Groundstroke Momentum and the Non-Volley Zone – Pickleball Rule Clarification

This post has been updated in 2024 according to the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024).

Your local pickleball courts are undoubtedly a place – a sandbox if you will – where new techniques are tested, strategies devised, and where rule interpretations are discussed, argued, and eventually conceded.

We recently had such a discussion about momentum and the non-volley zone (NVZ). Specifically, consider the following scenario: Your opponent hits a shot that bounces beyond the non-volley zone (kitchen). You respond with a groundstroke but your momentum from the shot carries you into the non-volley zone.  Is this a fault?

Momentum-Groundstroke-NVZ

One camp argued that regardless of where the ball bounces on the court – as long as it bounces – your momentum from hitting your groundstroke can, indeed, carry you into the NVZ without penalty. The other camp countered that if the ball bounces beyond the NVZ your momentum cannot take you into the NVZ without a fault being called.

Pickleball Momentum Rule –  Let’s Go to the Rulebook (2024)

Rule 9.C. states from the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024) states the following with respect to momentum:

Rule #9.c.

A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone or touches any non-volley line… The act of volleying the ball includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the action.

USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024)

After reading this rule, it is clear that this rule applies only to the act of volleying the ball – hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces. It does not apply to a groundstroke – or a ball that bounces first.

USA Pickleball “Official” Twitter Clarification

To get “official” clarification, I tweeted the question to our friends at USA Pickleball. Shown below is their response along with an additional response from Third Shot Sports.

@PickleballUSA If your opponent hits a shot landing beyond NVZ & you hit groundstroke, but momentum carries u into NVZ… Fault? What say you?

— PickleballMAX (@pickleballmax) September 14, 2015

Original Twitter Question

@pickleballmax As long as you are letting it bounce, you can go into the non-volley zone. Good question!

— Pickleball USA (@PickleballUSA) September 14, 2015

Twitter Response from USA Pickleball

No problem at all. Going into the kitchen after a groundie is a-ok! #pickleball https://t.co/1lplXlq1xV

— Third Shot Sports (@thirdshotsports) September 14, 2015

Twitter Response from Third Shot Sports

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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30 Comments

  1. A player returns a serve via ground stroke. It goes into the kitchen on the opposite side of the net. The player on the opposite side (side ball hit) runs to hit the ball but it bounces up and goes back over the net into the kitchen on the side the ball was returned from.

    Do you play it over or does the point go to the team which returned the ball?

  2. What if the point is over, there is no momentum but a player simply walks into the kitchen before the next serve. Is that a fault?

  3. Someone told me that if you go into NVZ to return a ball off a bounce you cannot hit the ball in a downward angle. You have to hit it upwards. I have never heard of this. And found nothing on it. It just doesn’t seem correct. Hopefully, you understand my question.

    1. Hi Lenny, As long as the ball bounces, you can hit it while in the NVZ. Downward angle or upward angle, it doesn’t matter! If you can hit it with a downward angle, crush it!!!

  4. If your playing baseline and your opponent hits a drop shot and bounces in the kitchen, are you allowed to enter kitchen to return the ball?

    1. Absolutely. You can enter the pickleball kitchen (non-volley zone) at any time. You just cannot volley (hit the ball out of the air) when in there. Hitting it on the bounce is, therefore, perfectly legal.

  5. What if I hit a ball in air while running to net, then ball is returned in nvz and bounces at same time I enter nvz, then I return ball over net?

    1. Hi Calmike, The “momentum” from the volley has no “time-limit.” In this case, because your momentum from your original volley took you into the NVZ, it would be a fault on you. If, on the other hand, you had firmly established your position/balance outside the NVZ, then you could safely enter to return the short ball. Hope this helps.

  6. What if the ball bounce outside of the non volley zone, and you run up and hit the ball and the momentum take you in the kitchen is that a fault

    1. Hi Vinnie,
      It depends on where the ball hit you. Rule #7.G. addresses your question:

      Rule #7.G.[… A fault will be declared if…] The ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying, except the paddle or the player’s paddle hand below the wrist. If the player is in the process of changing hands with both hands on the paddle, or is attempting a two-handed stroke and either hand is hit below the wrist, then the ball is still in play.

      Hope that helps.

    1. The volley is considered complete when you no longer have forward momentum from the act of volleying. There is no time limit. For example, you could be “teetering” on the line for 20 seconds — if you subsequently fall into the NVZ (from a volley) it would be a fault. This would even be the case if the ball has been played back and forth or if the ball has bounced twice on the other side, for example. The momentum has no time limit and it would result in a fault. Hope that helps!

  7. Is the non-volley zone two dimensional, which is the court surface from & including the non-volley line to the net and the two side lines (making a rectangle)?

    1. That would be fault. According to Rule #9.D: “All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing outside the nonvolley zone is prohibited. If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley the return until both feet have made contact with the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone. (Revised June 23, 2012)”

  8. How about when you volley a distance from the NVZ, but you were running toward the ball to execute the volley. You continue forward several more steps (3+, for instance), and step into the kitchen. My opponent says it was my volley momentum that carried me into the kitchen. I say the act of continuing to move forward is not momentum, just the first step after striking volley. What say you?

    1. Hi Landy,

      In this case, I would likely side with your opponent. If it is your momentum that takes you into the NVZ (regardless of the number of steps it took), it would, indeed, be a fault. Since after hitting a volley, you would have no reason to enter the NVZ (unless your opponent blocked your volley just over the net), I would assume it’s your momentum that took you in… therefore a fault.

      Hope this helps!
      Todd

  9. Question:
    You answered a lot but I have one that I can’t find an answer for:
    You volley a ball outside the kitchen, you’re teetering at the line but BEFORE you step in the ball is struck/returned by your opponent, you Then step in the kitchen, I believe this negates the follow through violation since the prior hit (my volley) ends when the ball is struck again. Can you clarify this for me ?
    Thanks !

    1. Hi Kris, Good question. The momentum from your volley is NOT negated when your opponent hits the next shot. If you fell into the kitchen because of the momentum from your [previous] volley, it would still be a fault. Hope that helps to clarify.

  10. Still unclear about momentum and the volley outside the NVZ. at which time does the moemntum stop being a factor. it you hit the volley, it crosses the net is a winner, unreturnable, and then your momentum causes you to enter the NVZ is that still a fault. Point being if the point is ended and your momentum continues into the NVZ do you still lose the point? Seems like once the point is over, regardless how it concludes that if you then enter the NVZ it should still be your point.

    1. Hi Mike,

      That’s a good question. Indeed, you do lose the point if the point is ended and your momentum carries you into the NVZ. Check out the FAQs here: https://www.pickleballmax.com/2015/09/pickleball-faqs-volleys-groundies-and-the-non-volley-zone/. Specifically, the Q&A pertaining to this is as follows:

      QUESTION: Can the momentum from your volley carry you into the Non-Volley Zone subsequent to the ball bouncing twice on your opponent’s side?
      ANSWER: Your momentum cannot carry you into the kitchen even after the ball is dead (or in this case, bounced twice).

      See you on the courts!

  11. I’m still confused about this rule and I think I’m not the only one? Lol-Maybe I need a visual at the courts to help me understand 🙂

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