Once a sport deemed for old age enthusiasts, pickleball has seen explosive growth across all ages. But can pickleball be played on clay courts?
Pickleball was previously restricted to hard courts such as tennis and basketball courts when played on a smaller scale. But since the game’s widespread popularity in the US and other countries, people have started to wonder if they can play pickleball on clay courts. We find it best to answer this question now when the sport is most heightened.
Pickleball is essentially played on Har-Tru tennis courts made from clay. The red tennis courts made from clay are of a basic form, made from crushed red bricks. This one is soft and deadens the ball's bounce. But you can play pickleball on Har-Tru courts made from crushed metabasalt.
Due to the lack of pickleball courts, players usually use indoor and outdoor tennis courts that provide ample bounce for the ball. However, the clay tennis courts were soon discovered to be the perfect pitch for pickleball and are held as the only way forward for this viral sport. The green tennis courts are made from metabasalt (a form of clay), proving a perfect surface for pickleball.
People have many questions about the game and its pitch as a new sport. We are pickleball experts who use their expertise in the game to guide you on how and when you can play pickleball on clay courts.
Can You Play Pickleball on Clay Courts?
The main problem with playing pickleball on clay courts is that they are soft, and the bounce reaction is not as good as on hard courts. Players usually play on tennis courts by temporarily altering the lines so they can justify their points systems. However, court experts say that you can resolve the bounce issue of clay courts.
Jarrett Chirico is the director of racquets at Baltimore Country Club. According to his post on his LinkedIn profile, Pickleball is fast and widely spreading worldwide. Even professional tennis players have dropped their tennis rackets to pick up pickleball rackets. Due to this, tennis courts became the first alternative to play pickleball.
As most tennis clubs have various types of courts, players and coaching staff soon noticed how well the ball progressed on clay courts. Therefore, not only can you play pickleball on clay courts, they are the future of this game.
Jarret reports that discovering the clay court to play a pickleball game was a fortunate event purely due to luck. Since everyone was using hard tennis courts to play the game, there was a lack of pitch. So they decided to play on a clay court without having done proper research or a second opinion. It only took a few lines to convert the clay tennis court into a pickleball court.
As matters progressed, this became a popular solution for sports fans worldwide, leading to the first US Clay Court Pickleball Championships played in 2018. However, it is essential to note that the clay courts used for pickleball are the Har-Tru courts instead of the traditional red clay courts.
Red Clay Courts vs. Har-Tru Courts - What’s the Difference?
Red clay courts are a mixture of crushed red brick, limestone, and gravel. It is less gripping, meaning it takes less effort to run faster and slip more. The bounce on red courts is also better for a tennis ball and more pacey. However, a pickleball slows down on the softer surface due to its lighter weight - not an ideal surface for the game.
On the other hand, the Har-Tru court, also known as the green clay, is made from metabasalt, a mixture of volcanic rock. This surface is much harder and grainier than the red clay and dries faster. Due to this, there is more grip on the Har-Tru courts, which is needed for pickleball. Moreover, the hard surface also provides a better and more even bounce for the lightweight pickleball ball. The lack of slipperiness is appreciated since the players move less in pickleball than in tennis.
Why Do Players Love to Play Pickleball on Clay Courts?
Players and fans alike are growing fond of the clay courts as they provide more fluent and competitive games. Several benefits of clay courts are taking over the hard courts as the first choice for pickleball. From amateurs to professionals, everyone loves the har-tru clay courts, and here’s why:
Lesser Muscle Stress
The best thing about Har-Tru clay courts is that they are not too soft, making it impossible to play pickleball, and not too hard like hard courts to put too much strain on your muscles. The hard courts are too dry and gripping. So moving on them is not as easy as on clay courts. But the clay courts allow more effortless movement and flexibility, so it does not stress the muscles. That’s why it initially attracted only people above 50 years to play the game.
Extends the Rallies
Smashes are hardly the move in pickleball. Take out the service area, and you are left with a small play area that barely allows specific angles and space required to serve a smash. However, the clay contributes to the game's momentum by making it easier to move and providing a better and even bounce.
The smaller area also means limited movement compared to tennis, where players run from one side to the other. Especially if you are playing doubles, making the opponent miss a shot is tricky. This makes the game more competitive and longer rallies that keep the players and fans on their toes.
Lower Cost and Easy Maintenance
Lower cost is another reason players love this game and play it on clay courts. It is cheaper to construct and maintain clay courts than hard courts. Individuals can have them in their backyard due to low owning cost and maintenance. This is one of the primary reasons for growing clay courts for tennis. It is only inevitable to see more clay courts build, especially for pickleball, given the massively quick popularity of the sport.
How to Convert a Tennis Clay Court into a Pickleball Court?
Since there is currently a lack of dedicated pickleball courts, players use tennis courts as the closest alternative to the sport. You can convert a tennis court into a pickleball court using certain elements to draw lines according to the pickleball rules. However, make sure you have the permission of the owner or the management before using chalk, sprays, or tapes that might damage the court. You can use cones or removable strips to mark the lines if you don’t have permission. But cones can simply blow away if you play on a windy day.
The service area of the pickleball court is 44 feet, which is one foot extra on either side of a tennis court.
The centerline of the tennis court is perfect for the centerline of the pickleball court, so you don’t have to change anything there. However, the distance between the center line and the singles outline on the side of the pickleball court is ten feet compared to the 13 ft of the tennis court. You can measure the distance with a measuring tape.
If you don’t have access to a measuring tape, you can measure it with your feet. If you are having someone assisting you on the other side of the court to measure the distance, ensure that their feet size is similar to yours. A significant distance will result in terribly marked lines.
Another vital area to mark is the kitchen area since this is where all the action takes place once the ball is served. The kitchen line is seven feet from the net. Therefore, you can similarly mark the kitchen line by measuring equally on both sides.
You also need to adjust the net height of the tennis court to play pickleball. The tennis net is 36 inches above ground level. In comparison, the pickleball net is 34 inches from ground level. You can adjust the net through the strap in the middle of the net. By sliding it slightly to either side, you can lower the required inches. However, don’t try to bend the net or the strap, which can put you in trouble for damaging property.
About THE AUTHOR
Since initially playing at the collegiate level, I have amassed several decades of experience playing racquetball, tennis, and pickleball. I have played thousands of matches and games, and won medals and awards in multiple tourantments. I am constantly improving my game and enjoy mentoring and coaching other players in strategy and technique. I have authored dozens of articles on the sport.Read More About Michael Stevens