Pickleball Rules and Regulations: A Complete Guide

Like any other sport, pickleball rules are rules all players should follow, from where to stand to how points are awarded. And you’re losing points to your opponents for not knowing all the game rules. 

So, if you want to keep playing and winning, always come back to the rules of pickleball. We aim to cover every rule and how to avoid faults, so buckle up for this pickleball rules-learning lesson!  

pickleball rules

The Court

First, you want to understand the court and its zones before you get to the actual pickleball rules.

●      The court is the same size as a badminton court. It is 44 ft (13.41 meters) long and 20 ft (6.09 meters) wide, with a net hanging 91.5 cm (about 3 ft) on the sides and 86.4 cm (about 2.83 ft) at the centre.

●      The non-volley Zone or the kitchen extends 7 ft from the net, and here, no player should set foot (more on this later).  

●      The area behind the kitchen includes the centerline, baseline, and sidelines. You and your partner can use these zones strategically to win the sets. However, you must not break any rules to get points.  


Any pickleball player aims to win the rally by executing a hit the opponent can’t return. A rally is when the ball stays in play — the opponents return shots while positioning themselves to gain an advantage. Every rally begins with a serve, and your goal should be to perfect your serves. 

 But what is a rally? A rally is when the ball stays in play. Each rally begins with a serve.

Let’s see what you ought to know about serving in pickleball.

When to serve:

Serves in racket sports are either underhand or overhand. Underhand serves are where a player’s arm makes an upward arc and must remain below their waist as they make a shot. On the other hand, an overhand serve is when a player tosses the ball in the air before hitting it with their hand over the head. 

Pickleball is considered less exhausting since serves are underhand. Underhand is easier for beginners than overhand, requiring less power and coordination. Serves in pickleball can further be grouped into two official types: drop serves and volley serves. 

Drop Serves

Drop serves are made when the ball hits the ground. You toss the ball, then hit it when it bounces off the ground. Remember that the toss should be in a drop dead, meaning you should not apply extra force (bounce) during the toss. So, lift the ball as high as possible to make it bounce slightly higher and easier to hit. 

Volley Serves

Volley serves borrow from the word volley, which means a shot made before a ball bounces. So, volley serves are made before the ball hits the ground.   

Now that you’ve learned to serve, what are the rules of serving in pickleball?

Where to stand

Server- The server must stand behind the baseline, one foot on the ground, while the other can hover over the imaginary baseline lines. Your foot must not hit the ground before you hit the ball, or else the serve will be declared a fault. So, avoid standing too close to the baseline. 

Server’s Partner- When you’re serving, your partner has many options for position. They can stand anywhere within the court, including near the kitchen, off the sideline, or behind the baseline, depending on where the opponents are likely to hit. 

Hit diagonally

The server should hit the ball diagonally and ensure it falls within the opponent’s court. So, what happens when your service is declared a fault? 

 If you commit a fault during a service, there is a side out, meaning your opponent gains the right to serve. In simpler terms, the serve also goes to your opponent when you fail to win the rally. Remember, only one serve is allowed per server, unlike in tennis, where players can attempt two. So, check out blogs on how to improve your service.

Mistakes that could fault your serve:

●      Failure to clear the net. Consider improving your serving skills to avoid hitting the net. 

●      Setting foot in the baseline during the serve. Stay within but not too close to the baseline when serving.

●      Failure to clear the kitchen. The ball must not land in the non-volley zone after being served. 

●      Shooting out of bounds — outside the sidelines or behind the baseline.

Other rules in pickleball: 

The two-bounce pickleball rule 

The two-bounce rule is unique to pickleball. After a serve, the ball must bounce once on the left and right sides of the court before the players can volley. This rule eliminates any unfair advantage either team could gain. 

No volleying in the kitchen

The kitchen is called the non-valley zone because you should let the ball bounce before you return. Players should not have any body part in the kitchen during play or allow their bodies’ momentum to carry them to this zone. 

Why did pickleball inventors introduce this rule? Returning a shot near the net makes volleying easy, giving you an unfair advantage over your opponents. The inventors noticed volleying in the kitchen always put the opponents on defense and took away the fun of the game.

Winning points

In pickleball, you only get points from your serve. You don’t win a point if you’re on the receiving side. You and your opponent get a server or receiver score depending on who’s serving. So, what happens if you fault? (The next rule answers this question)

Taking turns to serve

If you fault and lose a rally, your opponent earns the right to serve. Can players serve on any side? No. At the start of the game, the team on the right side (even the court) makes the first serve, and if a point is earned, the server moves to the left side to serve again. 

In pickleball doubles — you and your partner alternate sides after earning a point while your opponents cannot move. The player on the even court is called server one, while the other is server two, and you’ll see why this is important in the next rule. 


Some basic rules of scoring in pickleball include: 

●      A game is played up to 11 points, but you must be 2 points ahead of your opponent to win a set. For instance, the points can be more if the teams tie 10-10 or more. 

●      You must call the score verbally before every serve (more about pickleball scoring later).

●       Pickleball matches use the three-best format, where players or teams play in a series of up to three games. If a player wins the first two games, the match ends without playing the third game. But if each player wins each game, they must play a deciding third game.

Pickleball scoring for doubles

You must have heard players shouting numbers on the court, “…three, three, one or zero, zero, two,” and wondered what they meant. This is the score and must be called as three numbers. So, what does each number represent? 

The score is the server score, receiver score, and the server number in that order. Servers numbers 1 and 2 work for one serving at a time. Beginner players might mistakenly assume that the server number is the same throughout the play.

Let’s try to understand a pickleball score; say you have 2 points, your opponent has 1 point, and you’re starting the serve. You call out “2-1-1” and then serve, and if you lose the rally, your opponent announces “2-1-2” and then serves. 

Singles scoring is like doubles scoring, except there is no server number.

Traditional vs. Rally Scoring 

Traditional scoring seems much more reliable as it awards victory to the team or player with the unique skills required to win rallies while serving — arriving to the kitchen, hitting a quality third shot, and winning the dink rally. And this is the essence of the game. 

Rally scoring, on the other hand, is a dramatic plot twist. Players get points from every rally, and for many long-time pickleballers, this type of scoring discredits the importance of winning on service rallies. 

Differences between traditional and rally scoring

In traditional scoring, you score when you serve. If you or your opponent commits a fault during service, it doesn’t result in a loss of points. Conversely, you and your opponent can earn points for every rally in rally scoring.

Traditional scoring appreciates strategy more than rally scoring. Think of rally scoring as a race to earn more points than your opponent rather than overanalyzing moves and countermoves. If this doesn’t sound fun, rally scoring is not for you. Traditional scoring is slow-paced and more strategic.

Stay connected to the sport you love 

If you are curious about pickleball or researching someone you care about — a sport to help you bond with your partner and kids or an exercise for your folks, this is the right platform for you. 

At Pickleball Pit, you’re guaranteed credible information about the sport, from the rules, tips and tricks to advanced skills to elevate your games. We are also excited to connect you with other pickleballers to share the love of the game.

Remember to always have fun on the court!  

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