By Bruce Hill and Kim Taddei
Most of us focus our attention on the paddle we play with, taking for granted the other piece of equipment integral to the game. Our choice of pickleballs can have an impact on our play. They come in a variety of colors, have different size holes and durability, and range from soft to hard, presenting a conundrum for the recreational player.
To help sort out the differences, I talked to Adam MacKinnon, our resident pro instructor. He presented four different brands of outdoor balls for me to examine for hardness. You can press on a ball and see how the softer ones will give slightly under pressure. Two of the softer brands are the Onix Pure 2 and the Franklin X-40. They are easier to control and have a slower bounce than the harder balls. The Core and Dura Fast 40 (now owned by Onix) are harder balls. The Dura Fast 40 is the preferred tournament ball because of its faster bounce. It’s also harder to control and thus “sorts out the wheat from the chaff” at higher levels of play. Adam recalled a tournament where only the Franklin X-40 balls were used. The slower and more controlled action resulted in longer rallies. That extra control makes them a good choice for beginner and intermediate players.
Pickleballs can vary in their durability. The harder Dura Fast balls “play better” in the heat as they will not soften and become less bouncy. However, in cold weather they become brittle and crack more easily. A good choice for winter conditions is the Core ball. These are less prone to cracking, which is the main failure mechanism for pickleballs. In fact, if a ball cracks during a rally a team can request that the point be replayed. Besides cracking, a ball can become “out of round” which can produce wobble in the ball.
A big factor for Oakmont players is visibility. Balls come in white, green, yellow, orange, and lemon-lime, also called “neon”. Our eyes are most sensitive to the neon color. This ball color is the most visible when there is high contrast lighting on the court, i.e., part sun and part shade.
Finally, it is important to use balls designed for outdoor use when playing outdoors. Indoor balls are softer and lighter and are designed for smoother surfaces. They have fewer but larger holes as they are not subject to the effects of wind.
Like paddles, ball design is a rapidly developing field as various companies vie for a piece of the action. The Engage Tour ball and balls made by Nexxed and Gearbox offer even more choices for the discriminating player.
For information about working with Adam, you can visit oakmontpickleballclub.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Player Orientation: Arrangements can be made by contacting Nancy Lande at 978-2998 to schedule a session. Demo loaner paddles are available by contacting Doc Savarese at 349-9065.