ASTM F3558-22: Chain-Link Pickleball Court Fences

A youthful couple playing pickleball on a warm summer day with the pickleball net adhering to ASTM F3558-22.

What is the fastest growing sport in the United States in 2023? –Pickleball. The average growth rate of pickleball from 2020-2023 has been 158.6%, and presently there are more than 36.5 million pickleball players in the United States. Hence, it is important that standardization of the equipment of required in the game keeps up with its rapid growth to maintain consistency and quality. ASTM F3558-22: Standard Guide For Chain-Link Pickleball Court Fences identifies specific qualities desired of a pickleball fence and offers recommendations on how to achieve them with a chain link fence for different types of pickleball courts.

What Is ASTM F3558?

The purpose of ASTM F3558-22 is to inform the builder, designer, facility manager, and/or owner of a pickleball court or facility about the features of pickleball court fence. This standard focuses on what to consider when designing a pickleball fence. It also offers some recommendations and points the user to where they could find additional useful information regarding the design, construction, and maintenance of pickleball courts.

Pickleball is essentially a combination of ping pong, tennis, and badminton. One of the main reasons it has risen to popularity is because anyone can play from young adults to retirees. Unlike most racket sports, which have a steep learning curve, pickleball is played by hitting a plastic wiffle-like ball. So, the pickleball is less bouncy and does not fly as fast through the air. Additionally, the paddle is much easier to handle since it is shorter and lighter than a tennis racket, and players serve underhand in pickleball, making it easier to hit and return. Pickleball is thus easier to learn than tennis as it is slower paced, and there is less ground to cover (four pickleball courts fit into one tennis court and most picklers play doubles).

There are many more reasons why pickleball is so popular:

  1.  Effective workout: A player can burn up to 350 calories per hour playing the sport. Also, research found consistent players see significant improvements in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and maximal oxygen uptake (a measure of cardiovascular fitness) after playing for an hour every other day for six weeks.
  2. Accessible: Pickleball can be played standing or in wheel chairs, inside or outside, and even if there is no dedicated pickleball court nearby—many recreation departments use a tennis court that’s been refitted for pickleball.
  3. Social: The game can be enjoyed by people of all ages and of all skill levels, making it a great way to meet new friends.
  4. Safer than tennis: The game is not as physically strenuous on the body and is low-impact on the knees.
  5. Affordable: Pickleball equipment is reasonably priced.
  6. Fast-paced: Each game consists of only 21 points, which means that the games move along quickly.
  7. Limited Equipment: To play the sport, all that is required is a pickleball paddle and a pickleball ball (sometimes referred to as a wiffle ball). A pickleball court fence would also add to quality of the game.

The Primary Function of a Pickleball Court Fence

ASTM F3558-22 details that the objective of a pickleball court fence is to keep pickleball balls in and uninvited traffic out. The fence serves as a barrier to prevent players from colliding with fixed objects and spectators; it prevents players from running onto irregular or slippery surfaces or into dangerous adjacent areas.

The standard further specifies that pickleball court fences need to respond to secondary functional requirements, including: spectator viewing, screening the court from wind and visual distractions outside the court, and being as open and welcoming as security conditions permit. In most cases, pickleball fences are a variety of heights and may accommodate lights, shade shelters, gates for players and maintenance, and can have completely open (no fence) portions of the perimeter that lead to decks, grandstands, or landscaping.

Invention of Pickleball

Three dads invented pickleball in 1965.  Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum decided to create some summertime fun to pass the time for their kids while staying at Pritchard’s property on Bainbridge Island, Washington (just outside Seattle). This property had an old badminton court, so the dads looked for some rackets and shuttlecock. However, they came short of finding enough rackets for a full game and improvised with table tennis paddles and perforated plastic ball.

Upon realizing how well the ball bounced on the asphalt court and over the net, they lowered the net from 60 inches down to 36 and created rules for their invention. The sole purpose of the game was to be accessible and for family play. By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian. In 1972, a corporation was formed called Pickleball, Inc. to protect the creation of the sport and help interested players find tailored equipment (i.e., paddles, nets, and ball) to play the game. The founding of this corporation helped transition this sport from a fun pastime to a legitimate sport.

Why Is Pickleball Called Pickleball?

Joel Prichard’s wife Joan started to call their game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were selected from the leftovers non-starters from in the “pickle boat” of crew races. Many years later, as the sport grew, a controversy ensued when a few neighbors said they were there when Joan named the game after the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, who would run off with the ball while the game was still being played. Joan and the Pritchard family have held fast for decades that the dog came along a few years later and was named after the game. Further, based on evidence the dog was born in 1968— three years after pickleball was first played and named.

ASTM F3558-22: Standard Guide For Chain-Link Pickleball Court Fences is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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