By: Braydon Unsicker [Pickleball Effect]
PBPRO has only been around for about a year and is starting to gain some momentum in the pickleball world. They offer a range of paddles from $90-$140 that can be found on the PBPRO web-siteand at some online retailers.
They reached out to me and asked if I would review their most popular model, the Tour Force. I had heard of PBPRO before but didn’t know too much about them. However, I’m always on the lookout for well performing, budget friendly paddles and I thought this one might fit the bill. So I said yes.
After consistently drilling and playing with it for over two weeks, here’s my review of its performance.
I would categorize the Tour Force as an all-court paddle. Meaning it performs well in all categories but doesn’t excel in any one area. It took me some time to get used to its feel and how it plays, but once I did, I started playing quite well with it.
My consistency with drops from the baseline and midcourt were excellent. This was a highlight of the paddle for me. The paddle responded well when I would attack and has some offensive ability. Its classic shape, 8.0oz frame was quick in my hands and moved comfortably. Dinking felt good, I had control of both offensive push dinks and defensive lift dinks when I was hitting the sweet spot. However, I was never able to get a good feel for blocking speedups and my dinking was a little less consistent overall. The paddle wasn’t super forgiving and didn’t absorb pace well, so that might be part of the reason why I wasn’t as consistent those areas.
Out of the box the paddle face has a very gritty texture that probably maxes out the USAPA guidelines, but the grit wore out after my first day playing with it. Although the grit wore out quickly, I still thought the paddle was in the medium spin range, which I’m okay with. There are only a few paddles that have high spin ratings.
The bottom line: The PBPRO Tour Force is a great all-court paddle for intermediate players. Especially for only $120. Although it doesn’t quite match up with some of the leading all-court performance paddles, it’s not far behind. If you want a good paddle that can do everything well, but don’t want to spend $200, then this is an option you should consider.
When you’re looking at the specs and design of the Tour Force you don’t notice anything special per say. They have a very traditional build with higher quality materials.
Although it may not be the most innovative paddle, it has everything done right.
It’s a classic shaped paddle that is 15.75″ long and 7.75″ wide. This player friendly classic shape gives you a larger size sweet spot that sits in the middle of the paddle.
Its carbon fiber face and thin core is a combination that gives you that all-court playability.
Its 8.0 oz weight puts it in the midweight category, but it’s slightly head heavy so you can feel the weight more than other 8.0 oz paddles. It has a shorter handle length at 4.5″ and a slightly slimmer handle grip that is 4.25″. If you prefer thicker handle grips it’s easy to build up the grip using PBPRO's tacky overgrips.
The handle has this ribbed grip that I wasn’t really a fan of but it didn’t bother me either. I was indifferent about it. Some people I shared the paddle with liked the ribbed grip and others were indifferent like I was. It’s a preference thing.
The paddle is slightly head heavy had a little pop to it that helped when I was being aggressive or countering attacks. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of power or anything, but it was noticeable.
The grit on the face went smooth after the first day I played with it, but I still thought it had a medium spin rating. Its thinner core and midweight nature made it easy to accelerate through the ball to generate spin.
The paddle had enough power to get the speed I needed on put aways and higher balls. I was pleased with how it performed when attacking lower balls too, I could get the power and spin I needed there. I thought the paddle was lower on the forgiveness scale, though. I found myself catching the top of the net more often than usual when I miss hit push dinks, aggressive slice dinks and volley dinks. I didn’t like that.
The paddle has a medium soft feel to it. It took me a solid week of drilling and playing games before I began to get a good sense of how it played and could hit the soft shots I wanted. It doesn’t normally take me that long. Part of the reason for this is that I’m used to elongated paddles, so it took some time to adjust to the widebody shape. I don’t put all the blame on the paddle during that first week.
Once I got a good feel for it I was very accurate with the pace and placement of my soft shots from the baseline and midcourt. Especially when I had time to set up for the shot. I noticed that other people I shared the paddle with also did well in those areas of the court. This is one of the highlights of the paddle for me. Dinking felt comfortable, I had good control of both offensive push dinks and defensive lift dinks when I was hitting the sweet spot. I was slightly less consistent with my dinking in general, though. I think it was because the paddle has a lower forgiveness rating.
Blocking speedups and trying to reset hard hit balls anywhere on the court didn’t come as naturally with the Tour Force. I found myself leaving those balls a little deeper than I intended and would get punished for it. With time, I’m sure I could get better there, but I wasn’t as good as I usually am during the two weeks I played with the paddle.
Overall, I thought it had a good feel. It was designed to be an all-court paddle for intermediate players, and I think it delivered there.
One thing I really like about PBPRO as a brand is how easy they make it to pick the paddle that makes sense for you. They categorize their paddles into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels, making it simple to make a choice. More brands need some sort of categorization like this.
Additionally, they offer matching apparel and accessories in tandem with their paddles. For example, the Tour Force has an orange PBPRO logo on it, so you can get a matching overgrip, shirt, hats to go with it. I’m all about looking good on the court. As the saying goes, “look good, feel good, play good.”
They also offer a variety of other good stuff like backpacks, lead tape and towels. Their supporting selection of pickleball gear is strong.
The PBPRO Tour Force is a good all-court paddle for intermediate players. Especially for only $120. Although it doesn’t quite match up with some of the leading all-court performance paddles, it’s not far behind.
If you’re a beginner that is ready to upgrade from your entry level paddle, then this is a good option. This paddle will grow with you and enhance your game. If this is you, you won’t be able to tell a difference between this paddle and a $200 one.
If you’re an intermediate player that is looking for a paddle with a good mix of control and power, then this is great option. This paddle will perform well for you, it won’t be the paddle’s fault if you lose ;). If you want something that offers more focus on control or power then check out some of PBPRO’s other paddles or look elsewhere.
If you are an advanced level player without a budget restriction, then this may not be the paddle for you. I do think there are other paddles out there that will give you more, you just have to pay for it.
Braydon competes at the 4.5 level and plays in 5-10 tournaments a year. He plays/drills 3 to 4 times a week and would play more if time allowed it.