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Pickleball net height - what the rulebook says

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Sep 29, 2022

Image of the top part of a pickleball net

Many people who are unfamiliar with pickleball assume that the pickleball net height is the same as a tennis net. But this is not true!

According to the official USA Pickleball Rulebook, the correct pickleball net height is 34″ in the middle and 36″ at the sidelines.

What is the pickleball net height?

Graphic showing the correct pickleball net height

As mentioned before, the pickleball net height is 34″ in the middle and 36″ at the sidelines. That two-inch difference means that hitting the ball over the middle of the net is a little easier. And it allows for a lower shot trajectory.

It sounds like a small difference, but that two inches can be significant. If you’ve ever had your shot hit just the top edge of the net, you already know those two inches can be the difference between victory and defeat.

The regulation pickleball net width is 22 feet wide. This means the net extends one foot in each direction beyond the boundaries of the 20-ft court.

Pickleball net specifications and features

Graphic showing the correct pickleball net specifications

Pickleball net materials

According to the official rulebook, pickleball nets can be made of any mesh material that doesn’t allow a ball to pass through. Typical mesh materials include nylon, polyethylene, and polyester.

For permanent outdoor nets, choose materials like polyethylene that will withstand regular exposure to UV rays from sunlight, rain, and wind. Nylon is less expensive but less durable. It should be avoided entirely for permanent outdoor nets.

The top of the net should be edged with a 2-inch white tape binding over a cord or cable. This ensures that the top edge of the net is easily visible. The rules also suggest a center strap for permanent nets, which allows for easy adjustment of the net’s height.

The best pickleball nets are easy to secure, and sometimes straps or hook-and-loop closures are incorporated into the design. This allows players to easily adjust the tension of the net.

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Pickleball net frames

Most portable pickleball nets use steel tubing or PVC for their frames. Steel is heavier, making it a bit more cumbersome to transport. But it’s much more effective for playing. Powerful shots or strong wind can blow over a portable PVC-framed net, which is frustrating.

A high-quality portable pickleball net will have a frame made from interlocking powder-coated steel tubes that function similarly to tent frames. The frame will have a wide base for added stability.

Pickleball net weight

Pickleball nets usually weigh between 25 lbs and 35 lbs, though outliers exist. As of 2023, at least one manufacturer is producing a carbon fiber framed pickleball net, which drastically reduces the net’s weight. But it also comes with a steeper price tag.

Some nets also come with bags that have wheels, which can make transporting your pickleball gears much easier.

Pickleball net height vs tennis net height

The standard tennis net height set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is 36″ in the middle and 42″ at the sidelines. This compares to the pickleball net height of 34″ in the middle and 36″ at the sidelines.

Graphic showing the difference between pickleball and tennis net heights

The height difference between the sidelines and the middle is more pronounced on a tennis net, and that’s because of the tennis net’s increased width. A tennis net is 33 or 42 feet wide, depending on whether it’s a singles or doubles court. Meanwhile, pickleball nets are usually 22 feet wide.

Similarities between pickleball nets and tennis nets

Pickleball nets and tennis nets do serve the same role: to provide a barrier over which players have to hit. So, there’s a lot of similarity in their basic design.

Pickleball nets and tennis nets are also often made of the same materials. The stitching and weave techniques used in manufacturing them are often the same.

Differences between pickleball nets and tennis nets

Beyond the obvious, there are a few other differences between pickleball nets and tennis nets. Since tennis nets are larger, the support posts need to be sturdier.

Tennis posts also sometimes have built-in crank systems for increasing the tension on nets. This is partly the reason that portable tennis nets are much rarer and more expensive than the best portable pickleball nets, which are common.

The next difference is in the weave. Since tennis balls are smaller and faster than pickleballs, tennis nets require a smaller weave. The larger weave of pickleball nets, combined with their smaller dimensions, means they’re less expensive to make, and thus less expensive for players to buy.

Can you play pickleball with a tennis net?

Yes, you can play pickleball on a tennis court with a tennis net. For casual games, or for when you don’t have access to a pickleball net, a tennis net will do the job.

It’s not the same, though. If you play pickleball regularly, you’ll notice the difference. You’ll find that players hit the net more often, and shots will naturally tend to be higher to clear the added net height. Some pickleball players don’t mind it at all, but most prefer a true pickleball net.

You can also adjust the height of a tennis net with a “net converter” strap product, like the ConVERT aNet Pickleball Net Converter. This is a simple set of constricting straps that pull the tennis net down to the correct pickleball net dimensions.

Most players who don’t have access to permanent pickleball nets prefer to use a portable net on a tennis court. Apart from a portable net, you’ll also need measuring tape, line chalk, and removable tape to mark out court lines. It only takes a few minutes, and many people can play in a relatively small play area.

Where the pickleball net height came from

There’s a bit of a legend about how the official pickleball net height came to be. When Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell played the first game of pickleball, they originally used badminton nets.

The duo had a simple way of deciding if the net was high enough: Joel Pritchard would stand at the center of the net and see if it came up to his waist.

If the net’s height was even with his waist, it was acceptable. Joel Pritchard’s waist level was 34″, and that number was eventually set in official rules.

Bottom line

So, to review: The official pickleball net height is 34 inches in the middle and 36 inches at the sidelines. The width is 22 feet, which allows for a foot of clearance on either side of the 20-foot court.

That’s a lot of numbers. But the takeaway is that the pickleball net height is a few inches shorter than a tennis net. Pickleball’s playing space is also smaller and tighter, which makes sense given the ball is also lighter, larger, and slower.

This makes pickleball easy to get into, but difficult to master. And that’s exactly what makes it an epic sport - it’s easy to get on the court and start having fun immediately. But it’s also complex and deep enough that it never gets old. You can always learn new things. So, get out there and get playing!


About the author
Brandon Mackie
Brandon is an avid writer and co-founder of Pickleheads™. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can now be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.
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