I get asked all the time, “what are the best pickleball paddles out there?” I first want to say that there is not one perfect paddle out there that will work 100% perfectly for everyone’s game. I know guys that have personally owned over 50 different paddles and switch to a new one every week in hopes that it will improve their game. I also know people who are still using the first paddle they bought 5 years ago. Mind you, I know 5.0 players who fall into each of these categories.
What does this all mean…
It means that finding the best pickleball paddles can be very subjective. That said…I see a lot of the same paddles showing up at the courts every week. I’ve used tons of different paddles in my career and spent a long time on my own personal quest to find the best pickleball paddles out there.
I finally feel ready to share my ultimate guide to finding the best pickleball paddle for you. No matter if you’re a beginner looking for your first paddle or a 5.0 looking to try something new, this guide has you covered.
The 3 Most Important Criteria
Before I get to my top picks, I wanted to talk briefly on what criteria I think are most important when looking for a good pickleball paddle. I’ve broken it down to three.
This is the most important feature I look for in a pickleball paddle. When I say consistency I’m talking about the ability for the paddle to have a large sweet spot so we can control our shots.
Consistency is the baseline for which a good pickleball player’s game is built upon. If you have a paddle that is inconsistent it makes it so much harder to improve. Whether you play a hard game or a soft game you need a consistent paddle. That’s why every paddle i’ll be recommending in this guide will have amazing consistency.
Touch can be a very subjecting term depending on who you ask. For the purposes of this guide, touch is the feeling that the paddle is nearly an extension of your hand. A paddle with good touch is not only consistent, but it just has that great “feel” to it that makes you almost feel “one with the paddle”.
While touch can vary from player to player, if you want to improve as a player you have to improve your soft game. A pickleball paddle with good touch can give you the confidence and consistency you need to hit that perfect dink every time.
Power? What if I’m not a power player? I’m not talking about being a power player in this sense. What I mean is that your paddle should have the ability to generate superior ball speed right off it’s face.
Even if you are a soft game player, which nearly all 5.0 players are. Your paddle still needs the ability to hit shots hard, because 9/10 times those are the shots that will score you the point.
A pickleball paddle with good power doesn’t mean it has to be heavy or “springy”, it means that hard shots should feel effortless and can be generated quickly without thought. Again, each of my top picks in this guide will feature superior power.
Ok…enough theory, let’s get right into my top picks…
Best Pickleball Paddle (My #1 Overall Choice)
My choice for the best overall pickleball paddle is the Paddletek Phoenix Pro. Paddletek have been making top tier paddles for a long time now and they have really perfected the pickleball paddle (say that 3 times fast). It seems that every single tournament I go to, I see a Paddletek paddle in the hands of at least one or more medalists.
The Phoenix Pro is what I consider the best of the best in Paddletek’s lineup. I strongly consider this to be the best paddle no matter what your game type is. If you’re a new player, this is the paddle you want to start with. It will grow with you all the way up the 5.0 level.
Why I Love The Phoenix Pro
First, the weight is heavy enough to generate power, but light enough to still react quickly. The Phoenix Pro has an average weight of 8.4-8.8oz which is a perfect mid-weight paddle.
Second, the core. I’ll be honest, when I heard the Phoenix Pro had a polymer honeycomb core I got a bit nervous. I’ve found that polymer cores have a sweet spot that is very inconsistent. Hit the ball dead center and it flies off the paddle, hit nearer to the edge and the ball dies. I was really blown away that the Phoenix Pro had none of these issues. The sweet spot was very large and extremely predictable.
The touch of this paddle is astounding. I think it’s what really solidified this paddle as my top choice. It’s hard to explain but the paddle really feels like an extension of your arm and body. You think in your mind, I want to hit the ball there at this speed and the paddle does the rest. Perfect placement of shots is the skill we all strive for and let me just say it, the Phoenix Pro is the best paddle I’ve ever used for consistent shot placement.
On top of all this, the Phoenix Pro is amazing for dinking. It hits hard when it needs to and also has the ability to perfect your soft game. I found dinks to be extremely consistent and repeatable.
- Nearly the perfect paddle for all player types
- Amazing control, touch and consistency
- Power when you need it, light touch when you need it
- Light enough to return smashes, heavy enough to drive home winners
- Grip can be a bit small for large hands (double wrap it)
Overall, I really can’t stress how great this paddle is. It’s a paddle you just have to try to believe. Paddletek has really nailed it with the Phoenix Pro. You would be remiss not to try out the Phoenix Pro. Do yourself a favor and pick up this one today.
Best Pickleball Paddle For Soft Game Players
I first want to say that my #1 pick, the Phoenix Pro by Paddletek is excellent for soft game players. That being said, when testing out all these paddles I did find a paddle I thought just edged it out for pure soft game players. The best pickleball paddle for pure soft game players is the Onix Sub Zero.
I want to clarify again that the Sub Zero barely edges out the Phoenix Pro for soft game players. You should really only consider this paddle if 90% of your game is pure soft game. Not to say its a bad paddle, but it just can’t generate the power that the Phoenix Pro can.
I can honestly say that the Sub Zero is the best soft paddle I’ve ever used. For dinking there is nothing better, and I mean nothing. You will find that the ball just effortlessly goes exactly where you want it when dinking. And since dinking is 90% of shots made at higher level play, this paddle is simply amazing.
Edge-less Design, Amazing But Worth It?
