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Every pickleball tournament is a little different. The location, the court type, the weather, and other factors can vary fairly considerably. But there’s one other factor that tends to change from tournament to tournament: the ball used for every match. Here’s your guide to tournament pickleballs.
Common Tournament Pickleballs
Getting ready for a tournament can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re new to the sport. After all, a tournament is a true test of your abilities. Win or lose, each pickleball tournament holds a wealth of lessons to help you improve your game.
If you’re currently preparing for your first tournament or your hundredth, this video offers some tips on how to get ready and up your chances of success:
In all of your preparation, it can become easy to forget one simple yet important way to prepare: knowing what ball will be used in the tournament.
Here are some of the most popular pickleballs approved for USA Pickleball events:
1. Franklin X-40
Used everywhere from pickleball club matches to USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournaments, the Franklin X-40 is one of the best outdoor balls out there. It’s designed to withstand hours of aggressive play without its shape deteriorating. It’s known for having precision-drilled holes and a consistent flight path.
Like virtually all balls used at pickleball events, this one has a one-piece design and is made from extra-strong polyethylene plastic.
Plus, it’s an extremely bright, almost fluorescent color that is easy to see on the court!
Here are some of the USA Pickleball sanctioned events that use the Franklin X-40:
Polynesian Open at Centennial Park in West Valley City, UT (held in July). The same park in West Valley City also hosts the Island Mixer (held in May).
Fall Brawl at Little Valley Pickleball Complex in St. George, UT. (held in October)
USA Pickleball West Diamond Regional at Newport Beach (CA) held at The Tennis Club at Newport Beach (held August-September). The same location also hosts the Newport Beach Invitational (held in October), The Open at Newport Beach (held in November), and the USA Pickleball Newport Beach Championships (held June-July)
Sin City Round Robin at Sunset Regional Park in Las Vegas, NV (held in June)
May Mayhem at Melba in Oceanside, CA at the Melba Bishop Pickleball Courts in Oceanside, CA (held in May)
USA Pickleball Great Lakes Diamond Regional at Wildwood Racquet Club in Fort Wayne, IN (held in June)
Royal Oak Skill Level Tournament at Whittier Park in Royal Oak, MI
The Prescott Lakes Senior Tournament at The Club at Prescott Lakes in Prescott, AZ (held in August)
Foundation Games at Blumenthal Pickleball Complex in Green Valley, AZ (held in October)
2. Dura Fast 40
As you can see from the extended USA Pickleball tournament list at the end of this section, Dura outdoor pickleballs are another of the more popular outdoor pickleballs used in tournaments.
If you’re a pickleball history buff, you might already know that the Dura pickleball is the sport’s “original” pickleball. It was formerly called the Dura 56. Its new name, Dura Fast 40, clarifies that there are 40 holes. This Dura pickleball is on the heavier side for an outdoor ball. You can find it in orange, neon, yellow, or white. So if you want to be really prepared for your tournament, reach out to the hosting club and find out what color is being used!
Here are some of the USA Pickleball sanctioned events that use the Dura Fast 40:
Park City Summer Classic at Willow Creek Park in Park City, UT (held in August)
Twin City Days Pickleball Invitational at Jokerst Memorial Park in Festus, MO (held in September). This one is only for skill groups 4.0-5.0.
NP Windy City Classic at Danny Cunniff Park in Highland Park, IL (held in July). The same location also hosts the APP Chicago Pickleball Open (held August-September)
Discover Columbus Pickleball Tournament at Donner Park in Columbus, IN (held in September)
NP The Springs Classic at Monument Valley Park in Colorado Springs, CO (held in June)
NP Las Vegas Heater at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, NV (held in September)
The Rumble at Oasis Pickleball and Tennis Center in Rockwall, TX (held in October)
NP Utah Open at Rees Pioneer Park in Brigham City, UT (held in September)
NP Great Salt Lake Classic at Rees Pioneer Park in Brigham City, UT (held in June-July)USA
NP Prescott Summer Classic at Espire Sports in Prescott, AZ (held in July)
APP $125K NYC Open at USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NYC
3. Penn 40
If you prefer an outdoor ball that’s on the softer side, the Penn 40 might be what you’re looking for. This ball is designed to be softer without sacrificing durability, and it’s a great choice for a slightly slower style of play. For that reason, it’s a great choice for newer players.
