For a game that’s in many ways similar to tennis and other racquet sports, pickleball has its own set of unique rules that set it apart. Lucky for you, we’ve broken down the many rules and guidelines in this easy-to-use pickleball rules guide. After a quick read, you’ll be sure to have a better understanding of service rules, non-volley zone rules, and even when to call a fault. Of course, you can always refer back to this guide for a quick reminder!
Basic Pickleball Rules Overview
Pickleball is played as one player per team (singles) or two players per team (doubles). Whether you’re playing singles or doubles, the same court size and playing area are used in both scenarios.
A pickleball court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. When a pickleball net is placed in the center of the court, each team’s playing area is cut down to 20 feet by 22 feet.
When it comes down to playing pickleball for fun, there aren’t any specific rules on which pickleball paddles you can or can’t use to play. However, if you choose to compete, you must follow a set of guidelines created by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). If you need help selecting the right paddle for your level of play, we have a handy pickleball paddle guide that can match you to your perfect pickleball paddle!
Pickleball Service Rules
When serving, the server must stand with at least one foot behind the baseline and cannot step into the playing area until the ball has been struck. However, not any type of serve will do. The serve must be made underhand and the paddle contact with the ball needs to be below the server’s waist. When the ball is struck, the ball must go over the court diagonally and land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court. Only one serve attempt is allowed, except in the event of a let, which is a serve that hits the net cord and lands in the service court.
In a doubles game, both players on the serving team have the opportunity to serve and score until they commit a fault. Then, the serve goes to the opposing team. The first serve of each side is made from the right-hand court, and when a point is made, the server switches sides and initiates a serve from the left side. If points continue to be scored, the server continues switching sides and serving until a fault. Once a fault is made, the serve goes to the other team member and he/she begins serving on the right-hand side. This continues as mentioned above until a fault. Once both team members have served until fault, the serve goes to the opponent. In a singles game, the server serves from the right-hand court when his or her score is even and from the left when the score is odd.
Josh Grubbs from All About Pickleball makes learning about pickleball serving rules a breeze:
Pickleball Scoring Rules
Points are only made by the serving team. Games are played to 11 points and a team must win by 2 points. Competitive tournament games can go up to 15 or 21 points.
When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, etc), the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be on the right-side court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.) that player will be on the left-side court when serving or receiving.
Want to learn more about pickleball scoring? Get the full pickleball scoring system explained here!
Double-Bounce RulesAfter the ball is served, the receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning, then the serving team must let it bounce before returning - two bounces. After the ball has bounced once on each team’s court, both teams can volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke). The double bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage to extend rallies and gameplay.
Non-Volley Zone RulesThe non-volley zone, or “the kitchen,” is the small area of the court located seven feet in front of the net. Volleying is not allowed within the non-volley zone - this rule prevents players from executing smashes (hard, overhand shots usually resulting from an opponent’s high return or high bounce) from a position within the zone. When volleying, a fault occurs if a player steps into the non-volley zone, including the line, or when the player’s momentum causes them to touch the non-volley zone. A fault can also occur after volleying if a player is carried by momentum into the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens. The only time a player can legally be in the kitchen is during a non-volley.
Want additional clarification? Check out this helpful video by The Pickleball Channel:
Line CallsWhen playing pickleball, be sure to keep the ball inside the lines of the playing area of the court. If the ball makes contact with any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, it is considered “in.” However, if a ball contacts the non-volley zone line during service it is considered a fault.
FaultsActions that stop play because of a rule violation are called faults. A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team, and a fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of a serve. There are many instances where a fault can occur, so before your next game make a note of these scenarios:
- A serve does not land within the confines of the receiving court
- The ball is hit into the net
- The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side
- The ball is hit out of bounds
- A ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone
- A ball bounces twice before being struck by the receiver
- A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play
- There is a violation of a service rule
- A ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying
- A ball in play strikes any permanent object before bouncing on the court
Determining Serving Team
No need to overthink which team will start the game. Players can simply use a coin toss to determine who will serve first. The winner of the coin toss will decide which team begins as server or receiver.
Now that you have the rules for pickleball down, get the complete breakdown of all things pickleball with our ultimate beginner’s guide!