Pickleball Indoor vs Outdoor Balls: What’s the Difference?

Are indoor and outdoor pickleball balls different?

Indoor and outdoor pickleball balls are different. An indoor ball has fewer holes, with only 26 holes and is designed for indoor play on indoor surfaces. But an outdoor ball has 40 smaller holes and is slightly heavier with a slightly thicker wall than an indoor ball.

Indoor pickleball balls and outdoor pickleball balls look a lot alike and beginner pickleball players won’t likely know if they have the right ball by looking at them, holding them or even when they initially play with them. But there are some key differences that are easy to learn.

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photo of a women holding an indoor and outdoor pickleball

INDOOR BALLS VS OUTDOOR BALLS

– 26 holes vs 40 holes
– larger holes vs smaller holes
– hard plastic vs slightly thicker harder plastic


Types of Pickleball Balls

Pickleball balls are sometimes referred to as a wiffle ball but they’re different. Although both are plastic balls, wiffle balls are baseball size with a different layout of holes. 

This video provides an accurate overview of the differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball balls.

photo of a women holding a yellow outdoor pickleball ball

Indoor Pickleballs

Indoor pickleball balls have 26 larger holes and are made of hard plastic with a slight softness to them, making them a good ball for indoor use on a gym floor or indoor pickleball courts. 

When compared to outdoor balls, indoor pickleballs such as the Onix Fuse indoor balls or the Jugs indoor pickleball will feel slightly softer, and lighter and will bounce less due to the softer plastic. 

You’ll likely notice that you’ll be able to play longer rallies than you typically would with an outdoor pickleball on an outdoor court.

Most indoor balls also have a very slight rough feel to them (but cannot legally have texture according to the USAPA) which does help when hitting the ball and when you want to apply a bit of spin. Indoor balls tend to last longer with fewer soft spots developing. 

Some of this has to do with the soft plastic but if an indoor ball is strictly used on indoor courts, then this will make a big difference in how long the ball lasts compared to balls that are used in outdoor play. 

An indoor ball will not work as well for outdoor use on an outdoor pickleball court and will get caught by the wind more easily than an outdoor pickleball. 

The fewer, larger holes on an indoor ball make it less capable of flight and the softer plastic will prevent it from bouncing as well on an outdoor court. 

photo of a women holding an orange indoor pickleball paddle in the palm of her hand

Outdoor Pickleballs

Outdoor pickleballs have 40 holes drilled into them that are smaller than the holes in an indoor pickleball. They’re made of hard surface plastic that will bounce better on outdoor courts. 

And when compared to indoor balls, outdoor pickleball balls like the Franklin X-40 are harder with a thicker wall making them better suited for outdoor play. 

However, the harder plastic makes outdoor pickleball balls more prone to cracking, and the integrity of the ball is greatly affected by the heat and the cold weather.

The surface of an outdoor ball is smoother, making them feel slightly different when hitting them compared to an indoor pickleball ball. And they feel slightly heavier.

Playing style, playing surface and temperature can all impact a ball’s longevity. 

I was playing on an outdoor court the other day and found out the club was going through several balls each session simply because there were a few heavy ‘bangers’ in the group. 

It wasn’t that hot or that cold – it’s just that the balls can only withstand so much heavy banging.

USA Pickleball Association Pickleball Ball Requirements

The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) determines which pickleball balls are approved for use in USAPA-sanctioned tournament play.

As of the date that this article was written, there were 84 balls on their approved list, including 10 indoor balls and 40 outdoor balls. In 2021, the Franklin X-40 pickleball became the official ball of  USA Pickleball.

The USAPA states that a ball should:

  • Have at least 26 holes and a maximum of 40 circular holes and the overall design of the ball conform to flight characteristics. 
  • Have the manufacturer or supplier’s name or logo must be printed or embossed on the ball.
  • Be made of a durable material with a smooth surface and free of texture.
  • Be one uniform color except for the identification marks.
  • May have a slight ridge at the seam as long as it does not significantly impact the ball’s flight characteristics.

