Rules

Learn about the rules of pickleball!

Pickleball Rules

Over the past few years, pickleball has been climbing the popularity ladder at an incredibly rapid pace, especially in the United States.

Many parks and recreation centers across the country have included this relatively new sport as part of their programming, allowing anyone and everyone to enjoy it at their own leisure.

With pickleball’s soaring popularity, more and more people are interested in learning the rules of the game, which are somewhat derivative of the rules of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.

Here, we shed light on everything you need to know about pickleball rules, from line rules to singles and doubles rules to the game’s scoring system, so stick around.

Overview

Pickleball is generally played on badminton-sized courts that span 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length. The rules of pickleball are more closely related to the rules of badminton and table tennis than they are to the rules of traditional tennis.

Unlike traditional tennis, pickleball has a no-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen,” close to the nets. In this specific playing area, the ball must bounce before you can hit it.

To add, served balls are required to clear the boundary lines of the non-volley zone and land in the proper serving court. If it doesn’t it’ll be considered a fault. More on that later.

The net in a pickleball court is around two inches lower than the net in a standard tennis court. It’s 34 inches in the middle and 36 inches on each end.

The sport can be played as a singles or doubles game within the same court layout. The basic rules of a doubles game are pretty much the same as the rules of a singles game; the service sequence is modified, though.

Pickleball Line Rules

There are three line rules that you need to bear in mind when playing pickleball. The first rule is that if the ball comes in contact with any line, it’s called an “in.” The only exception to this rule is if the ball comes into contact with a non-volley zone line. The non-volley zone is also known as the “kitchen.”

The second line rule dictates that all serves that come in contact with the lines of the non-volley zone are to be considered “short” and a fault.

The third and final line rule dictates that if the players aren’t sure whether a ball is “in” or not, it’s to be counted as “in.” If you and your teammate are in disagreement, you can refer to the other team and go by their call.

Please note that pickleball can be played in the presence of a referee. If that’s the case, refer to the ref in the event of uncertainty or disagreement.

Pickleball Singles Rules

Singles matches are played to 11 points and the win can be secured by 2 points. Note that only the server can score points. If the receiver commits a fault, the server gets a point. If the server commits a fault, the serve is lost.

The game is initiated by the server from their right-hand side of the court. Upon scoring a point, the server continues serving but has to switch to their left-hand side of the court.

Simply put, if your score is even, as the server, you serve from right-hand court. If your score is odd, you serve from left-hand court.

When serving, both your feet have to be behind the baseline. Only after the serve is struck can either one of your feet touch the baseline or the court. Also, the serve should be an underhand serve and the ball needs to be contacted under your navel level, as the server.

The serve must be made diagonally into the opponent’s opposite service area. Moreover, your opponent has to wait for the serve to bounce before they can return it, and you have to wait for the return to bounce before you return. This is known as the double-bounce rule. More on that shortly. Subsequent strikes are allowed before and after the ball has bounced.

Only a single serve attempt is allowed in a game of pickleball, be it singles or doubles. However, in the event of a “let,” which is when the ball touches the uppermost part of the net and makes it across in the proper service area, the serve is replayed.

Pickleball Doubles Rules

The rules in a doubles game of pickleball are pretty much the same as in a game of singles, but let’s go over them from a double’s perspective.

Doubles games are played to 11 points and only the serving team can score. The server strikes their serve from right-hand court.

Faults committed by the receiving team grant the opposing team a point. If the first server loses the serve by committing a fault, the serve is transferred to the second server.

Now, if the second server loses the serve, the player on the right from the opponent doubles team gets the serve. The same serving sequence is continued throughout the rest of the game.

Upon scoring a point, the two members of the serving team have to switch sides; the receiving team remains the same. If the score is even, the server will serve from right-hand court. When it’s odd, the server will serve from the left-hand court. All other rules are the same as singles.

Double Bounce Rule

We already touched briefly on the double bounce rule in the previous section, but let’s go over it in detail so that you develop a solid understanding of the rule.

The double bounce rule dictates that, upon a ball serve, the receiving team should let the ball bounce before returning the serve.

Then, the serving team must let the ball bounce before returning it back to their opponents. This completes two bounces.

The purpose of this rule is to extend rallies and to get rid of any serve or volley advantage. After fulfilling the two-bounce rule, both teams, whether it’s a singles or doubles game, can volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or ground-hit the ball (hit it off a bounce).

Pickleball Faults

An imperative part of learning how to play pickleball is to learn about the different rule violations that result in a fault.

As stated previously, faults by the serving team result in them losing the serve, and faults by the receiving team result in the opposing team gaining a point.

A fault occurs when:

  • The ball touches the net on serves and returns.
  • The ball is volleyed (struck before it bounces) before the two-bounce rule.
  • The ball doesn’t land within the confines of the receiving court.
  • The ball is struck out of bounds (service box).
  • The ball is volleyed (struck before it bounces) from the non-volley zone.
  • The ball bounces twice before getting hit by the receiving team.
  • The player, their clothing, or their paddle touches the net when the ball is in play.
  • The player violates the one service rule.

Scoring System

In pickleball, serve and score points are calculated differently from similar sports like traditional tennis and badminton.

A pickleball game is played to 11 points, and the win is secured by 2. Points can only be scored by the serving team.

In tournament games, matches are played to 15 or 21 points, and the win is secured by 2 points as well.

Doubles Positioning Movements

In a doubles game of pickleball, the ball is served from the right-hand side of the serving team’s court. It has to be served diagonally across the court to the receiver positioned on the right-hand side of the receiving team’s court.

Before returning the serve to the second server, the receiver must let the ball bounce once. The second server also must let it bounce once before serving it to the second receiver.

After completing two bounces, volleying, and ground-hitting the ball becomes allowed until a fault is committed.

When the receiving team commits a fault, the players representing the serving team must switch positions within the zone without changing who initiates the next serve.

If a fault is committed by the serving team, on the other hand, their positions remain unchanged, but the serve is transferred to the second player. If the second server commits a fault, the other team gets to serve. Simply put, switching sides only occurs when a point is scored.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How Is the First Server Determined?

A coin is tossed to determine which team gets to serve first. The winner also gets to pick which side of the court they want to be on.

Is the Center Line Considered In?

The center line, baselines, and side lines are all considered “in” on a serve. However, if the ball lands on the non-volley zone line, it’s considered a side out.

Where Is the Non-Volley Zone?

The no-volley zone is around 7 feet from each side of the net. Inside the no-volley zone, you’re not allowed to hit the ball before it bounces.

Pickleball Rules: Final Thoughts

While there may seem like lots of pickleball rules the biggest rule should be to have fun! Pickleball is a great way to enjoy yourself while getting some good exercise. Once you get the hang of the rules things will become even more enjoyable.

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