Best Pickleball Paddles For Control
Pickleball paddles offer many features specific to the player’s play style. In this guide we will look at the best pickleball paddles for control. Control in pickleball refers to making precise precision shots controlling exactly where you want the ball to land.
Control paddles are designed to absorb hits making it easier to execute softer shots. Attributes of a good control pickleball paddle includes feel, stability, weight, and forgiveness. Here are our top picks for control paddles:
- Best Overall: Engage Encore Pro Pickleball Paddle
- Best For Control: Tangerine Pickleball Paddle
- Best For Spin: Big Dill Original Carbon Fiber Pickleball Paddle
- Best Lightweight: Gearbox CX11Q Control Pickleball Paddle
- Best Under $100: SLK Latitude Pickleball Paddle
- Best For Beginners: Selkirk Halo Control XL
- Best For Kids: Play Nettie Pro Control/Power Pickleball Paddle
Engage Encore Pro Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
Tangerine Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
Big Dill Original Carbon Fiber Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
Gearbox CX11Q Control Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
SLK Latitude Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
Selkirk Halo Control XL
|Price *||Sold By|
Play Nettie Pro Control/Power Pickleball Paddle
|Price *||Sold By|
Pickleball paddles offer a wide variety of features for players with a range of different play styles, from the aggressive “power players” to the more careful and precise “control players.”
In this guide, we highlight the best pickleball paddles on the market for the latter group—those seeking to maximize their control over the ball during gameplay.
Control paddles absorb hits, making it easier for pickleball players to execute softer and more precise shots. A control pickleball paddle will be light or midweight, and will have a thick and soft core, a high-grit face material, and a short handle, among other attributes.
What Does “Control” Mean in the Context of Pickleball?
Control-oriented pickleball players tend to make more calculated shots like dinks and drops to outmaneuver their opponents. Maintaining a high degree of control during gameplay enables you to keep rally’s going, exploit your opponent’s weaknesses, and even dictate the flow of games with finesse and accuracy.
Power vs. Control in Pickleball
In general, as you search for the ideal pickleball paddle, you’ll see manufacturers and sellers talking about two main features:
- Power: Players who prioritize power are looking to hit the ball hard and fast.
- Control: Players who value control are more focused on being able to send the ball exactly where they want it to go.
In other words, it’s a matter of strength vs. precision, and of finding a pickleball paddle that strikes a power/control balance that suits your particular play style.
If you’re not sure whether control, power, or a mixture of the two is a priority for you, start by reflecting on your own gameplay and what it tends to look like. Here’s an overview of each of these categories to help you assess your play style:
If you’re the kind of player that’s always hitting strong, aggressive shots that are too fast for your opponent to consistently return, you’re more of a power player. This is sometimes also described as being a “banger”—a player who hits the ball hard and fast to try and get their opponent to miss the ball.
If this describes you, the recommendations on this list probably won’t be an ideal fit. Instead, we’d suggest that you check out our list of the best pickleball paddles for power to find your perfect paddle.
On the other hand, if your strategy is to hit softer, more precise shots that go exactly where you want them to go (ideally, out of reach of your opponent), then you’re more of a control player. Some people also refer to this more careful play style as being a “dinker.” If this describes you, you should seek out a control pickleball paddle like one of the products we’re recommending on the list below.
Mix of Power and Control
Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, strategically switching between softer and harder shots depending on what the situation calls for. In that case, you’ll want to seek out a pickleball paddle that strikes a good balance between power and control.
Who Should Use a Control Pickleball Paddle?
Still not sure whether a control pickleball paddle is the right choice for you? Here are some additional factors to consider when deciding whether to use a control paddle:
- Arm strength: If you don’t have very strong arms, you may not be able to execute power shots consistently, but a control paddle can help you compensate for this weakness by allowing you to focus on ball placement and accuracy. (If this is the case, we’re happy to report that as you play more pickleball, your physical fitness is likely to improve!)
- Defensive or offensive play style: If you tend to focus on defensive strategies, like blocking and countering your opponents’ shots, a control paddle will help you do so more effectively.
- Preference for longer rallies: Do you prefer the excitement of longer rallies over ending points early? A control paddle will help you keep the ball in play for longer periods.
- Skill level: Control paddles aren’t just for one level of skill—they offer advantages for players at all skill levels. For instance, as the name suggests, beginners might find it easier to control their shots with a control paddle, while more advanced players can use control paddles to finesse their game and adapt to different opponents.
What To Look For in a Control Pickleball Paddle
The right pickleball paddle can be a significant factor in your performance on the court. In this section, we’ll outline the key features to consider when deciding on the ideal control pickleball paddle:
One of the most important attributes of a paddle offering good control is its weight. In general, a lighter paddle offers more control over your shots than a heavier paddle, but less power behind your shot.
