Pickleball Rules Summary

Below is a Pickleball Rules Summary to get you started.
Here are the complete International Federation of Pickleball Official Rules.
Jan 31, 2018 Rules Revisions
Video showing Basic Play Rules

The following is an abbreviated form of the rules from USAPA.org to give a quick overview of how the game is played.  If there is a conflict between this summary and the official rules, the official rules prevail.

Basic Rules Overview

    • Pickleball is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles is most common
    • The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles

The Serve

    • The serve must be made underhand.
    • Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist (navel level).
    • The serve is initiated with at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck.
    • The serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
    • Only one serve attempt is allowed, except in the event of a let (the ball touches the net on the serve and lands on the proper service court; let serves are replayed).

Service Sequence

  • Both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
  • The first serve of each side-out is made from the right/even court.
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court.
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
  • Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right/even court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
  • In singles the server serves from the right/even court when his or her score is even and from the left/odd when the score is odd.

*At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.

Scoring

  • Points are scored only by the serving team.
  • Games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2.
  • Tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by 2.
  • When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right/even court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left/odd court when serving or receiving.

Two-Bounce Rule

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.

Non-Volley Zone

  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  • Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.
  • It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.
  • The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”

Line Calls

  • A ball contacting any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.

Faults

  • A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.

Determining Serving Team

Any fair method can be used to determine which player or team has first choice of side, service, or receive. (Example: Write a 1 or 2 on
the back of the score sheet.

Singles Play: The server serves from the right side of the court when his or her score is even and from the left side when his/ her score is odd.

Self-Referee:  The ball is called in or out by the team on the court where the ball bounces.  If the ball is too close to call by that team, it is in.  Fairness is a virtue!

28 thoughts on “Pickleball Rules Summary

  1. Hello, we play at the Canyon Lake Senior Citizens Center in Rapid City SD. There are some questions about the kitchen faults. My understanding is , if a player sees a ball return coming that will obiovusly
    land in the kitchen he may jump in the kitchen first, then let the ball bounce
    then return it. Is this correct in your view , thanks Dave C.

    • That is correct. There is no regulation about being in the kitchen at any time, you just cannot hit a volley when you are in there or touching the kitchen line or if momentum of yourshot carries you into the kitchen.
      Bob

  2. a ball was returned as a drop shot in the very edge of the kitchen. the player returning the shot went to the outside of the kitchen to get the ball which would have landed out of bounds if he had not tapped it back. the returned ball did not go over the net but went to the side of the net and landed in bunds. Is that OK or must the blll go over the net?

    • It is ok to play the ball around the net post. Go to: http://www.usapa.org/ifp-official-rules/ and click on the IFP Rulebook. See Rule 12.j.3 In this case, the way I understand your question, the ball had not bounced and the only issue would be if the player stepped into the kitchen while returning the volley.

  3. Question: If someone returns the ball and is a drop shot in the kitchen can I return the ball by entering the kitchen. That is the only shot I have. Is this legal?

    • Yes. You can be in the kitchen at any time, you just cannot return a volley while in or touching the kitchen. So it is ok to set yourself up in the kitchen in anticipation of returning the shot after it bounces.

  4. I had a situation come up this morning in recreational doubles play that I would like your clarification on. This was not on a serve, this occurred in the middle of play. My opponent hit a ball that I was heading for to return. My momentum carried me outside the sideline boundaries of the court, and I realized the ball was clearly heading in the direction of going out of bounds so I did not swing at it with my paddle. But my forward motion was such that I was NOW CLEARLY OUT OF BOUNDARY SIDE-LINE, and unavoidable ended up in the trajectory of the ball and it hit me well outside the side-line (after I had already called it “Out”). So the ball was clearly returned-volleyed outside the court when this all took place, but there was nothing I could do to prevent my body from being in the way of being struck, and I had already called the ball out since I was about 2 1/2 feet outside the court when struck.

    I thought this was a fault on our opponents.
    They claimed since the ball hit me, that it was their point.

    I let it go and let them have it, but I’m still left wondering if this was the right call since I know that IN SERVICE PLAY, when you are receiving the serve, if the ball hits your partner, even though he is in the non-receiving box, it is a fault going to the serving side.

    But I did not think this same thing applied to a volley that strikes a player who is outside the court boundaries.

    (BTW, I know that in tournament play you cannot “catch” a ball even when it is already clearly out of bounds. But this circumstance was not one of catching the ball)

    • Mark, this is a fault on you. The same rule applies as catching a serve or the ball striking the partner on a serve. The ball is not technically out till it hits the ground. Since it hit you before the ground it is a fault. Think about a closer call where it would have landed 2 inches out if you would have let it go. If you call it out, and it hit you, nobody, including you, will ever know if it was truly out! If you call a ball out before it hits the ground, it is technically considered partner communication. If you call a ball out after it hits, it is considered an out call and play stops on both sides. That is so you can tell your partner not to hit an out ball. And if you called it out before it hits and it actually landed in, your partner can return it back and play continues. You should not play differently on social play than in tournaments as it develops bad habits. Whether tournament or social, if you catch a serve that is out it should be a fault.
      These situations are covered pretty well in the rules. Go to USAPA.org and look them up. Reading and following the rules is an important part of social and tournament play.

