Pickleball Rules – Your Quick-Start to Playing Pickleball

The Pickleball Rules here will provide you with a quick start to the game. For an official in depth analyses simply download The “Official” Pickleball Rules below.

The Game Overview

Pickleball like tennis, is both a single and doubles game with doubles being the most common at most levels of play and competition.

Pickleball UNLIKE tennis however, uses the same court size and rules for both singles and doubles play (with just one serving position exception for singles play). The court size is the same dimensions as badminton which is almost half the size of a tennis court.

The game starts with serving the ball over a net similar to a tennis net and play continues much like any net/racquet game by hitting the plastic ball (with holes) back and forth over the net until somebody essentially hits a winning shot or the opposing side messes up.

Who serves to start the game first

A winning coin toss is used to determine who will serve first. The winner has the option to choose what side they wish to start play or to serve or receive.


Points are scored only by the serving team.  With the exception of the first serving side where only one player (not two) will serve and hold serve until they fault or lose the point, play then moves to the other side and after both servers on that side have served and faulted or lost the resulting play, the serve is handed back to the opposition side.

Games are normally played to 11 points with a 2 point margin required to win. If required, games are extended past the 11 point mark until one side wins by 2 points.

Tournament games may be to a score of 15 or 21, but a win still requires a margin of 2 points.

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-side court when serving or receiving; when the serving teams score is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.

Pickleball Rules - Serving

The Serve

·         The serve must be made underhanded

·         Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist which has been defined as Belly Button level and the paddle shoulder must be below the wrist. (a horizontal round arm action could easily violate this rule).

·         Like tennis, you must be behind the base line and inside the sideline when the served ball is struck.  This means that you can be as far back from the baseline and outside the sideline as far as you please before you hit the ball to serve but you must be inside the sideline and behind the baseline when the ball is struck.

·         You serve diagonally crosscourt, always starting play from the right side and a serve must land on or within the designated lined area of the opposite diagonal court. This means that if the ball lands on any part of the side of base lines it is in. The exception line of this rule is the kitchen line which is the line closest to the net and any ball landing on this line is out of play and called a fault and the serve is lost.

·         Only one serve attempt is allowed, except in the event of a let. A let is where the ball touches the net on the serve and lands on or within the designated lined area of the opposite diagonal court. Let serves are replayed. There is no limit to the number of “let” serves allowed.

Service Sequence

Both players in double play serve in any set play. The player on the right of the court will serve first and continue until they serve a fault or the resulting game play is lost. Player two will then serve until they serve a fault or the resulting game play is lost.

Points are only scored when you or your partner serve. If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the next serve is made from that side of the court. This continues until a serve fault or resulting game play is lost and serve is then made by player two.

When both servers have either faulted or lost game play from their serve, serve then passes to the opposing players who then serve the same routine and serving first from the right hand side of the court.

Pickleball Rules Anomaly 

The only exception to both players serving is for the first service sequence of each new game where only one server will serve and serve will change to the opposing players upon fault or the resulting initial game play is lost.

In singles play, the server serves from the right-hand court when his or her score is even and from the left when the score is odd.

Double-Bounce Rule

Unlike tennis, the double bounce rule eliminates the scoring power of the initial serve and volley sequence often seen in tennis and its restriction contributes to longer game play or rallies

The double bounce rule simply means that when the ball is served, the receiving player must let it bounce before hitting it back, and then the serving team must also let it bounce before hitting it back. Thus two bounces which is the Double-Bounce Rule. Either side can then volley the ball if they choose, – (hit it before it bounces) – offering a distinct advantage in most game play.

Non-Volley Zone often referred to as the Kitchen

The non-volley zone (or Kitchen area) is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net. Volleying (which simply means hitting the ball before it bounces) is prohibited within the kitchen.  The “kitchen” rule eliminates the scoring power of smashes from a position within the kitchen.

If when volleying a ball, the player steps on or over the kitchen line or anything they are wearing or carrying (paddle for example) touches same as a result of their shot momentum, the point is deemed to be a fault even if the volleyed ball is declared a winner before this happens.

You can legally be in the kitchen at any time other than when volleying a ball. This means you can step into the kitchen at any time and to also return a ball that has bounced in it but you cannot volley a ball (hit it before it bounces) while in the kitchen.

For absolute clarity here, if your momentum from a winning point takes you or any part of your playing equipment into the kitchen defined as touching the ground including the kitchen line or net, it is declared a fault.

It is not a fault if you have stopped all forward momentum that would involuntarily violate the kitchen and then you deliberately step into the kitchen including on the kitchen line.  

Line Calls

·         A ball contacting any line in the designated receiving side court, except the non-volley zone line (kitchen line) on a serve, is considered “in.”

·         A serve contacting the kitchen line is a fault.


·         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 and moves to the second player. If the second server faults (or play is lost from that serve), their side is out (out of serve) and play moves to the other side.

A fault occurs when:

·         A serve does not land within the confines of the receiving court

·         The ball is hit into the net on the serve or any return

·         The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side – (the two bounce or Double Bounce rule)

·         The ball is hit out of bounds

·         A ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone (in the kitchen)

·         A ball bounces twice before being struck by the receiver

·         A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play

·         A ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying

·         There is a violation of a service rule

·         A ball in play strikes any permanent object before bouncing on the court

Pickleball Rules Nutshell Wrap

And there are the Pickleball rules in a nutshell to get you up and playing the game fast with all you need to know for a good fun game.

Right click the Pickleball Rules Official Tournament Rule Book and "Save As" to download to your device.

However, the Pickleball Rule for first service can seem confusing to new start players and older players (like me) however lets quickly explain this anomaly of the game with  Pickleball Rule Number One – The First Service

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