The Sub Zero features a true edge-less design which I absolutely love. Even the best players hit shots on the edge of the paddle every once in a while and with the Sub Zero you will turn those mis-hit edge shots into winners. The draw back to this of course is durability…smash this guy into the ground by accident and it might be time for a new paddle.
The feel of this paddle is simply amazing. It’s really hard to put in words you really have to try it to appreciate it. You just feel in complete control of the ball when you are hitting softly.
This paddle would have been my top pick if it wasn’t for the fact that it just doesn’t have the power that the Phoenix Pro has. It can’t generate that quick ball speed that is critical at high level play. Not to say it’s bad, it really isn’t, it’s just not as good as the Phoenix Pro in this case.
The Sub Zero is technically a mid-weight paddle with an average weight of 7.5-7.7 ounces, however it feels much lighter in hand. When you’re holding the Sub Zero you just have this confidence that you’ll be able to return any shot hit at you.
- The best paddle for dinking, period
- Feels lighter then it’s rated
- Edge-less design inspires confidence
- Let’s be honest, the graphics just look plain cool (no pun intended)
- Just can’t generate the power that the Phoenix Pro can
- Durability is questionable due to no edge protection
All in all the Sub Zero by Onix is a winner. If you value your short, soft game over on demand power, you really should consider picking up the Sub Zero.
Best Pickleball Paddle For Power Players
If you’re a power player and want the maximum ball speed and the ability to hit winners down the baseline from the back of the court, I found the perfect paddle for you. My pick for the best pickleball paddle for power players is the all new Gamma Atomic.
The Atomic is a heavy weighted beast with a Nomex core that causes the ball to rocket off the paddle face. A 4.5 friend of mine who was an ex-racquetball player said the Atomic was the best paddle he’s ever used. He plays an extreme power game but plays it well.
Hit The Ball At Atomic Speeds
Gamma uses this new technology in all their paddles called uni-body construction. This gives the player all the benefits of single piece construction with the added benefit of no edge. Being an edge-less paddle I must admit is a very nice feature and one that’s becoming more and more popular in the pickleball world.
The Atomic weighs a heavy 8.2-8.9 ounces. One of the main reasons this paddle hits so hard. The edge-less design also gives the paddle a 30% sweet spot which is essential for power players who swing the paddle much faster and need just that little extra forgiveness.
Where does this paddle fall short, at the net. Unfortunately the Atomic is not going to be your best friend up close at the net, but power players don’t like to be there anyway. The added weight dulls reaction time and the super hard surface and frame make for difficult dinking. Not to say it won’t work, it actually performs better than I had expected at net play, but nothing as forgiving as the Phoenix Pro or the Onix Sub Zero.
Why I Have Trouble Recommending This Paddle
The main problem I have with the Atomic is not the paddle per say but the type of game it favors. Power players will often beat weaker opponents pretty badly, however they will almost always lose to a highly skilled soft game player. A 5.0 soft game player will destroy a power player any day of the week. It’s because of this that I have trouble recommending this paddle, and I only do because a lot of people enjoy the power game and in the end it’s all about having fun right? However, if you are serious about becoming the best player you can be, I would advise you to get one of the other paddles on this page and learn the soft game. To me there is nothing more satisfying then completely shutting down a power player with your soft game, while they sit in frustration.
- Atomic is the perfect name. This paddle launches fireballs
- Unibody construction is amazing for saving mis-hits
- Also great for players who have trouble generating power
- Heavy! Not great for dinking
- Power players will lose to a better soft game player so this paddle can only take you so far
This is a pure power paddle plain and simple. If you’re a banger this is the paddle you want in your hand. You will overwhelm your opponents with speed and accuracy and there’s nothing more satisfying than that.
A Good Choice For “Beginners”
I went back in forth about writing this section. As I said earlier I am not a big believer in the whole “beginner” paddle thing. That said, I can’t deny that there are some paddles out there that are taylor made for beginners.
Beginner paddles are really all about keeping the ball in play. They won’t hit as hard but they have large sweet spots and will be a bit more forgiving.
NOTE: I still would recommend new players to just purchase one of the 3 paddles listed above. However, if you are super new and want to break into the game a bit slower or perhaps you are just a player who doesn’t care much about being the next National’s champion and just wants to play a relaxed game, then consider this paddle
The paddle in which I’m speaking about is a classic and has been around for a long time. It’s the Champion paddle by PickleBall Inc.
Why The Champion Is A Good Choice
The most important rule in pickleball, at any level, is keeping the ball in play. Let your opponent make the mistake and that is why I think the Champion has become so popular. The Champion is really the most forgiving pickleball paddle I’ve ever used. It’s hard to explain. I know a lot of players that started on this paddle. It just has a very reliable sweet spot. You can just always seem to return the ball correctly and keep the ball in play.
The Champion has a graphite face that allows for some good shots. That said, you won’t be setting any ball speed records with this paddle, it’s not a hard hitter, that’s for sure. It’s a paddle made for keeping the ball in play. It’s lightweight, with an average weight of 7.4oz and has a Nomex core.
I would say that this paddle is perfect for anyone up to the 3.5+ level which will last you a long time. Some players never progress past that level and that’s fine. But if you are serious about the game and want to progress to the professional level one day or just play the best pickleball your ability level will let you, I would still recommend one of the 3 listed above this one.
Here is a quick summary of this entire post in case anything wasn’t clear.
Pickleball Fire is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.