If you find yourself entering a USA Pickleball tournament where the Penn 40 is the official ball, you should know that it has an impressively high bounce. For that reason, if you don’t already use this ball, it’s a good idea to practice with it before the tournament.
You don’t often see the Penn 40 as an official tournament ball, but here is a USA Pickleball sanctioned event that uses it:
Sea Colony at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, DE (held in June)
4. Onix Fuse Indoor
This seamless, heat-welded indoor ball is built to be extra durable. Somewhat confusingly, it’s actually the updated version of the Fuse 2. The main difference is that the Fuse has a lower bounce, making it a bit more predictable on the court.
Like other Onix pickleballs, the Fuse gives you a consistent feel from individual ball to individual ball. That’s because it’s made via injection molding to ensure each ball is a carbon copy of the next.
This quality indoor pickleball comes in the classic bright yellow coloration that makes it easy to see in any indoor lighting conditions.
Here are some of the USA Pickleball sanctioned events that use the Onix Fuse Indoor:
Pickleball Battle at the Bridge at Bridge Sports Complex in Bridgeport, WV(held in October),
USA Pickleball Mid-Atlantic Diamond Regional at Myrtle Beach Sports Center in Myrtle Beach, CA (held in September)
USA Pickleball National Indoor Championships at the Finley Center at the Hoover Met Complex in Hoover, AL (held in June)
5. Selkirk Competition
Though it is approved for tournament play, the Selkirk Competition isn’t quite as well known as some of the other pickleballs on the list. However, these outdoor balls are some of the longest-lasting. They also seem to retain their bounce throughout their lives.
The Selkirk Competition is another 40-hole ball that flies true in all outdoor conditions. It’s a good choice for a smaller pickleball club on a budget, as it can last through multiple outdoor pickleball matches.
Like many outdoor balls, this one is a bright neon color that lets you easily see it on many colors of pickleball courts and just about any paddle color.
You rarely see the Selkirk Competition chosen as a tournament ball, but here’s a USA Pickleball tournament that uses it:
Coeur d’Alene Classic at Cherry Hill Park in Coeur d’Alene, ID (held in July)
6. Gamma Photon Indoor
This durable ball differs from a lot of USA Pickleball-approved balls because it has a unique two-piece construction. Its thick construction and evenly-drilled holes mean that it flies true and is fairly easy to control.
Some players have noted that the Gamma Photon is an indoor pickleball that behaves similarly to outdoor balls. So if you’re new to indoor play, it might be a good one to practice with.
This is another rare choice of tournament ball, but here’s one current USA Pickleball tournament that does use it:
Gamma Pickleball Classic at David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA (held in August)
7. Onix Fuse 2 Indoor
Some pickleballs seem to hold their shape longer than others. The Fuse 2 indoor ball is made of a special plastic formulation to help it both hold shape and retain bounce. It will reliably and consistently rebound from indoor pickleball courts, so practicing with it will help you prepare for any tournament using it as the official ball.
This USA Pickleball-approved ball is somewhat unusual in that it is made of two pieces of plastic. This is something you often see in less expensive pickleballs. However, this one has pieces that have been heat-welded for a smoother, more durable connection.
The Onix Fuse 2 is one of the indoor balls that comes in different colors. You can find it in yellow or fluorescent orange, both of which are bright enough to make it easy to see on the court.
Since the newer Fuse has become more popular, you may not always see the Fuse 2 as an official tournament ball. But here’s a USA Pickleball tournament that does use it:
Missouri State Indoor Pickleball Championships at Columbia Sports Fieldhouse in Columbia, MO (held in September)
Other Pickleballs You Might See in Tournaments
The above list includes balls commonly used in USA Pickleball events. But your local racquet club or tennis club may well use other types of indoor or outdoor balls. Here are some other models you might see:
1. Big Hole Dura
Dura pickleballs are popular among competitors and recreational players alike. The Big Hole Dura outdoor ball, as the name suggests, has bigger holes than most Dura pickleballs. It’s also a little lighter, so it’s a good choice if you want something that’s durable but still light.
Lots of people prefer one-piece Dura pickleballs because they don’t have a potentially weak seam where they can split. The Big Hole Dura is rotationally molded for maximum strength and durability. Once it cools, the large holes are drilled into the body of the ball.