  5. I was told,that I cannot call ” Out ” to my partner,when my partner is going for the ball.Is that correct?

    • As long as the “Out” call is made while the ball is in the air (prior to the ball hitting) it is considered partner communication. See Section 6 Line Calls 6.D.12. You can view Rules in USAPA.org. Here is the rule:
      If, while the ball is in the air, a player yells
      “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other word to
      communicate to his or her partner that the ball
      may be out, it shall be considered player
      communication. If the ball lands in, play will
      continue. If the out call is made after the ball
      has hit the playing surface, it shall be
      considered a line call and play shall stop.
      (revised April 1, 2011)

  6. I am a New player…… Can the Second Bounce’ (following a serve) land in the other team’s No Volley Zone, or must it go beyond that line?

    And, if I call a ball out, but then I hit it, does the other team (the serving team) get the point?

    • On the Second Bounce or Return of Serve, the ball can bounce anywhere in the court.

      If you call a ball that has bounced out and still hit it, there is no fault on your part, but play stops. The call is a legal line call and there is no penalty for hitting it afterword.

  7. A ball bounces just over the kitchen line, the returning player returns the ball then goes in the kitchen. Is this a fault?

    • There is no fault. The only time there is a fault is if the ball is volleyed, or hit in the air and the player’s momentum carried them into the kitchen. Anytime the ball is hit after it bounces there is no kitchen infraction. In fact you can step into the kitchen in anticipation of a ball bouncing and then hit it after it bounces.

  8. Is it legal or a fault to hit/volley (return the ball) in the air while you are standing outside of the sideline or the baseline after the 2 bounce rule has been completed?

    What USAPA rule applies to this situation?

    Thank you.

    • Yes. There is no specific rule that allows it. But there is no rule that identifies it as a fault. Of course, if you are standing outside the sideline or baseline and hit the before it bounces, the ball would have probably been out. The exception would be if you stepped outside the sideline near the non-volley line to return the ball. You are not in the kitchen and therefore no infraction.

  9. Is it considered a fault if a player returns a ball that was technically out. Who is at fault? The person who hit the ball out of bounds or the person who returned the ball that was out of bounds?

    • There is no fault for returning a ball that is called out. The fault occurs at the time the ball lands out of bounds. Therefore, the team/person that hit the ball out is at fault. In fact a good practice would be to return a ball that is close regardless in case it actually ends up landing in, which happens more than we would like.

  10. What happen if I hit the ball over into opponent court (near the net), suddenly the ball itself bounce back over into my court. Is the point belong to me? Thank you.

    • That is a point for you since it landed in their court and they did not return the ball. Same as if it went out of bounds. The other team can reach over the net and hit the ball to prevent a point, one of the only times they can do that.

  11. In doubles, if a return ball hits outside the base line and a player (team A) plays the ball and it is returned for a point against team B does the point count because the returning partner Team A called it out after it was struck outside the baseline ? Same situation but team A played the out ball and failed to return it over the net to team B but team A’s partner had called it out after the return was attempted ?

    • The result is the same whether the ball was returned over the net or into the net. The ball was called out after it landed and play stops. It is a fault against the team that hit the ball out. Everything after that is irrelevant. There is no fault for hitting a ball that has bounced out of bounds and either you or your partner calls it out. In fact if the ball is close you should attempt to return it just in case it actually hits the line. Many times the person returning the shot is watching the ball and the partner will call it out. No fault.
      IFP Rule:
      6.D.7. All “let” or “out” calls must be made “instantly”;
      otherwise the ball is presumed good and still in
      play. “Instantly” is defined as calling “let” or
      “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent
      or before it has gone out of play.

      You can find the rules at http://www.usapa.org

      • I just do not understand “or before it has gone out of play.” A lot of our members are having difficulty with this rule.

    • Not sure of the exact situation based on your post. If you returned a volley (ball had not bounced) and your momentum carried you into the kitchen, it is a fault.
      If you cleanly returned a volley and there was no momentum and you then casually took a step into the kitchen then it is no fault om your side. It is a referee call as to whether you have momentum from the strike. If you have clearly established yourself before the step if makes a difference, but still a ref call.
      If the ball had bounced on your side then there is no kitchen infraction no matter what.
      It makes no difference whether the other side makes a play or not.

  12. is it at fault to return a volley in the air in the NVZ (I jumped to return) and landed behind the NVZ line?

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