Racquetball vs. pickleball: find 5 differences

Racquetball vs. Pickleball? Sometimes, it’s not easy to navigate in the grand world of sports. Take racquet sports, for example. There are so many games, some traditional ones, which are well renowned, like ping pong, badminton, and, of course, tennis. And there are more ‘exotic’ ones: racquetball or pickleball.

If the former is more or less recognized, the latter remains an enigma for many folks. Our article is for those who want to stay on top of the game and have an idea about the trends and influence of modern sports.

Our article can also be useful if you are at a crossroads. You know that you wish to take up a racket sport, but there are so many options that you are a bit lost and confused. Let us help you.

Today, we’ll explore two popular and relatively new racquet sports: racquetball vs. pickleball, by comparing them and identifying their major differences. Let the game commence.

racquetball vs. pickleball
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Siblings with distinctions: racquetball & pickleball

Although these two sports have the same gear and are played on courts, they are extremely diverse. Below, we’ll specify 5 major differences that make each of these two sports unique and can become critical for you if you intend to choose between them.

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Pickleball and racquetball are racket sports, so they both obviously have rackets (in this case called racquetball racquets and pickleball paddles) and balls. But this is where the similarities end, as the gear differs significantly.

The balls

Comparing pickleball and racquetball balls, you’ll see the difference immediately. Simple observation will show you the size discrepancy.

Whereas a racquetball ball is rather small (approx. 2.3 inches in diameter), a pickleball ball is significantly larger at around 3 inches.

And the differences don’t end here.

The materials are not similar in the least, either. Pickleball balls are made of plastic and have at least 26 holes. They are also 50% lighter than racquetball balls which are made of rubber, are hollow inside, and don’t have any holes.

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Pickleball vs. racquetball paddles

Here, the size matters, too. A pickleball paddle is smaller and lighter than a racquet. A pickleball paddle has an edge guard and barely reaches 15 inches, including the guard, whereas a guardless racquet is around 21 inches or even a little longer.

A very visible difference between a pickleball paddle and a racquetball racquet lies in the pickleball paddle lacking strings. Racquets for racquetball have strings, making them look more like tennis racquets, though substantially smaller.

The materials that pickleball and racquetball equipment are made of are actually similar. Both pickleball and racquetball gear can be made of wood as a tribute to the tradition, although more often than not, racquetball players and pickleball players choose graphite or some composite material for their pickleball paddles or racquets.

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Racquetball & pickleball: key differences in rules

Some folks may say, ‘A racquet sport is a racket sport. They are all similar.’ And they will be wrong. Given that there are similarities, there are major differences as well.

Serving: pickleball vs. racquetball

During a pickleball game, the serving player serves with at least one of their foot behind the baseline. Only after the ball is served, the player enters the pickleball court. Another interesting aspect is the height of the strike: you are not allowed to serve above the waist level.

There is also a two-bounce rule in pickleball, which doesn’t exist in racquetball.

Racquetball players serve from anywhere in the service area. They don’t have any requirements about the height of the strike, either. And the ball has to strike the front wall first and then bounce back.

Scoring: pickleball vs. racquetball

Although both in pickleball and racquetball the games go on to 15 or 21 points, only in a pickleball game there is a tradition of win-by-two.

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Pickleball vs. racquetball courts

Playing pickleball can be done both indoors and outdoors. Many folks prefer the latter: fresh air, sunshine, etc. Racquetball players don’t have this luxury. The construction of the racquetball court implies an indoor setting. However, a racquetball game always happens in an air-conditioned venue, which is also important, as both pickleball and racquetball are physically demanding.

Racquetball courts are smaller: 20×40 feet. Pickleball courts are slightly larger: 20×44 feet. Besides, there is a net in pickleball, which doesn’t exist in racquetball. It differentiates racquetball from other sports with racquets. If you’re playing tennis or table tennis, you know that there are nets on a tennis court and even in table tennis. But not in racquetball.

The courts themselves are organized differently, too. For example, on a racquetball court, the service box is positioned in the center of the court, unlike on pickleball courts, where the service area is behind the baseline, from where the player serves the ball diagonally.

We should say that, although also different, a pickleball court resembles a tennis court more than a racquetball one.

But the pickleball court is obviously substantially smaller.

So if you need extra training sessions and can’t find available pickleball courts, a racquetball one will suffice. Not an ideal solution, but can work out.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about a racquetball court. It has a very specific construction and must be set up indoors, which makes it unique and indispensable.

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Athletic requirements

This aspect is also really critical for differentiating pickleball vs. racquetball. Not everyone was born with the capabilities of an Olympian. Some folks are just not very athletic.

But they want to play games, preferably sports games, as they are competitive and relatively fit.

If we compare the amount of energy pickleball requires compared to racquetball, we can come to the conclusion that playing pickleball is not as strenuous as playing racquetball. Pickleball paddles are lighter, balls — too, so when you play pickleball, you’ll require less force for a strike. We know that even senior folks take up pickleball and enjoy it immensely.

Besides, pickleball is more flexible. It can be played indoors and outdoors.

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And finally…

We’ve walked you through the major differences between racquetball vs. pickleball. Now you can see that even if both sports are racquet sports, both are played on courts, and both use balls and racquets, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are identical.

Pickleball and racquetball have some things in common, but their distinction is extensive. They both require diligence and perseverance to master the techniques and achieve substantial results, but pickleball requires less physical strength and stamina compared to racquetball.

Whichever sport you choose, you are guaranteed to have fun, satisfy your competitive streak, and get all the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Frequently asked questions

Which sport is most similar to pickleball?

Tennis is quite similar to pickleball. Both games are played on the courts. A tennis net, as well as a pickleball net, are essential parts of the two games. In both games, there are racquets (though very different) and balls. Pickleball requires 2 or 4 players, the same goes for tennis.

Why isn’t racquetball more popular?

Racquetball used to be really popular after it was invented in the 50-s. It’s a beautiful, dynamic sport that provides training for almost every muscle of the body, contributing to the overall health and athleticism of the player. However, after the first decades of high popularity, it began to decrease gradually. One of the reasons: it was very demanding, and the beginners found it too challenging.

Do people still play racquetball?

Yes, after its invention in the 1950-s and the initial boom, racquetball partially lost its popularity, but it’s still played by enthusiasts. This sport is very beneficial in terms of body athleticism. It provides a workout for all muscle groups and makes the player impressively strong.

Is pickleball a fad or here to stay?

It’s hard to make predictions in the current environment, however, if we look at the overall trends, we will see that the tendency of pickleball growing popularity remains unchanged, which allows us to be optimistic about the pickleball development.

Orson Carte

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