Basic Rules to Pickleball – An Overview

While it’s certainly fun to get out on the court and start playing a game, there are a few basic pickleball rules with which you should first familiarize yourself.

How the Game is Played

  • Similar to tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. However, doubles is currently more popular.
  • Whether you’re playing doubles or singles, the rules of pickleball are the same. Scoring, however, is slightly different.
  • Games are typically played to 11 points, win by 2. 

Scoring Points and Announcing the Score

Serving Rules

  • Serving a pickleball must be executed underhanded.
  • The serve must go diagonal across the net and land beyond the opponent’s non-volley zone. (Because the non-volley line is part of the non-volley zone, if the ball touches any part of the non-volley line on the serve, it is a fault).
  • New in 2021 & 2022 – Drop Serve – A player is now allowed to drop the ball (however, you cannot propel the ball upward or downward) and hit the serve after it bounces.
  • The server gets only one attempt at the serve – Beginning in 2021, lets are live balls and are not replayed.
  • If the serving team wins the rally, a point is scored. The server and his/her partner switch sides and serves to the receiver in the opposite court.
  • Both players on the team will get the opportunity to serve and score points before relinquishing the serve to the opponents.
  • If both players on the serving team have served — or if it’s after the first serving rotation of the game, then it’s a “side-out” and the team receiving serve will now become the serving team.

What is the Double Bounce Rule?

One of the unique rules of pickleball is the double bounce – or two-bounce rule. The two-bounce rule states that the ball has to bounce one time on each side of the court before any player is allowed to hit the ball out of the air.

  • The receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning the serve.
  • The serving team must also let the ball bounce before hitting it out of the air. (Hint: If you’re the serving team, don’t creep up after the serve).
  • After the ball has bounced once on each side you can hit the ball out of the air.

Non-Volley Zone (the Kitchen)

A second unique rule to pickleball relates to the non-volley zone, more commonly referred to as “the kitchen.” The non-volley zone is a 2-dimensional area that extends 7 feet from the net on each side, sideline to sideline.

  • You cannot volley a ball within the non-volley zone.  The rules, indeed, allow you to enter the non-volley zone whenever you want. You simply cannot hit the ball out of the air while in there. (Hint: Although allowed, it doesn’t make a whole lot of strategic sense to loiter in the non-volley zone since you cannot hit the ball out of the air while in there).
  • When hitting the ball out of the air – including the forward momentum from the act of volleying the ball – you cannot step in the non-volley zone, nor touch the non-volley line. 

For more clarification on the non-volley zone (kitchen), be sure to check out our Kitchen Rules FAQs.

Faults

A fault is a “rules violation that results in a dead ball and the end of the rally.”A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team. A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve and a side-out if it was the 2nd server. Some of the more common (but not an exhaustive list) faults include:

  • Hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces at least one time on your side.
  • Hitting the ball into the net.
  • Hitting the ball out-of-bounds.
  • Hitting the ball after it has bounced on your side more than once.
  • Volleying the ball while in the NVZ or touching the NVZ line.

Rule Clarifications

First introduced in 2010, the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook is a document consisting of approximately 80 pages — covering everything from pickleball court & equipment specifications, to the serve, scoring, faults, the non-volley zone, and much more.

Perusing the official rulebook may seem like a daunting task, particularly for the pickleball newbie. That’s precisely why we have compiled a listing of pickleball rules clarifications and interpretations for many of the common — and not-so-common — scenarios that happen on the pickleball courts.

Pickleball Rules to Know in 2024

Serving Rules

Pickleball rules concerning the serve always generate heated discussion and debate. Here are a handful of rule clarifications and scenarios about the serve. You may be surprised.

Rules in The Non-Volley Zone

The rules about what’s legal in-and-around the non-volley zone generally elicit strong opinions – particularly for those not knowledgeable about the “official” rules. Here are some scenarios and examples that may very well generate discussion at your local courts.

Pickleball Rules – A Bit More Random…

The following scenarios and rule interpretations could not be neatly categorized. They’re somewhat random – yet, important to know – so that you don’t needlessly give away points the next time you play.

Pickleball “Unwritten” Rules

Similar to countless other sports, there are also “unwritten” rules to pickleball of which you should be aware. We’ll call them pickleball “etiquette best practices” — at least, according to me. Be sure to check out these “rules” as well. Your opponents and those who play with you will thank you.

Attention HR Directors & Executives: Add Pickleball to your Corporate Wellness Programming to Keep your Employees Healthy, Engaged & Motivated!
It’s fun. It’s social. It’s active. It reduces stress and it will ignite positive lifestyle modifications in the lives of your employees!  Pickleball is a unique and effective employee wellness…
Read more → Attention HR Directors & Executives: Add Pickleball to your Corporate Wellness Programming to Keep your Employees Healthy, Engaged & Motivated!