Tyson McGuffin competing at The Masters in January 2024.

Do expensive paddles mean better play?

DALLAS, TX - Does purchasing the most expensive paddles on the market guarantee pickleball success? Can you really buy your way up from a 3.5 to a 4.0 to a 4.5 and so on?

User Nick Nickleson got the conversation started on the Pickleball Facebook Forum.

“The number of different paddle manufacturers has me wondering: Will expensive paddles elevate a player’s game? I’ve played with many different pickleball paddles. There are paddles available for under $100 that are similar to those costing four times as much. The idea that you can ‘buy your game’ at the pro shop is marketing at best. Just my opinion,” he wrote.

The conversation boomed from there.

Commenters were quick to claim that World No. 1, Ben Johns, could win a match with a frying pan. (He has already proven that he can, by the way)

Does his JOOLA paddle actually elevate his already remarkable skill set?

Ben Johns competing at The Masters this past weekend.
Ben Johns competing at The Masters this past weekend. PPA Tour

If he was playing against Tyson McGuffin or Federico Staksrud with their standard paddles, maybe the frying pan wouldn't do the trick.

With that in mind, does best-in-class equipment genuinely enhance his play?

“It’s like golf,” user Mike Scott commented. “If your swing has major flaws, expensive clubs won’t help you at all, but if your swing is fundamentally sound, cheap clubs will hold you back. Pickleball is similar in my opinion.”

“Paddles matter just like a bat or a proper football or cleats or shoes or a racquet. It can elevate your game a bit. Player matters more,” shared Barbara Magliozzi.

“Most of the time, it’s not the paddle, it’s the paddler,” added Dickie Sansbury.

These players believe that it’s less about the equipment, and more about the individual. 

If you’ve got good skills, no matter what you’re playing with (even a frying pan), you should play good pickleball.

However, some commenters even went as far as to claim that cheaper paddles are superior to those that break your bank.

“I got lucky and purchased two paddles for $99. I like them better than the expensive ones I’ve purchased,” commented Fred Filkins, whose opinion received plenty of likes.

“Some expensive paddles are bad, some cheap paddles are great. Some expensive paddles are exceptional,” contributed Shawn Williams.

Dylan Frazier at work in Palm Springs this past weekend.
Dylan Frazier at work in Palm Springs this past weekend. PPA Tour

“My $264 paddle was killing my elbow and had zero pop off the paddle. Changed to a Legacy Pro which was half the cost and no more elbow problems. It has control at the non-volley zone and power for drives,” claimed Terri Meade-Baker.

“I can own a fighter jet. Doesn’t mean I know how to fly it,” wrote Dave Davis.

When it comes down to it, the player matters more than the paddle.

Johns could still dominate the vast majority of his opponents if he played with a frying pan. The pros use high-quality paddles for a reason, and these men and women are the most fundamentally sound pickleball athletes on the planet.

User Drew Koester summed it up perfectly:

1. Will a paddle take you from a 3.0 to a 5.0? No. 

2. Will a good paddle make your already good shots better or allow you to make otherwise impossible shots if you have the right skills? 150% Yes!

My advice? Focus on improving your play before splurging on a paddle. No matter how much you spend on equipment, taking your game to the next level is ultimately about practice and experience. 

Get out to the court and keep playing! Try some wall drills, invest in a lesson or pro camp, play in a few tournaments... and then upgrade your paddle.

Go to Pickleball Central to shop for a variety of paddles. From beginner level to pro level 

What are your thoughts? Leave us a comment on Pickleball.com’s Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).