Weight seems to be a hot point with a lot of players - with many misconceptions. I can’t tell you how many times the first thing that comes out a player’s mouth is “What’s your lightest paddle?” Many pickleball players believe a light paddle is optimal - for their elbow, for their shoulder and for their reaction and performance. This is patently untrue for many reasons grounded in science, physics, logic and experience. Yet the misconceptions persist, as does the elbow & shoulder pain and missed shots.
First of all - most players are confusing scale weight with swing weight. Scale weight can ONLY be used to compare paddles with identical shapes, surface area and balance points. Even with two paddles of the same model from the same manufacturer- the balance points can differ due to variation in the “same” materials. I have twenty years of experience making baseball bats for the top athletes in the world. Bats with the same length and scale weight can differ greatly in swing weight due to the balance, the shape, the handle size, the barrel diameter, the barrel length and the thickness of the transition between the handle and barrel. For example- a 34 inch 34 ounce Jackie Robinson model (thick handle, thick transition, slim barrel) can swing much lighter than a 34” 31 ounce model with a larger barrel, thin handle. The scale weight is immaterial to professional players trying to hit a ball thrown at 100mph with a round piece of wood. The swing weight is what matters. Pickleball players can learn from other the experience of players in other sports.
When a Major League player faces a pitcher throwing particularly hard, more often than not, they choose a heavier bat. With a light bat, they are too twitchy, too anxious and trying to time their swing too precisely. With a heavy bat, they let the bat do the work and just use the velocity of the ball and the mass of the bat for a more consistent result. They stay calm and ready- just what pickleball players must do. They simply just drop the bat head on the ball and let physics do the rest. Simple physics - Force = Mass x Acceleration. When there is no mass behind the ball, it’s like hitting with a broomstick. Sure, you can swing it faster, but the ball won’t go out of the infield in the air.
Simply speaking, the heavier the paddle, the smoother the stroke, the more consistent the performance and the more repeatable the shots. Be it dinks or quick reaction volleys. The paddle does the work, the player gets a more reliable result and the pop and placement desired with a short push or punch. Players believe light paddles make them quicker, but with a light paddle, players tend to overswing and over correct and waste precious time resetting for the next shot. It’s the correction time to reset for the next shot that slows the player down, not the paddle weight. The reset time is what is crucial since the court is smaller and the ball is on top of the player quickly.
Light paddles also tend to cause elbow and shoulder problems, not heavy paddles. With the light paddles, players tend to over swing to power their shots and this is what aggravates the elbow and shoulder joints.
Heavier paddles provide more easy power for drives and put aways and encourage a smooth and consistent stroke, because the paddle is doing the work. Pickleball is not a swinging game like tennis or racquetball. Pickleball is a push and punch game, the smaller court and the faster ball require a quick reset after every shot. With a heavy paddle, the paddle is giving the shot the same power with much, much less effort than with a Iight paddle.
We have seen many top pickleball pros using paddles in the 10 to 11 ounce range. Pat Carroll, who has written one of the definitive books on pickleball, and was the first certified pickleball professional in the country and a former touring tennis professional, gives clinics all over the country to players looking to improve their game. She sells her “Less Effort” paddle to all of the players in her clinics and those Chaos paddles weigh between 9 and 9.5 ounces. She calls them “Less Effort” for a reason. Players are getting better results with less effort and improving their game simply by using a heavier paddle.
The less the player has to swing at the ball, the better they are going to be at reacting to the next shot. A heavy paddle will do that consistently, a light paddle will not. Light paddles are akin to swinging a flyswatter, it takes a lot more effort to get the same result and it’s very easy to over correct or under correct. With a heavy paddle, because the paddle is doing the work, players are much more able to hit their dinks, third shot drops and placement shots more consistently and more accurately because there is a lot less movement in the body.
Now what constitutes a “light” paddle and what constitutes a “heavy” paddle. Generally speaking, paddles with a scale weigh under 8 ounces are considered “light” paddles and paddles with a scale weight over 9 ounces are considered “heavy” paddles. A paddle with a smaller face can have a low scale weight but swing heavy and paddles with a large face and higher scale weight can swing light. Many factors determine “light” or “heavy”- the shape of the paddle, the length of the handle, the surface area of the paddle face and most importantly - how a paddle is balanced.
We have seen many, many players resist trying a heavier paddle because of what they have “heard” or other misconceptions, but when they finally do, they never go back. This is the simplest way to improve your game to become more accurate in placing the ball where you want as well as preventing nagging elbow and shoulder injuries. Placing the ball where the player wants to is the key to success at pickleball - not hitting the ball as hard as possible (mostly in the net, wide, long……)
Play hard, have fun and keep an open mind to try things out of your comfort zone- it’s a great goal to play better but it’s most important to have fun.