Pickleball Rules: The Basics

Learn The Basic Rules of How to Play Pickleball

Pickleball is a fun and engaging sport that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong and is suitable for players of all ages and skill levels. If you’re new to the game, this article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the basic rules of pickleball.

Court and Equipment:

Court Size: Pickleball is typically played on a rectangular shaped court that measures 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. The net that divides the court stands at 36 inches at the posts and 34 inches high in the middle.

Paddles: Pickleball paddles are solid, rectangular-shaped, and made of various materials, including wood, composite, or graphite. They must not have any perforations or holes.

Ball: Pickleballs are perforated plastic balls that come in various colors. The most commonly used ball has 40 round holes and weighs approximately 0.9 ounces.

Gameplay is typically a doubles sport but can be played as a singles match as well. The playing area and rules are the same for either doubles or single pickleball games.

Gameplay Rules:

Starting the Game: The game begins with one team serving the ball diagonally across the net to the opposing team.

Serving: When serving, the team must serve from behind the baseline with an underhand swing. The server keeps one foot behind the baseline and contacts the ball below the waist. The serve must clear the net and land in the diagonal service court on the opposite side. Serving always starts on the right side of the court by whichever player is currently in that position.

Only one serve is allowed if the server faults. One exception is if the serve touches the net and goes over into the correct service court, it is a “let” and is replayed without penalty.

Servers continue to serve until a fault is committed by their team. During the opening serve of the game, only one player serves, switching sides between serves if no faults are committed by their team. Once a fault is committed, the serve switches to the opposing team.

After the opening serve of the game, however, both players of a team will be allowed to serve during their team’s turn. The player on the right side serves first regardless of who served the previous turn. Since players switch sides between serves, either player may end up on the right side depending on when the other team gained control of serving.

Double Bounce Rule: After the serve, the opposing team must let the ball bounce once, then the returning team (originally served) must also let the ball bounce before contact.

Non-Volley Zone, also called “Kitchen”: The non-volley zone is a 7-foot area on either side of the net, and players are not allowed to step in this zone to volley (hit the ball without letting it bounce). However, players can enter the non-volley zone to play a ball that has bounced.

pickleball court diagram

Faults: A fault is a mistake that results in the loss of the point. Common faults include failing to serve the ball over the net, stepping into the non-volley zone (often called the “kitchen”) during a volley, and hitting the ball out of bounds.

Out of Bounds: A ball that lands outside the court’s boundary lines is considered out. If the ball lands on the boundary line, it is considered in. Players are responsible for making their own line calls. If there’s a dispute, it’s common to replay the point.

Scoring: Traditionally, points are only scored on the serve. However, some players prefer to use rally scoring, meaning that a point can be won by either the serving or receiving team upon winning a rally. Games are typically played to 11, 15, or 21 points, and you must win by at least two points. 

Pickleball is a fantastic way to exercise and enjoy friendly competition. These are just the basics and official rules can be found at USA Pickleball.

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