Playing Pickleball Indoors vs. Outdoors: Which Is Better?

As an avid pickleball player, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the game on both indoor and outdoor courts. Each setting offers its own set of advantages and challenges, and choosing between the two can significantly impact the overall playing experience.

Being someone who lives to be outside and finds any excuse to catch some rays, I’ve surprised myself by preferring to play pickleball indoors.

This post aims to help me get to the bottom of this query as well as educate you on the nuanced differences.

Indoor Pickleball


  • Weather Control: One of the biggest advantages of playing pickleball indoors is the ability to avoid weather-related interruptions. Rain, wind, and extreme temperatures are no longer a concern, allowing for uninterrupted gameplay.
  • Consistent Playing Conditions: Indoor courts provide a controlled environment, ensuring consistent playing conditions throughout the game. There’s no need to worry about sun glare, wind, or other external factors affecting the ball’s trajectory or your performance.
  • Facilities: Many indoor facilities offer amenities like restrooms, water fountains, and seating areas, making it convenient for players to take breaks and stay hydrated during longer sessions.


  • Acoustics: Indoor courts can be noisy, with sounds echoing off the walls. This can make it challenging to hear the score or communicate effectively with teammates, especially during intense rallies. This is never an issue for me, but some folks seem sensitive to constant noise.
  • Surface: While dedicated indoor pickleball courts offer optimal playing surfaces, some players may find the floors in multi-purpose gyms or non-dedicated indoor spaces less than ideal for pickleball play. In this case, I always choose to play at venues specializing in pickleball. If not, you never know what you’re gonna get!

Outdoor Pickleball


  • Natural Environment: Playing pickleball outdoors allows you to enjoy the fresh air, natural light, and the beauty of your surroundings. There’s something invigorating about being out in nature while engaging in a physical activity. Plus, all that beautiful Vitamin D.
  • Space: Outdoor courts often have more space, which can be less claustrophobic than indoor settings. This open environment can contribute to a more relaxed and enjoyable playing experience.
  • Wind Challenge: While the wind can be a challenge, some players enjoy the added difficulty it brings to the game. It can level the playing field and test your ability to adapt to changing conditions. If pickleball is chess, outdoor pickleball is chess on steroids.


  • Weather Dependency: Outdoor play is at the mercy of the weather, which can be unpredictable and disruptive. Rain, extreme temperatures, or strong winds can force you to cancel or postpone your game.
  • Court Maintenance: Outdoor courts may accumulate debris like leaves, twigs, or other natural elements, which can interfere with gameplay. Additionally, maintaining outdoor courts can be more challenging compared to indoor facilities.

Recommended Equipment and Gear

When it comes to equipment and gear for indoor versus outdoor pickleball, there are a few key considerations.

Indoor Pickleball:

  • Shoes: Indoor pickleball court shoes with non-marking soles are highly recommended. These shoes provide better traction and grip on indoor surfaces like wood or composite courts. Look for shoes specifically designed for indoor court sports like pickleball, tennis, or volleyball.
  • Balls: For indoor play, indoor pickleball balls are the way to go. These balls are designed to have less bounce and travel at slower speeds, which is better suited for the confined spaces of indoor courts. Indoor balls also make less noise, which can be important in facilities where noise levels need to be controlled.
  • Eye Protection: While not mandatory, some players prefer to wear pickleball eye protection indoors, as the balls can travel at higher speeds in a confined space, and the lighting conditions can be different from outdoor courts.

Outdoor Pickleball:

  • Shoes: Outdoor pickleball shoes with good traction and support are essential. Look for shoes with durable outsoles that can handle the abrasiveness of outdoor court surfaces. Shoes designed for tennis or other outdoor court sports can work well.
  • Balls: For outdoor play, outdoor pickleball balls are recommended. These balls are designed to have a higher bounce and travel faster, which helps compensate for the effects of wind and other outdoor conditions. Outdoor pickleball balls are also more durable and can withstand the elements better than indoor balls.
  • Sun Protection: When playing outdoors, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential to prevent sunburn and glare.
  • Wind-resistant Clothing: Outdoor conditions can be windy, so lightweight, wind-resistant clothing can help you stay comfortable and focused during play.