This one is a great Dura pickleball to select if you like to have lots of color options, too. You can find it in neon, orange, white, and yellow.
2. Jugs Pickleball
Looking for a bouncy, relatively soft ball for indoor play? If so, this is a great one to choose. The Jugs indoor pickleball is relatively light with big holes. It also resists skidding on indoor courts thanks to its lightly textured surface.
This pickleball was designed for playing indoors. However, it does well enough in outdoor conditions that some players prefer it for outdoor play, too. So if you’re someone who likes to play on both indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, this pickleball is a great choice for both.
The Jugs pickleball typically comes in white or lime green. But if you’ve heard of Midnight Indoor pickleballs, you may not already know that these are simply different-colored Jugs balls. You can find them in blue, black, pink, and more. They’re a great choice for adding a little color to your indoor games!
3. Onix Pure 2
As you may have gathered from the above list of USA Pickleball-approved balls, Onix is a popular pickleball manufacturer. The Pure 2 is a reliable outdoor ball with heat-welded seams and small, evenly-sized holes.
Currently, the Pure 2 is not approved for USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournaments. But smaller racquet clubs or tennis center tournaments may still use it.
4. Onix Fuse G2
If you want a well-balanced and durable ball, you might like this improvement upon the original Fuse. According to Onix, the Fuse G2 is three times as durable!
This ball is approved for USA Pickleball events, and its incredible response and consistent bounce have helped it gain popularity. It’s a uniquely adaptable ball that plays beautifully and consistently on many types of pickleball courts and in many types of weather conditions.
How Does a Tournament Pickleball Become Approved?
We mentioned above that most of the pickleballs we’ve listed are approved by USA Pickleball. But what does it mean to be approved? And how does a given ball get approved?
USA Pickleball takes its equipment very seriously. And since pickleball is a relatively new sport, equipment manufacturers seem to constantly be coming up with new designs and improved materials. The Equipment Evaluation Committee (EEC) keeps its finger on the pulse of new developments.
It evaluates prototypes to ensure that new designs are suitable for club play and competitions alike. If a given prototype is produced and marketed, the committee also works to make sure that the item is manufactured to meet specifications.
Before approving a ball, paddle, or any other piece of pickleball equipment, USA Pickleball will put that piece of equipment through rigorous testing. When approving pickleballs, USA Pickleball considers the construction, diameter, weight, compression, bounce, and the number of holes.
In terms of construction, the ball’s surface must be smooth. If it has a seam, the ridge at the seam must not impact its flight. Any color is acceptable, but the ball must be a single color except for the manufacturer’s logo or any other identifying marks.
The diameter is important, as all pickleballs need to be close to the same size for playing consistency. USA Pickleball allows for a range of diameters. Approved balls can be from 72.9-75.4 mm.
Similarly, tournament balls all need to be of similar weights. To allow for some variation, USA Pickleball permits official balls to weigh between 22.1 and 26.5 grams.
At one point, the durometer-measured hardness was also taken into account, as official balls need to be consistent in terms of durability. Durometers have a number of different scales used to measure different types of materials. For pickleballs, the D scale is used. On a durometer D scale, balls for competition needed to be between 40 and 50.
Now, the compression test has more or less replaced the durometer test. The compression test ensures that the balls do not become overly compressed when they impact paddles or the court surface. Balls made of one piece are compression-tested by a specialized machine at a random point. Balls with a seam are tested both parallel and perpendicular to the seam.
Bounce is also an important factor, and USA Pickleball has a highly specialized way of measuring bounce. Since pickleballs will sometimes become harder or softer in different temperatures, the bounce test needs to be performed in an area with an ambient temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 5 degrees.
For the test, the ball is dropped from a height of exactly 78 inches. It is dropped onto a granite plate measuring at least 12″ by 12″ and 4″ thick. Once it hits, it must bounce between 30 and 34 inches.
And lastly, the number of holes is taken into account. USA Pickleball-approved balls must have between 26 and 40 circular holes. Many balls will either have 26 or 40, but some manufacturers make balls with a number of holes between 26 and 40.