The Tournament Director will choose the tournament ball. The ball for any USA Pickleball sanctioned tournament must be on the list of approved balls.

Common Pickleball Colors

The USAPA doesn’t specify what color a pickleball ball must be which means manufacturers have made balls in various colors including orange, yellow, blue, and neon green. 

You’ll also find an assortment of pickleball balls in other colors, such as the Franklin Sports Franklin X-40 100 pack of outdoor pickleball balls that includes ember, pink, lava and yellow.  

The ball must be one single color and uniform in color.

I personally find orange balls the easiest to play with both indoors and outdoors. 

For indoor play, it’s easier to see an orange ball against the gym floor and neutral walls versus playing with a yellow pickleball ball. Onix Fuse indoor balls and the Jugs indoor pickleball are good options.

And for outdoor play, I just find it easier to see an orange ball like the Dura Fast 40 or the Onix Pure Neon Green. The club I’m playing with right now uses yellow balls. They’re not too bad to see but I still prefer an orange ball.

FAQs – Pickleball Indoor vs Outdoor Balls: What’s the Difference?

Can you use outdoor pickleball balls indoors?

Yes, you can use outdoor pickleball balls indoors but you might find that the outdoor pickleball does not bounce very well on a gym floor. Some pickleball players, especially beginners, don’t notice a difference. Once a player has some experience, they will find that they prefer to play with an indoor pickleball ball when playing indoors.

What’s the difference between indoor pickle balls and outdoor pickle balls?

The difference between indoor pickleballs and outdoor pickleballs is that indoor balls have fewer holes with 26 larger holes and is designed for indoor play on indoor surfaces. An outdoor ball has 40 smaller holes, is slightly heavier with a thicker wall and works best on outdoor surfaces and in the wind.

What balls do you use for outdoor pickleball?

The most common pickleball balls used for outdoor pickleball are the Franklin X-40, the ONIX Pure 2 and the Dura Fast 40. All three of these pickleball balls are approved by the USA Pickleball Association. The Franklin X-40 and the Dura Fast 40 are both seamless. The ONIX Pure 2 is not seamless.

What ball do professional pickleball players use?

Professional pickleball players have traditionally used the Dura Fast 40 pickleball ball. But since the Franklin X-40 is now an official pickleball ball selected by the USA Pickleball Association, it is often used by professional pickleball players. Both the Franklin X-40 and the Dura Fast-40 are seamless.

Do outdoor pickleballs have large or small holes?

Outdoor pickleballs have 40 small holes that are evenly distributed. The plastic is harder than the plastic used to make an indoor ball, and the wall is slightly thicker than an indoor pickleball. These features provide increased durability, good flight in wind and decent bounce on outdoor surfaces.

How many holes do indoor pickleballs have?

Indoor pickleballs have 26 holes compared to outdoor pickleballs which have 40 holes. In some cases, you can find pickleballs such as the Wilson TRU pickleball balls that have 32 holes and are designed for outdoor pickleball. The Wilson TRU balls are approved by the USAPA for competitive play but you don’t see them often.

Do pickleballs crack in the cold?

Yes, pickleballs can crack in the cold. If you play pickleball during the colder temperatures, you’ll likely find that your pickleballs will crack sooner than they do when there’s a more ambient temperature. The Franklin X-40 is a good option whereas the Dura Fast 40 is well known to easily crack in cold temperatures.

Summary – Pickleball Indoor vs Outdoor Balls: What’s the Difference?

In summary, the differences between indoor pickleball balls and outdoor pickleball balls are:

  • the number of holes – indoor pickleball balls have 26 holes and outdoor pickleball balls have 40 holes.
  • the size of the holes – indoor pickleball balls have larger holes and outdoor pickleball balls have smaller holes.
  • indoor pickleball balls are slightly softer plastic and outdoor pickleball balls are made of a harder plastic with a slightly thicker wall.

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