The PCKL Launch Series is an affordable, all-around paddle that is the perfect introduction for beginners learning to play pickleball.
Once I got my hands on the Launch Series, I was excited to get it onto the court and put it through some rigorous testing in the Arizona sun. After several play sessions and over 10 hours of testing, I’m here to share my honest thoughts on the design, features, and overall performance.
Read on to discover why we gave it the top spot in our list of beginner pickleball paddles for 2023.
Our verdict3.5The PCKL Launch Series is the best entry-level paddle I've reviewed to date, with the SLK NEO 2.0 coming in at a close second. The paddle felt alive from my very first dink. It excelled in the short game and had a super forgiving sweet spot across many shot types. I wish it could deliver a touch more spin, but overall, I’m yet to play test a better paddle geared towards beginners at the <$70 price point.
Buy or pass?
You’re a beginner.
The PCKL Launch Series is the perfect companion for those just starting out.
You want a budget-friendly paddle.
This is the best option in its price range, outperforming most competitors.
You're buying for a gift.
This stylish paddle makes a great present for someone who wants to start playing pickleball.
You’re an advanced player.
This is a beginner-level paddle and won’t hold up in advanced games.
You love to play with spin.
There’s not much texture on the face, making spin tough to generate.
You want to play an aggressive game.
If you like to play with hard serves and 3rd shot drives, you’ll find this paddle a little lacking.
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The PCKL Launch Series is a beginner-friendly paddle that solves many of the problems entry-level paddles often have. It’s made from quality materials and offers a really good control game and a forgiving sweet spot.
Simply put, this paddle helps beginners play a more competitive game their first time out on the courts.
While it lacks some of the more advanced features you’ll find in pro paddles, it played far better than any paddle I’ve played with before at this price point.
Watch my unboxing video here:
It was very forgiving. I had barely any mishits, and I know beginners will appreciate this aspect of the paddle. I was surprised at how good it felt in my hand. It had a great touch, holding up in long dink rallies and giving me good precision on 3rd-shot drops.
It doesn’t have a ton of power, and I did struggle to generate spin. But these aspects are far less important for a beginner paddle. You’ll win a lot more games with accuracy and control as you’re starting out—I feel like this paddle was designed with that in mind.
There's no comparison to the other paddles in its price range. The PCKL Launch Series is now my top recommendation for beginners. Whenever someone asks me for a paddle recommendation that won’t cost a fortune, this is usually the first paddle I offer.
Watch my first reactions here:
Lightweight with a great touch—doesn’t feel like an entry-level paddle
The face is livelier than I expected—the ball jumped right off it
The massive sweet spot makes it very forgiving, meaning almost no mishits
Can be hard to generate spin. I misplayed some shots I usually get with more advanced paddles
Almost no texture left on the paddle face by the second session
Playing close to the net was difficult, as the paddle felt flat on volleys—particularly overhead smashes and swinging volleys
A relatively new player in the pickleball market, PCKL was established in 2022 to "eliminate complexity in picking a paddle". All three of their pickleball paddle lines are designed to provide great performance at a low price, and I think they’ve largely accomplished what they’ve set out to do.
The Launch Series is the entry-level version aimed at beginners, and I felt it definitely delivers on giving beginners what they need on the courts. Good control, plenty of forgiveness, and just enough power to play a well-rounded game.
I was really pleased with how well the Launch Series performed overall. While it doesn’t have some of the high-level features of more advanced paddles, there are still plenty of positives—especially if you’re just starting out in pickleball.
Let’s take a closer look at the main features.
More often than not, I heard a satisfying pop each time my paddle made contact with the ball. I know beginners respond well to this as they’re getting a feel for the game.
The Fiberglass face is designed for control, and it really delivers on that. However, it does come at the cost of reduced spin, which limited how aggressive a game I could play.
There’s a fantastic responsive nature to each hit, allowing for precision and excellent touch upon contact. It offers a forgiving, consistent experience that suits controlled play rather than an aggressive game.
This makes it less appealing to power hitters, but a strong contender for players who favor accuracy and finesse in their gameplay. For most beginners, control beats power almost every time.
The comfort grip felt great even during long, sweaty play sessions and it withstood the scorching heat 100ºF Arizona heat. This feature held up well throughout each test session and I’m confident the paddle itself should hold up over the long term.