Let’s get more specific—how much should a control pickleball paddle weigh? It depends on how much control you’re looking for. The high maneuverability of lightweight paddles (under about 7.3 ounces) allows users to react more quickly, making them a great option for precise dinks around the kitchen. However, light paddles do offer less stability, which could limit your control of the ball.
If a lightweight paddle doesn’t sound like a good fit, a midweight paddle of about 7.3 to 8.3 ounces will strike a good balance between control, maneuverability, and power, with more stability than the lightest options.
The core of a pickleball paddle can have a dramatic effect on your ability to control the ball. The denser the core material, the less control the paddle will offer. That’s why you’ll want to find a paddle with a soft core and less densely-packed “honeycomb” pattern that absorbs more energy.
The vast majority of pickleball paddles feature a polymer core. Manufacturers may refer to this as “poly,” “polypropylene,” or “polycore,” but all of these are simply polymer under different names. You should also avoid paddles with Nomex cores if you’re focused on maximizing control, as this material is much harder and denser than polymer.
As important as core material is the thickness of the core. A thicker core (16 mm or more) provides more control, while a thinner core (about 10 to 13 mm thick) gives you more power behind your shots. This is because a paddle with a thick core absorbs more energy from the ball while it hits the paddle, while a thin core absorbs less of that energy and reflects more of it back onto the ball.
Face Material and “Grit”
The face material of your paddle is another important factor in determining your level of control. The more energy the paddle’s face material absorbs, the more control it offers.
In addition, a paddle with a textured or even slightly rough face—also known as a higher “grit”—will provide the user with more control over the ball. A paddle face with more grit also helps with getting more spin on the ball; if that’s also a priority for you, be sure to check out our list of the best pickleball paddles for spin.
Graphite (and, to a lesser extent, carbon fiber) dampens vibration and absorbs the greatest amount of energy during gameplay, which means that paddles with graphite faces tend to provide the most control. We’d advise that you avoid paddles with fiberglass faces, however, because the dynamic material provides more power than control.
The shorter the handle, the closer the paddle’s sweet spot is to your hand. A short paddle that is close to your hand will give you the most control over your shots. Look for a paddle under 16 inches, with a handle length under 5 inches. (However, a longer handle can provide better reach for two-handed backhand shots, so if those are a regular part of your play style you should keep this in mind.)
In addition, a paddle with a slightly elongated shape (sometimes referred to as a “teardrop” or “oval” shape) means a larger sweet spot, and thus better control over the ball’s speed and trajectory. A paddle with a larger sweet spot is also more forgiving when you don’t hit the ball perfectly at the center of the paddle.
In general, a grip size that fits comfortably into your hand is always the best choice, but it’s also another factor to consider when you’re specifically in search of control paddles–a secure grip on your paddle means better control.
While all of these paddle features are important for players who prioritize finesse and shot placement over power, choosing the best paddle for you depends on your individual preferences. If possible, research paddles that appeal to you (starting by reading our list of recommendations below!), and experiment with a variety of different paddles by testing them out.
Choose a paddle that not only checks many of the boxes on the list above, but also feels good to use. This will help you settle on a paddle that works perfectly with your unique pickleball play style.
Quick recap of factors in a control pickleball paddle:
- Weight: One of the most important attributes to a paddle featuring good control is its weight. If you are focusing on controlling your shots a lighter weight paddle is recommended. Lightweight paddles (under 7.3 ounces) allow for a quicker reaction time making it a great option for precise dinks around the kitchen.
- Core material: The core of a pickleball paddle can have a dramatic affect on your ability to control the ball. The denser the core material the harder it is to control. You will want to find a paddle offering a soft core that absorbs energy. Most pickleball paddles feature a polymer core. Avoid Nomex cores if you intend to focus on control as the core is much harder than polymer.
- Face material: The face material is an important factor in determining your control. Graphite and carbon fiber to an extent, will absorb the most amount of energy leading to the greatest control. Avoid fiberglass paddles as the dynamic material will give you more power than control.
- Paddle shape: A short paddle that is close to your hand will give you the most control over your shots. Look for a paddle under 16” with a handle length under 5”
Follow Pickleball Advisor for the Latest and Greatest Developments in the World of Pickleball
Check Pickleball Advisor on a regular basis to keep up with the latest developments in the world of pickleball. We’re committed to providing you with the in-depth info you need to make informed equipment purchasing decisions and improve your pickleball game. To do this, we provide:
- Detailed reviews of individual paddle brands
- Lists of the best pickleball paddles based on a host of different criteria, from the best beginner paddles to the best paddles for spin
- Blog posts that explain virtually every aspect of the game in detail (such as a comprehensive guide to gameplay, some of our most helpful pickleball tips, and an overview of pickleball’s history) to help you hone your pickleball knowledge and skills
With this wealth of expert information at your fingertips, you’ll be a seasoned pickleball master in no time!