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Top 5 Pickleball Paddles for Control

We’ve talked a lot about power and spin in pickleball over the past year, but it’s time to show some love to control; here are our top 5 paddles for control in early 2024.
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There’s no denying it: control paddles have lost some appeal over the years.

Pickleball has seen massive and rapid developments in technology, mainly aimed at improving power and spin. This has added an important layer of skill gap to the sport, but still, at its core, pickleball separates itself from tennis, squash, badminton, or really another paddle and racket sport because of soft methodical control. The kitchen adds such a unique element to the game; mastering it can be the difference between a good player and a great one.

Many of these paddles that have “revolutionized the spin game” have done so by sacrificing soft control, and a lot of players, especially those who have been playing for a long time, miss it.

Thermoforming is the main culprit for this because it makes for such a rigid and powerful feel on contact. Softer paddles soak up more of the ball’s energy which makes for a longer dwell time and more of an ability to guide the ball while it’s in the paddle face. This is a very addictive sensation to many and is important to have in a control paddle, but that’s not to say a paddle can’t still be excellent for control without being very soft.

Part of the reason rigid thermoformed paddles have become so popular, even amongst players looking for control, is because they provide such amazing feel for the ball.

Soft paddles can have good feel, but sometimes they suffer from “mushiness” – a sensation of disconnect between player and ball caused by the pillowy and undefined feel of something too soft. The firm response of a thermoformed paddle makes for a very crisp connection to the ball, and while many thermoformed paddles are too stiff to make this list, some companies have done a great job of sufficiently softening the contact point while maintaining that great feel.

This list will feature a mix of very plush paddles and slightly more rigid but still toned-down thermoformed paddles. I waited a while to make this because, for a long time, I was worried that control paddles were a thing of the past. But now, in April of 2024, there are some fantastic options.

5. Ronbus R1 Nova

With every top 5 that we make, there’s bound to be a bit of personal bias, and this will probably be the most controversial inclusion, but the Nova is the best feeling raw carbon thermoformed paddle I’ve ever used. I consider it so good in the soft game. The sweet spot is extremely well-defined, so I always know exactly where the ball will go. On top of that, it’s one of these new-era thermoformed paddles that have this engineered layer of plushness to them.

The R1 Nova was the first thermoformed paddle I tried with this unique ability to adapt to different shots.

When you’re hitting full-paced groundstrokes, it’s very firm, responsive, spin-friendly, and powerful, but then as soon as you slow down your stroke, it becomes surprisingly soft. Ronbus has accomplished this with patent pending Carbon Fiber Grid Foamed Edge technology that makes the paddle face dynamically pocket the ball for different levels of power. It’s an extremely addictive paddle that will work for many types of players, and the reason I’ve chosen it over the R3 Nova is because of its more aerodynamic, Hyperion-like shape.

This design moves quicker through the air than the classic elongated shape of the R3, which means the paddle is a little bit easier to micro-adjust even mid-way through your swing. This is obviously great for maneuverability in hand battles, but it’s also fantastic when going for deceptive touch shots, where you feign one way and then switch up your shot at the very last second.

Quickly, though, before anyone goes and buys this paddle thinking it’s going to feel like a Vanguard 2.0 in the control game, it does not.

It is important to remember that the Nova is by no means a “soft” paddle in the traditional sense. This is still a paddle you will have to soften up your hands with – it won’t save you if you do put too much power on your dinks, resets, or drops the way some other paddles might. You can’t totally turn off your brain in the soft game but for advanced players this won’t be a problem, and the great feel and softness to rigidity ratio is one of the best out there. 

4. Joola Scorpeus 16mm

The Scorpeus is a spectacular paddle that, I will say right now, will not be for everyone.

Of course, with it only being 16 inches long, the Scorpeus’ major quirk is that you lose a lot of leverage, power, spin potential, stability, and consistency. You will notice that from the baseline – you can’t hit out with the same level of freedom you could on the Perseus, for example, but, if you can figure that part out, it’s one the most overpowered paddles once you get up into the kitchen.

For one, the paddle is 8 inches wide, half an inch wider than a typical elongated paddle so the sweet spot is significantly more forgiving, especially in the soft game. That means you can get dialed in more quickly since you don’t have to worry that a tiny mishit will be overly punished.

What separates the Scorpeus from other paddles, especially other standard length ones, is its unique long handle. The handle is 5.25 inches long, which is closer to what you’ll find on an elongated paddle. Combining that long handle with the short overall shape gives you one of the most ridiculously quick and maneuverable swing speeds ever. That maneuverability makes this paddle almost instantaneously adjustable, which is, again, great for hand battles but even better for the deceptive soft game. Take what I said comparing the R1 and R3 Nova, and then crank that up to infinity (and beyond).

The Scorpeus is the best paddle for variety in the touch game. Its ability to completely change the trajectory of a touch shot with one small tweak of the wrist is awesome and also a heck of a lot of fun.

