Pickleball vs Racquetball: A Comprehensive Comparison

pickleball vs racquetball


Pickleball and racquetball are two popular paddle sports that share some similarities, but also have distinct differences. As you consider taking up one of these fun games, it’s helpful to understand how pickleball vs racquetball compare. Both involve hitting a ball with a paddle or racquet across a court, making them excellent social and athletic activities. 

However, the games have different court sizes, ball types, paces of play, and physical demands. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore the key ways pickleball and racquetball differ so you can determine which sport best aligns with your skills, fitness level, and preferences as a player. Get ready to dive into the pickleball vs racquetball matchup!

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fun, social paddle sport that has gained immense popularity in recent years, especially among older adults and seniors. The game’s origins can be traced back to 1965 when it was invented by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell on Bainbridge Island, Washington. They created pickleball by combining elements from other sports like badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

The basic premise of pickleball is deceptively simple. Two teams of one or two players hit a perforated plastic ball back and forth over a net using solid paddles. The objective is to score points by hitting the ball in such a way that the opposing team cannot successfully return it before it bounces twice on their side. Games are typically played to 11 points, and you must win by 2 clear points.

One of the biggest draws of pickleball is how easy it is to learn and play compared to other racket sports. The court is smaller than a tennis court, and the underhand serving motion is straightforward. All you need is a pickleball paddle, a wiffle-like ball, a net, and a court with clearly marked boundaries. Many public parks and recreation centers have dedicated pickleball courts these days.

What makes pickleball so appealing, especially for seniors, is its lower impact on joints and muscles compared to sports like tennis. The lighter ball travels at lower speeds, putting less strain on players’ bodies. Yet it still provides a great workout and social opportunity. If you’re looking for an accessible, entertaining game to pick up, pickleball could be your perfect fit!

What is Racquetball? 

Racquetball is an exciting and fast-paced indoor sport that challenges your agility, hand-eye coordination, and athleticism. Unlike the relatively new pickleball, racquetball has been around since the 1940s, with its origins tracing back to an older game called handball.

So how do you play racquetball? The basic idea is to serve a hollow rubber ball against one of the four walls of an enclosed court. Your opponent must then hit the ball back before it bounces twice, and you continue rallying back and forth until one player fails to return it correctly. You score points by winning rallies, with games typically being played to 15 or 21 points.

To play racquetball, you’ll need a stringed racquet similar to a squash racquet but with a larger surface area. The lightweight hollow rubber ball allows for blistering speeds as you smash it against the front wall. Racquetball courts are relatively small, usually around 20 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 20 feet high, with thick walls to withstand high-velocity shots.

What really sets racquetball apart is the extreme pace and athletic demands of the game. You’ll be sprinting, lunging, and twisting your body rapidly to retrieve sizzling shots ricocheting off the walls at upwards of 150 mph! It’s an incredible aerobic workout that also tests your reflexes, agility, and endurance to the max. If you crave a heart-pumping, intensely physical experience, racquetball could be the perfect racket sport for you.


Pickleball vs Racquetball: Key Differences

When comparing pickleball and racquetball side-by-side, some stark differences become apparent. One of the most obvious is the court size. A pickleball court is 20×44 feet for both singles and doubles play. In contrast, a racquetball court is a compact 20×40 feet with a ceiling height of just 20 feet. This confined space contributes to racquetball’s frenetic pace.

Speaking of pace, this is another major differentiator. Pickleball has a leisurely back-and-forth dynamic with the ball moving at around 30-40 mph at the pro level. Racquetball, on the other hand, is lightning fast, with pro players smashing shots over 150 mph that ricochet furiously off the walls.

The type of ball used also varies greatly. Pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball that doesn’t bounce much. Racquetball utilizes a small hollow rubber ball designed for high bounces off the hard surfaces.

Even the serving rules demonstrate some key contrasts. In pickleball, serves are underhand with the ball hit into the diagonal service court. Racquetball has overhand serves that players aim to hit around or off the front wall.

Finally, the sports employ different scoring systems. Pickleball games are typically played to 11 points, and you must win by 2 clear points. Racquetball matches are best of three games to 15 or 21 points. Small variations exist but this is the standard format.

Physical Demands

Given these differences, it’s no surprise that pickleball and racquetball make very distinct physical demands on players. Pickleball is considered a moderate aerobic activity great for all ages and ability levels. With its slower speeds and lower impact forces, pickleball puts minimal stress on joints and muscles compared to high-intensity sports.

