Pickleball is a racket sport created for all ages and skill levels. The game is played both indoors and outdoors and can be played as singles or doubles. The basic pickleball rules are simple and easy to learn.
In this article, let’s look at the rules of pickleball and how to play it.
Basic rules of pickleball
Here are a few of the most important rules to remember when playing pickleball. You can learn more about the sport in our Pickleball Beginners Guide.
Players must keep the ball inbounds within the boundaries of the court. There should be only one bounce per side, and the ball is served underhand from the baseline. Games are generally played to 11 points, win by 2.
The game of pickleball is played on a court that is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. There is a net across the center of the court. You need a pickleball paddle (or pickleball racket) and a plastic ball with holes to play the game.
The pickleball game combines badminton, tennis, and table tennis elements. You don’t need any experience or athletic ability to learn it, and it’s easy to pick up.
To win more games, you can use the rules to your advantage if you intend to become more competitive.
Here’s a deeper dive into the official pickleball rules.
Rule 1: Out-of-bounds rule
The ball must remain in bounds to stay in play in pickleball or any other court sport like padel tennis or badminton.
Pickleball’s out-of-bounds rule states that the ball must land within the boundaries of the court. Any shot, except the serve, that lands anywhere on the court is “in” which includes all pickleball court lines. The ball is out if it lands entirely outside the lines on the pickleball court.
A point is awarded to the other team if a player hit the ball out of bounds.
For pickleball beginners, the serve is simply a way to place the ball in play. You can use the serve as an offensive weapon as a higher-level player.
You must make the serve with an underhand stroke to make contact with the ball below the waist. The pickleball serve should land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court. Each server is allowed one serve attempt. The serve must be made from behind the baseline.
A failed serve attempt means that the serve will go directly to your partner or the other side if you play singles.
Serving sequence rules
The serving sequence rules are simple: the first server serves from the right side of the court. After scoring a point, the server switches sides and initiates the next serve from the left side of the court.
Pickleball follows the double-bounce rule. When you serve, the receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning it. Next, the serving team must allow it to bounce before they hit the ball. Therefore, it is known as the Two-Bounce Rule.
A player or team that fails to do either of these things loses the point.
The ball can not bounce twice, there should only be one bounce per side. Like in tennis or padel, the ball can only bounce once on your side of the court before you return it. However, the ball doesn’t have to bounce before being returned. After the Two-Bounce rule, you can volley the ball before it bounces on your side of the net.
In pickleball, the non-volley zone is defined as the area within 7 feet of the net on both sides of the court. It is also known as “the kitchen.”
It is prohibited for players to play volleys in the non-volley zone. The purpose of this rule is to prevent players from executing smashes from within the zone while in it.
The serve can’t land in the no-volley zone
The pickleball may not land in the non-volley zone or on the non-volley zone line. If the pickleball lands inside the “kitchen”, the serve will be lost.
Unlike many other racket sports, pickleball only allows the serving team to score points. As a result, the receiving side cannot score. Every time a point is scored, players on the serving side move from right to left or left to right.
Scores should be called in the following order: server score and receiver score. For doubles only, it’s followed by the server’s number, either 1 or 2.
The game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points
It is common for amateur games to be played up to 11 points, with the winning score being determined by 2 points. Games in tournaments can be 15 or 21 points, with a two-point margin required.
In 2021, there were quite a few controversial changes, and in 2022 there are some significant changes to pickleball rules. Here are a few examples, you can find the complete list at USA Pickleball.
- In 2022, the server shall use only one hand to release the ball to perform the serve.
- The rules concerning what happens if a player or a referee calls the wrong score have changed. If a player thinks a wrong score has been called, a player may stop play to ask for a correction before the ball is served.
- If an extra ball is carried, it must not be visible to the opponent. If a player accidentally drops an extra ball during a rally, it will result in a fault.
- Earbuds will not be permitted on the court during tournaments with the exception of hearing aids.