Rules of Pickleball
Since pickleball was invented by a small group of bored guys a few short decades ago, the rules of pickleball are not hard to learn. While there are a few quirks with how the game is played, basic pickleball rules are easy to pick up.
The official rules are established and maintained by the official governing body: USA Pickleball Association (USAPA.) When you compare them to tennis or golf, pickleball rules are downright plain vanilla and are great for everyone including beginners.
3 Key Philosophies of Pickleball Rules
1. Sportsmanship Overrides Everything
Pickleball is a highly social and fun game where the benefit of the doubt is always to go to your opposing team. For example, regarding line calls if one partner calls the shot out and the other calls it in, it is in.
2. Extended Rallies are Promoted in Playing Pickleball
The non-volley zone and the double bounce rule (see below) are there to force longer points whenever possible. Encouraging all players to hit the ball is part of this.
3. Everybody Can Play
The relatively small court and the way the ball bounces are deliberately set up to allow the broadest possible participation regardless of age or physical condition.
Basic Rules to Play Pickleball
No Volley Zone
The 7 foot box on both sides of the net is also called the kitchen. The no volley zone includes the non-volley zone line which is important for several reasons.
Simply put, you cannot touch the no volley zone including the non-volley line when hitting the ball in the air. You also cannot allow your momentum to carry you within the non-volley zone.
Volleying the ball anywhere else on the court is permitted except when the ball is served to the receiving team and on their return (see double bounce rule below). If the ball bounces in the non-volley zone, a player is permitted to immediately enter the zone and hit the ball after the ball bounce. In other words, a player can enter the non-volley zone but can't touch the ball in the air - ever.
The serving team (or in the case of singles the server) must both stand behind the baseline and the server must have at least one foot on the ground. After the serve they can move from behind the baseline but are not required to do so.
Regular or Drop Serve
A legal serve has the server dropping the ball and either hitting it below their waist in the air or after it bounces. The paddle must be angled toward the floor.
The serve must travel diagonally cross court to the receiving team side of the net and into the proper service court. The serving team gets only one serve attempt. If the server serves the ball out of bounds or into the non-volley zone including the non-volley zone line, the server loses and the receiving team wins. In other words, this team commits a fault, or it is the server's loss.
In a situation with the serve contacting the net, if it is otherwise in, a let is called, and it is replayed. If it lands out, then it is a fault.
If the first server commits a fault, then the service passes to their partner (the second server) into the opposite diagonal court. In playing doubles or singles if the first serve is won by the serving team, that server switches sides and that server continues serving and switching sides as long as they continue to score points.
There is an exception on the first point only of a doubles game of pickleball. Here, if the serving doubles team commits a fault or fails to win the point, the other team takes over the serve and they continue alternating service courts until both commit a fault or fail to score points.
Receiving by the Opposing Team
Unlike the serving team, the receiving team can stand anywhere on the pickleball court, but they must let the ball bounce on the correct side of the court. Once the ball is served successfully and the ball hits the ground, they can move anywhere keeping in mind the non-volley zone rules.
Each team is responsible for calling their own lines and decides if the ball touches a line causing it to be in or out. Remember, if the serving team hits a serve that hits the non-volley zone line on the receiving team's court it is out. A ground stroke that hits the baseline or sideline is in regardless of who hits it.
Double Bounce Rule
The double or two bounce rule is designed to eliminate the serve and volley advantage. This rule dictates that the ball must bounce on each side of the court before any volley can be hit either within the non-volley zone or outside of it.
In other words, the serve must not be a fault and the return must be allowed to bounce on the serving side of the court. This eliminates any poaching by the serving team on the return of serve.
Official Rules for Scorekeeping
The score is announced by the server before the next serve is struck. The server initiates a point by announcing the serving team results first, followed by the receiving team score followed by announcing whether they are the first server (announce "on one") or the second server (announce "on two".)
Only one partner can announce his or her score for the team. On most pickleball courts a game is to 11 but tournaments may have higher totals to be named the winning team.
The serving team's score must reach the winning total by two points before the game is over. A new game begins with the same first service sequence as in a first game.
Official Rules Prevail
As issued by the USAPA the rules prevail over any local customs that may arise. However, tournaments are where they are most vigorously enforced, and it is in every player's best interest to learn these rules so as to prevent arguments and ill will on the court.
Pickleballpaddles.com has a huge supply of paddles for everyone from beginners to pros. There are many choices from wood to fiberglass composite to graphite and even carbon fiber. Our friendly group of pickleball experts can help you pick out what is best for you. Call us!
This sport is fun and the best time to get started is today!