Article Goal: The goal of this post is to provide beginner to intermediate pickleball players an in-depth look into ARD pickleball paddles and analyze why we feel the GF200 and the HF100 are some of the best new paddles we've seen in years. For brand new players, we recommend the GF200. For improving pickleball players looking for soft touch at the net, we recommend the HF100.
You can search numerous online retailers for pickleball paddles across all skill levels and get bombarded with results. In fact, we often get approached by some of these companies to help the get the word out for them.
That's all well and good, but if the product is designed in the most inexpensive way possible and doesn't target multiple player types (beginners and beyond), then quite frankly, we're not interested. We could do many product reviews of dozens of pickleball paddles that are under $50 but most of these paddles don't target players moving from 3.0, to 3.5, to 4.0 and beyond. Some companies don't offer a paddle or a paddle series suited for players gaining skill and moving up in rank.
In our opinion, real pickleball paddles (or a paddle series) must target many if not all skill levels and help improve players to the next rank up, not simply keep them at recreational status...Ironically, that's where Advanced Recreation Design comes in.
Paddle Face: Graphite
Paddle Face: Fiberglass
Length: 15 5/8"
Width: 8 1/8"
Grip: 4 3/8'
Length: 15 1/2"
Grip: 4 3/8"
Weight: 8.2 -8.4oz
Weight: 8.4-8.6 oz
Pickleball has steadily grown from a niche sport played by active, retirees to a more mainstream sport played by many age groups. Parks across the country have either added courts or converted tennis courts into pickleball courts. Even if people haven't played it, they've hear of it. The point is, it's growing...and fast! With that growth and popularity spike comes new product options.
Many companies are taking notice and want a piece of the action. The best way to do get a piece of the action and popularity is to create and manufacture a pickleball paddle. Many tennis companies like HEAD and Wilson have entered the market. Even tennis racquet manufacturer Prince is entering the market. But, it's not all just big tennis brand names making great paddles, it's smaller dedicated pickleball companies as well! Like ARD.
Is the market being flooded with paddles? Not yet, but it's getting there. We could argue that the "cheap" paddle market is getting very saturated and the risk of a newcomer choosing a very inexpensive paddle that isn't necessarily the best option, is high. To us, this is a concern because you risk a first time player not getting the best experience because their paddles was...well...junk.
The good news is, dedicated pickleball companies like ARD are making great beginner to intermediate paddles that are affordable and get new players off to a great start!
Unlike a lot of new paddle companies who pump out paddles quickly just to take advantage of the "pickleball craze", ARD was patient with their design elements. In fact, they spent over three years designing every aspect of their two flagship paddles (the lighter graphite GF200 and the fiberglass HF100). That is rare! Their approach to designing something different from the get go is very unique for a new paddle company. They designed and tweaked every inch of their paddles with quality and playability as the focal point.
So what's so special about them? Well, the big differentiator is what ARD calls their proprietary "throat" design. The throat is the section of the paddle that connects the paddle face to the grip. Think of it as the paddle's neck that connects the head to the body. What ARD did differently is design a separate piece that connects and holds the paddle face to the grip. We've been in contact with ARD about this unique piece and they claim they are the only paddle company with this specially designed piece!
But what does it do for you the player? The two piece mold braces the lateral flex of the paddle which ultimately gives the player more shot control. When you have a paddle with a "throat", it helps dampen the vibration on shots and absorbs the mass better - thus proving better stability. Better stability gives you the chance to hit more consistent and accurate shots. And as we all know, when you grow in skill level, consistency and accuracy become extremely important! That's what ARD had in mind from the word go.
We’ve been told directly by ARD that their GF200 is their flagship paddle but is also their optimal beginner paddle. However, it has elements that both newbies and experienced players will like. It’s a graphite paddle featuring their patented throat design but at the center of it all is a unique polyurethane paddle core.
The polyurethane foam core gives this eye catching paddle virtually all it’s strengths. For instance, the foam core gives the paddle it's trademark "pop." Graphite paddles, like the GF200 tend to be lighter on their feet but ARD has opted to go with a slightly heavier graphite design at 8.2 to 8.4oz. That's only slightly lighter than their fiberglass model. This allows the GF200 to provide more automatic power for newer players. A slightly heavier paddle will generate more "ooomph", especially on deep serves or forehand returns. Again, this is ideal for beginners and the GF200 does a great job at that!
This GF200 comes in five primary colors and when you buy the pink "breast cancer awareness paddle", $10 of every purchase gets donated to research. We've yet to see a paddle company, let alone a brand new one, take a philanthropic approach like this! Kudos to ARD!
Read why the GF200 garnered the title of Best Pickleball Paddle for Beginners here.
The ARD HF100 is the company's lighter and quieter fiberglass model that is tailored towards more experienced players however, anyone who has a tennis background will be able to use this paddle immediately.
The fiberglass face provides the more experienced player an edge in control, touch and grab. The textured surface allows the paddle to momentarily grab the ball and induce spin. Once you've learned the fundamentals of shot technique, adding english to the ball is the logical next step. The HF100 allows improving players that opportunity.
Despite being slightly smaller than the GF200 in terms of paddle surface, the sweat spot remains large. In fact, the honeycomb polypropylene core is what gives the paddle it's superior touch. At the kitchen line, you'll notice a bit more control on dinks and more paddle response/accuracy on your drop shots with this paddle compared to it's graphite brother.
The grip on both paddles (the GF200 and HF100) remains the same and are easy to pick up and play with. The HF100 comes in four primary colors - each showcasing a bright, young vibrant cosmetic appeal with a professional graphic design to boot. In fact, we were so impressed with the graphic design of this paddle that it left us scratching our heads as to why bigger, more expensive paddle companies are still years behind in terms of graphic design. Despite being brand new, the HF100 is way better looking than paddles from Engage or Champion that cost twice as much!
Read why the HF100 shows up on our list of Best Paddles for 2018!
To sum up our thoughts on the paddles from ARD, we were pleasantly surprised at how much time and meticulous attention to detail ARD has put into their paddles. You just don't get that from most newer paddle companies. It's a testament to the dedication they put towards their craft.
For beginners without a racquet sport background, we'd suggest going with the GF200 just to give you that more consistent power. For newer players, simply learning to swing hard enough to hit a deep serve is a huge first step. The GF200 is equipped to give you that power while remaining light on it's feet.
For anyone coming from a tennis or racquetball background, you can easily go with the GF200 or the HF100. The HF100 is going to give you that more seasoned "soft dink" feel and be the paddle that you'll gravitate towards once your game at the kitchen line improves and becomes the focal point.
Special thanks to the friendly folks at ARD for giving us product specs and images!