Tips for Preparing for Your First Tournament
If you haven’t yet played your first pickleball tournament, you might be anxiously searching for as many tips as you can find. You now know why it’s helpful to know the official tournament ball ahead of time. But if you want some more quick tips before you go, here are some helpful things to consider:
- Know the rules
- Choose the right partner
- Try a pre-tournament clinic
- Have the right equipment
- Be physically prepared
- Have fun
Know the Rules
This one probably sounds obvious, but some newer players show up to a tournament and don’t understand how anything works! You might be able to bumble your way through, but being confused the whole time causes stress and can distract you from playing your best.
Of course, you’ll need to know the rules of pickleball itself. But different tournament types have different rules, too. Are you playing in a round-robin? A double-elimination? Make sure you know what kind of tournament you’re getting yourself into, and then do your research on the rules!
Choose the Right Partner
This one only applies if you’ll be playing doubles. Make sure your partner is at your same skill level, as doubles teams compete at the skill level of the highest-skilled partner. And of course, make sure you have plenty of practice playing together. It takes some time to really get in sync with your doubles partner, but the connection on the court is essential if you want to succeed.
Try a Pre-Tournament Clinic
The club or venue hosting the tournament will sometimes hold a pre-tournament clinic. This is a time to get comfortable with the venue, meet some of the people you’ll play with, and learn some new things. Sometimes, professional or highly skilled players will also be there to offer some advice.
Have the Right Equipment
Since you’ll be playing multiple matches if things go well, be sure to bring extra balls and paddles! A replacement paddle is crucial if something happens to the paddle you have. The extra balls are for practicing between matches.
Bringing a sweat towel and changes of clothes (plus extra shoes and socks) is a good idea, especially if you’re playing outdoors in hot weather. Playing in the same sweaty clothes from match to match can get uncomfortable quickly, so bring a change just in case! If you want to give your feet a break between matches, a pair of sandals is a good idea, too.
Be Physically Prepared
With all the focus on equipment, it’s easy to forget about the most important piece of equipment you have: your body! In the days leading up to the tournament, take care of yourself, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious meals. And of course, bring lots of water and/or electrolyte drinks with you, as you’ll need to stay hydrated throughout the event, too.
If you’re anxiously awaiting your match, it’s easy to forget to warm up. Don’t do this! Stretching, jogging, and hitting the ball around a bit can help you to prepare for your time on the court.
Be Mentally Prepared
Lots of newer players are so focused on the physical and material parts of preparing for a tournament that they don’t take the time to get mentally ready. And if you haven’t played in a tournament, it can be hard to grasp just how different it is from casual play.
If you’re like most people, you’ll need experience playing against (and getting beaten by) more experienced picklers. Of course, hope for the best, but don’t be hard on yourself if you’re eliminated early. Defeat can be disappointing, but it’s a great learning experience that will ultimately make you a better player.
This is easier said than done, but do your best to not let the nerves get the better of you. Practicing hard, staying focused, and giving tournaments you’re all are great. But remember that the best picklers are also people who have a love of the game. Take the time to meet other players, watch other matches, and just take in the experience.
Get the Right Pickleball!
Hopefully, you now feel confident and ready to play competitively! If you’ve just searched “pickleball tournament near me” or asked around about local pickleball tournaments, don’t forget that practicing with the tournament’s official ball is a great way to prepare! Plus, tournament pickleballs tend to be fairly affordable, so purchasing a few to practice with is a small investment that can really pay off.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
At least in USA Pickleball, there is a list of approved balls for tournament play. Tournament organizers can select one to use. Franklin and Onix are two of the most common brand names used.
Pickleballs vary in terms of both quality and intended use. Outdoor pickleballs are rougher and made to withstand the hard surface of outdoor courts, while indoor pickleballs are generally softer and easier to control. High-quality pickleballs will usually last longer, and they are made from a single piece of plastic or from two securely welded pieces.
Though we don’t have exact stats, the Dura Fast 40 seems to be the most popular for tournament play, though the Franklin X-40 also enjoys significant popularity.
No, they are not. Indoor and outdoor pickleball are different; indoor pickleballs are softer and have larger holes. High-quality pickleballs are often molded with a single piece of plastic and then have holes drilled in. If a quality pickleball is made of two pieces, the pieces will usually be welded together to reduce the risk of splitting at the seam.