability (packaging or game pieces): 4. Ultimately, the paddles don’t seem to deteriorate much at all. Especially if you update the balls you play with fairly frequently (if playing on outdoor courts). After using a ball for quite some time, then it will become a little more abrasive if you’ve been playing on outdoor courts. We’ve found that paddles scratch easier when you play with rougher, older balls. The balls are really the thing that wear away quickest. It depends on the kind of ball or paddle you buy but generally all paddles hold up pretty well. Bottom line: to increase longevity of your paddle, change out balls when they start to feel rough.

Friendly for all Ages/Skill Levels: 5. Pickleball originally caught traction with the older folks because it’s social and aerobic, without putting too much stress on joints and muscles. That being said, we’re not downplaying how awesome this game is at all. In fact, there are tons of older people out there who could kick our trash in Pickleball. As Pickleball has become more popular, it has drawn a younger crowd to join in. It’s easier on the joints because the courts are smaller than tennis courts and is played with paddles. Paddles that hit wiffle balls. Not racquets that are strung to launch tennis balls over 90mph. We also see tons of kids at the courts near us, so that is an indication that Pickleball is kid-friendly. 

Fair Pricing: 5. One of the best things about Pickleball is that it’s friendly to most any budget. Sure you can find paddles made of composite or graphite that cost upwards of $140.00+. You can also buy a pack of 2 wooden starter paddles and balls for $20.00. If you really enjoy it and want to invest in a nicer, lightweight paddle then you can find them for under $50.00. We suggest this set as a great starter package. Most people who have nice paddles also have wooden paddles from when they first started. If you have friends like that, then you can borrow some wooden paddles and see if you like it enough to get in on the Pickle life.

Conclusion: The best way to conclude this review is to just paint a picture of the world that we’ve experienced through Pickleball. We’ve talked about the diverse groups of people that Pickleball brings together. The first group that comes to mind are the older folks that have their flashy paddles and sweatbands. They may not be fast like a teenager, but their game is so technically sound that you can find yourself getting whooped and destroying your ego at the same time. The next group that comes to mind are the families. Usually you’ll find the parents of two families playing doubles against each other, while their kids run amuck on the neighboring court (usually trying to play something resembling what their parents are playing). If it’s a Saturday afternoon then there is usually a picnic going on in the vicinity, with people playing Spikeball or other outdoor games. Another group is the high school or college friends who get together to have fun. You better believe that guys take advantage to impress girls and get a little flirting in. There are tons of other groups we could talk about, co-workers, awkward groups of people who are new and spend more time running to get the ball than actually playing, gym bros who have the muscles but can’t quite fine tune their swings. Regardless of what group you’re in, all these people have one thing in common. They’re out there to have fun and exercise in the fresh air. As Backyard Buffs, nothing makes us more happy than to see a game that brings people together with the purpose of being active, while having fun!