While some gear can be used for both indoor and outdoor play, it’s generally recommended to have dedicated equipment for each environment to ensure optimal performance and enjoyment of the game.

Level of Play and Court Choice

The level of play or skill level can be a significant factor when deciding between indoor and outdoor pickleball courts. Here’s how it might influence the decision:

Beginner Level: Indoor courts can be a more forgiving environment for beginner players who are just starting to learn the game. The controlled conditions, without wind or sun glare, allow beginners to focus on developing their fundamental skills without compensating for external factors. Indoor courts can provide a more consistent and predictable playing surface, which can benefit those still mastering basic strokes and court movement.

Intermediate Level: At the intermediate level, players may have a preference for either indoor or outdoor courts based on their personal playing style and goals. Some intermediate players might prefer the challenge of outdoor conditions, as it tests their ability to adapt to varying wind, sun, and court surfaces. Others might appreciate the consistency of indoor play, where they can focus on developing more advanced strategies and shot-making without environmental distractions.

Advanced Level: For advanced or tournament-level players, the decision between indoor and outdoor courts can be more nuanced. Outdoor courts can provide a greater test of skill and mental toughness, as players must navigate shifting wind patterns, sun angles, and court conditions throughout a match. This can better prepare them for tournament play, where they may encounter various outdoor environments. However, some advanced players might prefer indoor courts for specific training purposes, such as working on precise shot placement or developing intricate strategies that require a controlled environment.

pickleball levels

Additionally, the level of competition and the importance of the event can also influence the court choice. For high-stakes pickleball tournaments or matches, players might prefer indoor courts to ensure consistent conditions and minimize the impact of external factors on the outcome.

Ultimately, both indoor and outdoor courts can offer valuable training and competitive opportunities at different skill levels. As players progress, they may develop a preference based on their individual playing style, goals, and the specific demands of the competition or training they are preparing for.

Strategies and Techniques

Yes, there are specific strategies and techniques that can differ between indoor and outdoor pickleball due to the contrasting playing conditions. Here are some key differences:

Wind Management (Outdoor): Outdoor play often involves dealing with wind, which can significantly affect shot trajectories and ball movement. Players may need to adjust their swing speeds, spin rates, and shot selections to compensate for the wind. Strategies like hitting lower, more defensive shots or utilizing topspin to keep the ball from sailing can be effective in windy conditions.

Sun/Glare Management (Outdoor): Outdoor courts can present challenges with sun glare, especially during certain times of the day. Players may need to adjust their positioning and court awareness to account for potential glare. Strategies like wearing visors or caps, anticipating sun angles, and communicating with partners about potential blind spots can be helpful.


Court Surface Adaptation (Indoor/Outdoor): Indoor and outdoor court surfaces can vary significantly in terms of speed, bounce, and responsiveness. Outdoor courts may have a grittier surface, while indoor courts can be smoother. Players may need to adjust their footwork, spin rates, and shot execution to adapt to different surface characteristics.

Pacing and Endurance (Outdoor): Playing outdoors can be more physically demanding due to environmental factors like heat, wind, and sun exposure. Players may need to pace themselves differently and incorporate more strategic timeouts or hydration breaks. Endurance and stamina can play a larger role in outdoor matches.

Shot Selection and Placement (Indoor): Indoor courts often have a more confined space, which can influence shot selection and court positioning. Players may need to prioritize precise shot placement, angles, and court awareness to maximize the available court area. Indoor strategies might emphasize more controlled shots and tactical positioning.

While the fundamental pickleball skills remain the same, adapting to the unique conditions of indoor and outdoor play can require adjustments in strategies, techniques, and overall game management. Experienced players often develop a repertoire of tactics and adjustments to excel in both environments, while beginners may benefit from focusing on one environment initially before expanding their skill set.

Both indoor and outdoor pickleball have unique appeals, and the best choice ultimately depends on personal preference and local conditions. If you prefer a controlled, consistent environment, indoor courts might be the way to go. However, if you’re drawn to the fresh air and natural challenges of the outdoors, outdoor courts could be more appealing.

My advice would be to try both settings and see which one suits your playing style and enhances your enjoyment of the game. Embrace the advantages of each environment, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

What’s your preference – indoor or outdoor pickleball? Share your experiences, tips, and insights in the comments below!

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