THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE RULES OF PICKLEBALL
Whether you're brand new to the game or an experienced pickleballer, it's never a bad idea to brush up on the rules of gameplay - but let's get real for a second.
The rules are more confusing than a Rubik's cube made of jello.
I don't care if you're greener than a lime after a rainstorm or more weathered than a park bench in a blizzard, there's no denying that the in's and out's of pickleball rules can make a person crazier than a squirrel on a bird feeder.
We're here to change that.
In this ultimate pickleball rules guide, we'll lay out the basic rules about gameplay, the kitchen, serving, and singles vs doubles games in plain and simple English. We'll polish things up a bit with an FAQ section at the end, too.
Pro-tip: Bookmark this guide for easy access out on the pickleball courts.
PICKLEBALL RULES FOR GAMEPLAY
First, we'll start with the top five rules you need to know to play pickleball.
Points Are Scored Only by the Serving Team
This rule means that only the serving team can score points. The serving team can earn points if the opposing team hits the ball out of bounds or returns the ball improperly.
Two Bounce Rule
The two bounce rule rule, also known as the double bounce rule, only applies to both the serve and returning the serve, but must be met; in short, there has to be one bounce on each side of the court after a pickleball serve.
This means that when the first server serves, the receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning the serve. The serving team must then let the ball bounce once on their side of the court before they can hit the ball.
Once the two bounce rule has been satisfied, both teams can volley the back back and forth or play it off of a bounce. The double bounce rule prolongs rallies and deletes the serve and volley advantage.
The Ball Can Not Go Out of Bounds
If the ball goes out of bounds for any reason at all, this is considered a fault. If the serving player or team is responsible for an out of bounds strike, they lose the next serve. If the opposing team hits the ball out of the playing area, the serving team earns one point.
Whoever Reaches 11, 15, or 21 Points, With a 2-Point Lead, Wins
If a team reaches 11 points with a 2-point lead, they win the game. If there is not a 2-point lead, whichever team reaches 15 or 21 points first, wins the game. The 15 or 21 winning factor is up to the players.
A fault in pickleball can be a number of actions that stops the match due to a rule violation, such as a ball landing out of bounds, the serving player or team serves an improper serve, (say that five times fast), or a player violates one of the kitchen rules.
If the serve from the serving team results in a fault, it's the server's loss and the receiving team becomes the serving team.
If the receiving team commits a fault, a point is awarded to the serving team's score.
PICKLEBALL RULES FOR THE KITCHEN
Ah yes, the dreaded kitchen; the bane of every pickleballer's existence. This refers to the seven foot zone on either side of pickleball courts closest to the net.
Let's go over the rules of the forbidden no volley zone so you don't make a rookie mistake.
You Can Not Volley in the Kitchen
Imagine there's an invisible laser wall on the non volley zone line. If you step into the non volley zone, onto the non volley zone line, or if your paddle or any article of clothing touches that laser wall before hitting a volley, it's considered a fault.
You Can Hit Groundstrokes in the Kitchen
On the other hand, if the opponent's return shot lands in the non volley zone, you can dance around the kitchen all you want to return the shot. This is known as a dink.
PICKLEBALL RULES FOR SERVING
Now that we've covered the gameplay and non volley zone rules of pickleball, let's jump to the serving rules of pickleball.
Serves Must Be Dealt Underhand, Below the Waistline, Diagonally
A pickleball serve must hit the ball with an underhand stroke, and the ball must make contact with the paddle below your waistline. The serve must also land on the opposite diagonal court from your position.
You Must Serve at the Baseline, Away From the Sideline and Center Line
We're gonna to use the invisible laser wall example again; but this time, imagine the deadly lasers extending from the sidelines and center line of the pickleball court.
The serving sequence is just a fancy way of saying that players take turns serving, but it's a bit different between a single and doubles game.
In singles, whenever a point is scored, the serving team becomes the opposing team.
In doubles, the players on the serving team alternate between points - except for the first service sequence of the game. Let me explain.
At the start of a new game, only one partner from the serving team can serve until fault, and they must serve from the right court. Once the first server loses the first serve of the game to a fault, the service passes to the opposing team. When the service passes to the other team, it's called a side out.
The first serve of each side out is made from the right court, and the server switches sides and continues to serve for every point scored. Once that server loses the serve by committing a fault, the next serve goes to their partner. Their partner continues to serve until his/her team commits a fault, and the service sequence continues.
Only one serve attempt is allowed per server.
Serves Can Not Land in the Non Volley Zone
PICKLEBALL RULES: SINGLES VS DOUBLES
Before we wrap things up with some FAQs, let's take a quick look at the rules of playing doubles vs playing singles. Everything is the same with the exceptions listed below.
For reference, a singles game refers to two players, one on each side of the court, while a double game refers to two players, two on each side of the court.
Pickleball Rules for Singles
When serving in a singles match, the first serve must be served from the right side of the serving team's court, and the server continues serving until the server loses a point.
The server switches sides if he/she scores a point on the first serve, but if the receiving team scores a point, neither player switches sides.
Subsequent serves are to be served on a certain side of the court dependent on the server's score. If the server has an even numbered score, they serve from the right side of the server's court. If the server has an odd numbered score, they serve from the left side of the server's court. Don't factor in the opponent's score.
Lastly, the serve alternates between each point scored.
Pickleball Rules for Doubles
When it comes to rules for a doubles game, points are only scored by the serving team. The receiving team can not score points.
When serving the first serve of the game, the serve must be dealt from the player on the right side of the court. If a point is scored, the first server moves to the left side. The server continues switching sides each time a point is scored, but the receiving team never switches sides.
The first server of the game continues serving until the serving team loses a rally through a fault of their own. At that point, the serve goes to the other team.
The first server of the side out serves until fault, and the serve then goes to the second server on his/her team. The second server initiates the serve until committing a fault, and at that point the serve passes to their opponents. The player on the right serves first.
What are the 3 etiquettes of pickleball?
The three etiquettes of pickleball are to respect your opponents, call your own faults, and be ready to play when it's your turn. In other words, don't take long breaks between points or games.
What are 5 common mistakes that beginner pickleball players often make?
The five common mistakes that beginner pickleball players often make are misunderstanding the non volley zone, hitting the ball out of bounds, gripping their paddle improperly, failing to anticipate the direction of the ball, and not knowing how to control the pace of the game.
Can you toss the ball up when serving in pickleball?
No, you can not toss the ball up when serving in pickleball. This will be counted as a fault seeing as the serve must be dealt with an underhand motion behind the baseline, and the ball must make contact with the paddle below the waist.
What are illegal serves in pickleball?
Some examples of illegal serves in pickleball include not serving underhand, hitting the ball out of bounds or in the no volley zone, tossing the ball up before a serve attempt, serving from the wrong court, not serving the ball high enough, and failing to serve diagonally.
How does a pickleball game end?
A traditional pickleball game ends when a team reaches 11 points with a two-point lead. If the winning team does not have a two-point lead, the first team to reach either 15 or 21 points wins. Determining between the two is up to the players.
How many games in a pickleball match?
There are typically three pickleball games in a match. Whichever team wins two out of the three matches wins the match.
There you have it; the basic rules of how to play pickleball. With this guide at your disposal, you can quickly pull up rules about gameplay, the non volley zone, serving, and playing pickleball singles or doubles game while out on your local courts.
If you loved this guide, let us know in the comments below and subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this. You'll also get a code for 20% off your first paddle and free shipping.