The grip was really well done, reminding me of grips on paddles twice the price, like the Paddletek Tempest Wave II.
Enlarged sweet spot
A feature that sets this paddle apart is the enlarged sweet spot. A paddle’s sweet spot determines its overall game performance, and this is especially true for beginner paddles.
The Launch Series performed well to the edge, providing consistent results even on off-center hits. This practically removes the worry of mishits and ensures solid contact with every swing you take.
Design and feel
No beginner wants to start playing pickleball with an ugly paddle. Many budget-friendly options look cheap and feel like it too, but the PCKL Launch Series is neither.
My paddle was the standard neon green design (it also comes in white), and I loved how it looked in my hand. Sure, it might not bring the sleek black design of the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion line, but I kind of dig the bright color.
As for the feel, it plays like a lightweight paddle—despite being 7.9 oz. The best way I can describe it is that it feels light without feeling cheap.
Some inexperienced players I spoke to about it expected a heavier paddle. They actually wanted a little more heft, even though I felt that would hurt their game.
The Launch Series had decent power. I could get good zip on my serve and my forehand drives—I just had to swing a little harder than I’m used to with more advanced paddles.
Aggressive players might be a little disappointed, but most beginners will have no issue generating enough power to stay competitive.
The paddle’s responsive feel helped me in my control game. I could place dinks and drops generally where I wanted them. Sometimes with cheap paddles, you really have to ‘guide’ the ball to make it do what you want. This wasn’t true for the Launch Series, which plays more like a typical mid-range paddle than a cheap beginner paddle.
Still, it does lack some touch (a bit too much pop) on the more technical shots, like a 3rd shot drop taken deep. I can see this frustrating experienced players, while beginners likely won’t see it as an issue.
The spin was the most disappointing aspect of the paddle. I couldn’t generate nearly enough spin to be consistent on big topspin forehand drives or swinging volleys at the net. The face is almost smooth and doesn’t have the grit to generate spin.
If there’s one reason players will outgrow this paddle as their game advances, it’s the poor spin. There’s no real trick to it—it’s just incapable of generating enough for the spin shots I usually play.
The Launch Series is as forgiving as paddles come, and mishits were very rare during my play sessions. There’s a very large sweet spot, so if I didn’t hit it just right, it still usually went where I aimed. I also felt a satisfying pop on many of my shots.
This is what really stood out to me. Mishitting the ball is so common for beginners that it can quickly turn them off the sport.
I’ve been to some facilities, like the Atlanta Pickleball Center, where they hand this paddle out to any beginner who needs a loaner. I think the paddle’s forgiveness is a big reason why this has become the default there.
The paddle is light in my hand and light during play. Even beginners who aren’t used to pickleball could have long sessions without feeling arm fatigue, and the weight helps for short game and control.
The comfortable grip was good quality and not too noticeable. It was very close to my intermediate and advanced paddles from Paddletek (Tempest Wave II + Pro). I tested it in 100ºF Phoenix weather, and it held up nicely.
The materials are of higher quality than many budget or used paddles, especially at this price point. The edge guard also helps protect it and make it last.
You can’t ask for much more. The only downside for me is that the face texture does deteriorate quickly, meaning the spin will get even worse after a handful of sessions.
This is a lightweight paddle, which helps with its aerodynamics as it cuts through the air. Sure, it might not have the aerodynamic design of premium paddles like the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta or the JOOLA Hyperion, but for a beginner paddle you won’t find much better.
The PCKL Launch Series is priced at $64.99, which puts it squarely in the budget category.
Value for money
This is an unbeatable price for a beginner player looking for a quality paddle. It’s only ~$20 more than the cheapest options on Amazon (like the Niupipo graphite pickleball paddle), but I’d estimate it provides over twice the performance specs.
Compared with other budget options I’ve tested, this one has a larger sweet spot, superior feel, and better all-around consistency and control.
PCKL has really changed my opinion of budget-friendly paddles. The Launch Series is an affordable option—great if you're looking to buy a gift for a picklehead that'll carry them through the early part of their pickleball journey.
For anyone looking to start playing pickleball, I recommend putting this high on your list. This'll last you into the intermediate level, provided you're not playing a strong power or spin game.
This paddle is well-rounded, beginner-friendly, and well-priced—all reasons why it landed on our list of the best pickleball paddles for 2023. When I'm asked for an affordable paddle, this is the one I’ll recommend just about every time.