Again, it is important to remember that the Scorpeus is thermoformed so it won’t be the softest paddle on this list, but like it was with the Nova, the Scorpeus also has impeccable feel. It may not soak up much of the ball's energy on impact, but this paddle always gives me great feedback so I know exactly what to expect from a shot whether I hit it well or not.


3. Selkirk Vanguard Control Epic & Invikta

The last two paddles we discussed were thermoformed and relatively rigid. We’re going to pivot 180 degrees now to a very soft and classically molded Selkirk paddle. Selkirk has always been the king of control paddles, and the new raw carbon Vanguard Controls are the pinnacle of that traditional control from the brand.

Everything about these paddles is geared for control from the thick core to the plush response of that traditional molding technique and, of course, that fantastic Selkirk feel. Selkirk and Joola have always stuck out as the two companies producing the best feeling paddles, and while I think the missed the boat with feel on the Vanguard 2.0 paddles, they’ve knocked it out of the park with their replacement. Replacing the top sheet with raw carbon played a significant role in improving that feel, and they also improved the core from the x5 on the 2.0 to the x5+ on the Controls. While I still wouldn’t say these have the purest ball feel, the overly muted and mushy feel of the 2.0s is almost completely gone. For those of you worried that all these changes may take away from the user-friendliness that made the 2.0s so popular, don’t be; these Controls have very big and forgiving sweet spots.

Of course, spin has also improved coming from the 2.0. While spin isn’t necessarily a part of the classic pickleball control conversation, it certainly helps a paddle’s overall control profile because spin is the best way to control a power shot or even a low-dipping passing shot.

The Selkirk Vanguard Control paddles are what I would consider the industry standard for classic raw carbon, non-thermoformed paddles and the highest level of control they can provide. In a way, they are similar to the original Ben Johns Hyperion, but I do find them slightly more refined and adapted to the modern game, with better feel, a bit more spin, and much more user-friendly maneuverability. 




2. SixZero Ruby

The SixZero Ruby could easily have been number one on this list were it not for an amazing, off-the-charts control paddle. The Ruby really does have it all. It’s a thermoformed, unibody paddle, so the most outstanding features are its power and spin, yet, they come at the expense of so little control that this is the second best control paddle right now, which is quite remarkable.

The Ruby has that same adaptive quality as the R1 Nova, but it is just that little bit better on this paddle, and that is in large part due to the Kevlar top sheet. Kevlar paddles generally provide more control than raw carbon ones because Kevlar flexes a little bit more during pocketing. The best part about it is that it also snaps back into place very efficiently so that improvement in control comes with no significant loss in power.

All this tech-forward pocketing and snappy sensation does mean the Ruby has an overall more poppy and springy feel than something traditionally molded like the Vanguard Control paddles. That’s never completely going to change with thermoforming, but the Kevlar’s extra pocketing makes for plenty of dwell time, and like it’s been with all the paddles on this list, the Ruby’s feel is excellent.

The Ruby also has the now extremely popular hybrid shape, which adds to its control profile. This shape combines the best of both worlds: the stability and consistency you get from an elongated paddle and the maneuverability and deception potential of a shorter paddle. It’s an extremely well-rounded paddle, and honestly, we’ve just scratched the surface of its playability by talking about control. More Ruby content will be coming, I promise.

1. Selkirk Luxx Control Air Epic & Invikta

Slotting the Luxx Control Air paddles in at number one was the easiest decision of the day – they are by far and away the best control paddles on the market right now. Epic, Invikta, whichever one you chose, you really can’t go wrong, I’m partial to the Invikta but if you do want more maneuverability at the expense of stability, go for the Epic.

These paddles are 20 millimetres thick, making them extremely plush and forgiving when hitting a touch shot. On top of that, Selkirk has manufactured one of the best cores in terms of sweet spot size and performance outside the sweet spot, and they’ve managed to do that because the paddle is thermoformed. When I first tested these paddles, I was a bit discombobulated because I never thought soft and thermoformed would go in the same sentence, but Selkirk has a bunch of wizards working for them, and they’ve made it happen.

The Luxx Controls do feel like you’re cheating in the soft game. They will save you on a number of occasions if you put too much power on a dink, reset, or drop – it’s almost as if there’s something coded inside the paddle to perfectly guide your shot into the kitchen every time.

Now, looking at that 20-millimetre core, you would be justified in thinking these paddles could be mushy, but they’re not. Because they are thermoformed, they still have a very responsive feel despite that plush control, and the most impressive thing about them is that they’re still extremely competitive in terms of power and spin.

Of course, they’re not up there with the best in those departments, but they also won’t hold you back. It feels as if the paddles firm up when you decide to speed it up and hit with power and spin. This is an extremely impressive playability characteristic, and it's where the Luxx Controls set themselves apart from more traditional soft paddles like the Vanguard Controls.

Hopefully, you enjoyed our roundup of the five best pickleball paddles for control. Of course, with the rate at which new paddles are coming out, this list could be obsolete in a matter of months, but for now, this is the creme de la creme in terms of control.

If you want to demo any of these paddles come into the store and visit our awesome paddle specialists, or you can check them out online.


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