Racquetball, conversely, is an extremely athletic endeavor akin to activities like squash. The furious pace coupled with constant stops, starts, twists, and turns make it a phenomenal full-body cardio workout. However, this explosive play also puts substantial impact forces on joints and muscles. As such, racquetball is better suited for fit, agile players looking to be pushed to their physical limits.

Pickleball vs Racquetball: Similarities

Despite their differences, pickleball and racquetball share some fundamental similarities:

  1. Racquet Sports: Both pickleball and racquetball are racquet sports, meaning they involve striking a ball with a racquet or paddle over a net or against a wall.
  2. Indoor and Outdoor Play: While pickleball is more commonly played outdoors, and racquetball is typically an indoor sport, both can be played in either setting, depending on the availability of suitable courts or facilities.
  3. Hitting a Ball Back and Forth: At their core, both sports involve hitting a ball back and forth between players or teams, with the goal of scoring points or winning rallies.
  4. Fitness and Recreation: Both pickleball and racquetball offer opportunities for physical activity, exercise, and recreation, providing cardiovascular and muscular benefits to players of all ages and skill levels.

Which Sport is Right for You?

Deciding between pickleball and racquetball ultimately comes down to your personal preferences, fitness level, and desired experience. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right sport for you:

  1. Age and Physical Abilities: If you’re an older adult or have mobility limitations, pickleball may be the more suitable choice due to its lower impact and less physically demanding nature. Racquetball’s faster pace and smaller court size may be more challenging for those with physical limitations.
  2. Time and Financial Investment: Consider how much time and money you’re willing to invest in the sport. Pickleball may be more accessible and affordable, as courts are often available at public parks or community centers. Racquetball, on the other hand, may require membership fees or court rental costs at private clubs or fitness centers.
  3. Competitive or Social Play: If you’re primarily interested in social interactions and a more relaxed atmosphere, pickleball’s strong community aspect may appeal to you. However, if you’re seeking a more competitive and intense experience, racquetball may better align with your preferences.
  4. Access to Facilities: Take into account the availability of pickleball or racquetball courts in your area. If one sport has more accessible facilities near you, it may be the more practical choice.
  5. Physical Fitness Goals: If your primary goal is to improve cardiovascular fitness and engage in a more physically demanding activity, racquetball may be the better option. However, if you’re seeking a low-impact workout or recreational activity, pickleball could be a suitable choice.

Ultimately, the best way to decide between pickleball and racquetball is to try both sports, if possible. Many facilities offer introductory lessons or open play sessions, allowing you to experience the games firsthand and determine which one aligns better with your interests and abilities.

Finding Places to Play Near You

Fortunately, both pickleball and racquetball have been growing in popularity, so you should be able to find places to play near you with some searching.

For pickleball, a great first step is checking with your local parks and recreation centers or visiting places like public parks, community centers, and schools which often have outdoor or indoor courts. The USA Pickleball Association website also has a court finder tool.

To locate racquetball clubs and courts in your area, resources like the U.S. Racquetball Association club finder can point you in the right direction. Gyms, athletic clubs, and park districts frequently have racquetball facilities as well.

No matter which sport piques your interest more, doing some upfront research can help you find a club, park, or venue with available courts so you can get out and start playing!


In comparing pickleball vs racquetball, we’ve examined how these two paddle sports share some basic similarities but also diverge in several key areas. Pickleball offers a more leisurely, low-impact experience well-suited for seniors, beginners, and recreational players. With its slower pace and straightforward mechanics, it makes for an accessible, social game.Racquetball, on the other hand, provides an intense athletic test with furious action that will challenge even the fittest players. Its small court size and blistering speeds make it an incredible aerobic workout for competitive athletes.

If you have the opportunity, I’d encourage you to try out both pickleball and racquetball. See firsthand which style of play you enjoy more and which aligns better with your current skill level and fitness goals. Both offer a fun way to stay active, meet new friends, and reap physical and social health benefits through engaging in a lifelong racket sport.No matter if the leisurely rhythm of pickleball or the high-octane squash-like play of racquetball appeals to you more, getting out on the court guarantees an entertaining experience you won’t soon forget!


Q: Why is racquetball not popular anymore?

A: Racquetball has declined in popularity due to the rise of other racquet sports like tennis and pickleball.

Q: Which sport is most similar to pickleball?

A: Tennis is the most similar sport to pickleball in terms of gameplay and equipment.

Q: Is there a difference between pickleball and paddle ball?

A: Yes, pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball and solid paddles, while paddle ball uses a small rubber ball and short string-strung paddles.

Q: Can you use a racquetball court for pickleball?

A: Yes, many racquetball courts are converted for use as pickleball courts due to their similar dimensions.

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