What is the difference between indoor and outdoor table tennis? An explainer

Table Tennis can be played in both outdoor and indoor environments and there are some very subtle changes when you play in different environments.

Table Tennis board; Credit: ITTF World Twitter page
By Karthik Raman | Mar 16, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Table Tennis is a sport that can be played by anyone. The biggest advantage of Table Tennis is that it is not bound by space or environment to a large extent. The very reason why China became the ultimate superpower in Table Tennis is because in the 1950’s, Chairman of the Communist Party that was ruling China, Mao Zedong, had made Table Tennis the national game of the country. There were two reasons for making this move. One, it was economical and it did not involve much space. Second, it was a game that was not fully grasped by the West.

Thus, when it came into the Olympic fold in 1988, it was no surprise that China dominated the sport. The country has won 28 gold medals out of a potential 32 gold medals in the Olympics, which is staggering. The revolution created by China has resulted in many queries about this sport. The dynamics of the game, what is the difference between Indoor and Outdoor Table Tennis. Here is an explainer on the minor but important differences in Outdoor and Indoor Table Tennis.

Table material

The biggest difference is the material the table tennis top is made from. Indoor tables are solid wood. Outdoor tables are a mixture of metal and wood and finished with a coating to protect the table from sun, rain and wind. Outdoor tables also tend to have sturdier frames, which adds a little to the overall cost. Wooden tables are vulnerable to natural elements while metallic frames might be much sturdier.


The weather is the biggest factor when one looks at playing Indoor and Outdoor Table Tennis. If there is too much wind, it is much harder to play, although it can be fun trying to battle the wind and your opponent – you get to play some crazy shots! If it is raining a lot, then just forget about playing. This is no fun. But you can play through a light drizzle. When the sun is out and there’s not much wind, outdoor table tennis can be great fun. That is why Indoor Table Tennis can be played in much greater numbers.


Indoor tables have a much better playing surface and it enhances the skills brilliantly. However, if an Indoor table is exposed to sunlight, then it could damage the surface. Outdoor tables are much more suited to the elements but that is also in the mercy of the elements like rain and wind.