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.
Pickleball – How the Game is Played
- Similiar 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 to 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
- Points are only won by the serving team when the serving team wins a rally or the receiving team commits a fault. The receiving team cannot score points.
- The person serving announces the score. When playing doubles, the score consists of – and is announced as – 3 numbers: (1) the server's team score, (2) the opponents score and (3) the server number (either 1 or 2).
- Serving a pickleball must be executed under-handed.
- 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 to 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 refered 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.
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.
First introduced in 2010, the USA Pickleball/IFP Rulebook is a document consisting of 81 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.
Rule Changes for 2023
Pickleball Rule Changes for 2023
Every year there are rule changes in the sport of pickleball. And 2023 is no different. The following rule changes for 2023 have been approved by both the USA Pickleball Rules Committee and the USA Pickleball Board of Directors and are slated to become “official” on January 1, 2023. With the ban of the “chainsaw” serve a year ago, there was much anticipation to see if the legal-for-2022, one-handed spin ...
Pickleball rules with respect to the serve always generate heated discussion and debate. Here are a handful of rule clarifications and scenarios about the serve. You may be surprised.
Legal or Illegal Pickleball Serve? What say You?
It’s a common refrain heard at YMCA’s and rec centers wherever pickleball is played: “Your pickleball serve is illegal!” And, unfortunately, the illegal serve accusations frequently come from those who ...
Pickleball Serve Hits Receiver’s Partner in Air Before Bouncing — Fault? Point? You Make the Call!
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: You serve the ball and the served ball hits the receiver’s partner. Fault? What’s the call? Don’t Interfere with the Flight of the ...
Initial Service & Side for Decisive Third Game — Switch Again or Reflip the Coin? What Say You?
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: A coin is flipped at the beginning of the match to determine serve & side. At the end of the 1st game, serve ...
Pickleball Service Foot Faults & Imaginary Extensions — What You Need to Know!
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: During the serve, the server’s feet are positioned outside of the imaginary extension of the sideline. The opponents miss the return. What’s the ...
Pickleball Swing-and-a-Miss on the Serve — Try Again? What Say You? What is the “Official” Rule?
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: You attempt the serve, but swing and miss. Try again? What’s the call? In both tennis and ping-pong, if you swing at the ...
Rules in The Non-Volley Zone
The rules about what's legal in-and-around the non-volley zone generally elicits 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.
Groundstroke Momentum and the Non-Volley Zone — Pickleball Rule Clarification
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 ...
Pickleball Kitchen Rules: Know When to Stay Out
Regardless of your skill level, positioning yourself at the kitchen line is a must-adhere-to strategy to play winning pickleball. Whether you are a beginner, an advanced player – or anything ...
Come Into the Kitchen [Pretty Much] Anytime – Just Don’t Volley While in There!
One of the primary differentiations between tennis and pickleball is that, unlike in tennis, in pickleball, there is a non-volley zone (most often referred to as a kitchen) in which ...
Hat Falls Off and Into the Pickleball Kitchen — You Make the Call!
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: You’re wearing a hat to play pickleball. The hat falls into your own Non-Volley Zone while you execute a groundstroke from behind the ...
Disagreement Over a NVZ Infraction in a Non-Officiated Match — What’s the Call?
You Make the Call! Here’s the Scenario: In a non-officiated pickleball match, (and from the other side of the net) you notice your opponent has their foot on the NVZ ...
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 that play with you will thank you.
Pickleball Etiquette — Unwritten Rules (until now) for the Pickleball Newbie… and for some Experienced Players too!!!
If you’re a pickleball newbie, you can download the USAPA & IFP Official Tournament Rulebook to find the “official” rules about how to play the game of pickleball. Etiquette “rules,” on the other hand, are generally unwritten – yet equally as important. Top 10 Pickleball Etiquette Rules Here are my top 10 etiquette rules for pickleball – rules that you won’t find in any official pickleball tournament handbook or rulebook: ...
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