With pickleball being one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, pickleball courts are popping up everywhere. You might find that some courts are better to play on than others, and the types of pickleball court surfaces used factor into this.
Pickleball courts can be made from a variety of materials, with concrete and asphalt being the most common. What’s most important for a quality court surface is durability, playability, and good traction.
Whether you’re considering which local pickleball court to play at, or thinking about building your own court, here’s a simple guide to the various pickleball court surfaces and how they compare.
Concrete is by far the most popular surface material for outdoor pickleball courts and tennis courts. There are several reasons a concrete base is often preferred. The first is that a concrete surface is durable, followed by the fact that it’s easy to create a nice flat surface with concrete.
Plus, it is one of the most affordable pickleball court surface materials, which is a major bonus if you’re building multiple courts.
However, it’s really important to apply additional layers of the acrylic coating once the concrete has set. This will help cushion the court slightly, add traction, and help prevent cracks and breakage that can lead to injuries and make the surface more difficult to play on.
Advantages of Concrete:
- Most popular surface for outdoor courts
- It can be used for a combination of pickleball and tennis court
- Relatively inexpensive court construction
- Level and easy to play pickleball on
Disadvantages of Concrete:
- Requires a professional contractor for the most level base
- Requires acrylic surface coatings
- It can require more frequent repair if not properly sealed
- If not treated with additional acrylic layers, the firmness can be jarring for the knees
Along with concrete, asphalt is the other most popular pickleball court surface. Either asphalt or concrete pickleball court surfaces both have relatively easy and straightforward overall construction and provide a smooth playing surface for either a pickleball or tennis court.
If there’s a downside to asphalt in the sport surfacing industry, it’s that it’s a bit softer and more prone to breakage.
Advantages of Asphalt:
- Relatively inexpensive pickleball court surface
- Is widely available
- Good material for outdoor pickleball courts
- Somewhat more cushioned than concrete
Disadvantages of Asphalt:
- Prone to breakage
- It can be hot to play on
- Definitely requires paint with good traction
Clay hasn’t been the most popular of court surfaces, but we are seeing more of them pop up. Other sports surfaces, like the ones mentioned previously, are more common in the United States, with it being more common to find courts with a clay surface in Europe and pickleball-loving countries in South America.
Clay has several characteristics that can be seen as both pros and cons, depending on your perspective. Clay is pretty good if you want a surface that absorbs shock, but it also creates slower gameplay and more time to get accustomed to hitting the ball a bit differently.
Advantages of Clay Courts
- A more forgiving surface for players with knee issues
- Causes less fatigue when playing longer rallies
- Novel – there aren’t many courts made from clays, so it’s new and interesting.
Disadvantages of Clay Courts
- Requires more maintenance
- Not all players like the difference in how the ball plays
- Needs to be regularly watered to keep it from drying and cracking
Polyurethane is one of the most popular pickleball court surfaces for indoor courts. Polyurethane sports surfaces are durable, which is a huge plus since you’re not constantly investing in repairs.
Another advantage of polyurethane is that it offers a pro-cushion surface and can really absorb shock. This is great for both preventing injuries when you play pickleball and also for better ball play and control.
When building pickleball courts outdoors, some will use a combination of polyurethane and other court surfaces, such as asphalt. The asphalt provides the base, and then a layer of polyurethane coating is applied on top to add durability and playability to the court.
Advantages of Polyurethane:
- Great for cushioned pickleball court surfaces
- Easy to play on
- Minimizes impact and injury
Disadvantages of Polyurethane:
- More expensive than other sports surfaces
- It might be hard to adjust to playing on concrete or asphalt after playing on polyurethane
So, you’re not going to see any professional pickleball tournaments played on a grass surface, but sometimes you want to play at home but don’t have enough space to devote to putting in a full pickleball court. You can absolutely play pickleball on grass, but it generally requires more upkeep and can be a bit finicky.
Before setting up a grass court, you want to assess how much space you have that covers a consistently flat surface. Bouncing the ball on a hilly or lumpy area is problematic to gameplay.
It’s also important to consider that you’ll need to add a portable pickleball net and temporary lines, which may need to be frequently touched up.
Advantages of Grass Surfaces:
- Makes for an inexpensive temporary pickleball court or tennis court
- Environmentally-friendly since it requires no other surface materials
- Can play in your own backyard if community courts are unavailable
Disadvantages of Grass Surfaces:
- Unstable pickleball surface
- Requires frequent upkeep
- Requires a different ball for a proper bounce
Pickleball Surface Coatings
No matter what type of pickleball court surface you’re using, there needs to be a layer on top that includes color coatings, pickleball lines, etc. If you’re using a grass court, you’re probably not going to mess too much with anything but court lines, but with any other type of surface, these court-covering layers are important.
When building a pickleball court, adding a pro-cushion surface will make the court more comfortable and easier to play on. An acrylic resurfacer features silica sand with tiny rubber granules that fill cracks (adding life to the pickleball court) and offers shock absorption.
During construction, the acrylic resurfacer can be applied with a soft rubber squeegee to the entire court area and then allowed to dry before the color coatings are applied.
The next layer is the color coatings. The USA pickleball association doesn’t have any rules regarding what color a pickleball court should be, just that there needs to be a contrast between the playing area and the lines.
You can use lighter colors or more vibrant hues. Just keep in mind things like glare and how various colors absorb and reflect heat. Use a good texturizing acrylic outdoor court paint designed for asphalt or concrete surfaces. This type of paint has sand added, which adds texture and traction to the pickleball surface.
Key Takeaways: Choosing the Best Pickleball Court Surfaces
- A pickleball court can be constructed from a variety of surfaces, including concrete, asphalt, polyurethane, clay, and grass.
- Outdoor pickleball, tennis, and other racquet sports are often played on concrete or asphalt.
- Grass surfaces are for recreational game-playing only.
- A resurfacer with coarse rubber particles adds life to the court, fills in cracks, and provides added texture.