What Are The 5 Rules of Pickleball: A Comprehensive Guide

Pickleball is a fast-growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It’s fun, engaging, and accessible to players of all ages and skill levels. To fully enjoy the game and ensure fair play, it’s essential to understand its rules.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the five critical rules of pickleball, from serving to doubles play, and even touch on proper etiquette and sportsmanship.


Pickleball is a unique racquet sport played on a court with a net, using a perforated plastic ball and paddles. As the sport continues to gain popularity, more people are eager to learn and understand its rules. Knowing the rules not only enhances your enjoyment of the game but also promotes fair play and healthy competition.

Rule 1: The Serve

The serve is a crucial aspect of pickleball, as it sets the stage for each rally. Here are the key components of the serve:

Underhand Serve Requirement

In pickleball, the serve must be executed as an underhand motion, with the paddle contacting the ball below waist level. This requirement ensures that serves are less aggressive and more controllable than in other racquet sports like tennis.

Serving from Behind the Baseline

The server must stand behind the baseline when initiating the serve. Stepping on or over the baseline before contacting the ball results in a fault, and the server loses their turn.

Diagonal Service to the Correct Service Box

The server must aim their serve diagonally, targeting the service box on the opposite side of the court. If the served ball fails to land within the designated service box, it’s considered a fault.

Double-Bounce Rule for the Serve and Return of Serve

The double-bounce rule, also known as the two-bounce rule, is an essential aspect of pickleball. This rule states that both the serve and the return of serve must bounce once on each side of the court before either player can volley the ball (hit it out of the air without letting it bounce). This rule encourages longer rallies and strategic gameplay.

Rule 2: The Non-Volley Zone (Kitchen)

The non-volley zone, often referred to as the kitchen, is a critical area on the pickleball court. Understanding and respecting this zone is vital for successful gameplay.

Definition of the Non-Volley Zone

The non-volley zone is a seven-foot-wide area that extends from the net on both sides of the court. This zone plays a crucial role in pickleball strategy, as it prevents players from aggressively smashing the ball at close range.

Prohibition of Volleys Within the Kitchen

Players are not allowed to hit a volley (strike the ball out of the air without letting it bounce) while standing within the non-volley zone. Doing so results in a fault, and the opposing team gains a point or the right to serve.

Stepping into the Kitchen After a Volley

If a player volleys the ball and then steps into the non-volley zone, it’s considered a fault. Players must ensure they maintain proper positioning and avoid entering the kitchen after executing a volley.

Strategies to Utilize the Non-Volley Zone Effectively

Smart pickleball players use the non-volley zone to their advantage by hitting soft shots, known as dinks, into the zone. This tactic forces opponents to hit upward shots, creating opportunities for put-away volleys or overhead smashes.

Rule 3: Scoring System

Understanding the scoring system is vital for tracking progress and determining the winner of a pickleball match.

Points Scored Only by the Serving Team

In pickleball, only the serving team can score points. If the serving team wins a rally, they earn a point; if the receiving team wins, no points are awarded, but they gain the right to serve.

Rally Scoring vs. Traditional Scoring

Although traditional scoring is more common in pickleball, some players and leagues use rally scoring. In rally scoring, a point is awarded at the end of every rally, regardless of which team served. This scoring method often results in shorter games and more frequent lead changes.

Typical Game Played to 11 Points, Win by 2

A standard pickleball game is played to 11 points, with a win-by-two rule in effect. This means that a team must reach 11 points and have at least a two-point lead over their opponents to secure victory. Some matches may be played to 15 or 21 points, depending on the format or tournament rules.

Calling Out the Score Before Each Serve

Before each serve, the server must call out the current score. This practice ensures that both teams are aware of the score and helps avoid any confusion or disputes during the match.

Rule 4: Faults

Faults are an essential aspect of pickleball, as they determine when a team loses the right to serve or when a point is awarded to the opposition.

Explanation of Faults in Pickleball

A fault occurs when a player or team violates one of the rules, resulting in a loss of serve or a point for the opposing team. Faults can occur due to improper serves, non-volley zone violations, or other rule infringements.

Common Faults

Some common faults in pickleball include:

  • Hitting the ball out of bounds
  • Failing to clear the net with a shot
  • Volleying the ball while standing in the non-volley zone

Consequences of Faults

When a fault occurs, the server loses their turn, and the serve passes to the next player in the serving rotation. If the fault is committed by the receiving team, a point is awarded to the serving team.

Rule 5: Doubles Play

Doubles play is a popular format in pickleball, requiring effective communication and teamwork between partners.

Rotating Server Within a Team

In doubles, both players on a team have the opportunity to serve during each rotation. The first server begins the game, and upon losing their serve, the second server takes over. Once both servers have lost their turns, the serve passes to the opposing team.

Communication and Teamwork Between Partners

Effective communication and teamwork are crucial for success in doubles play. Partners should discuss strategy, shot selection, and court coverage to ensure they’re working together efficiently.

Stacking Strategy in Doubles Play

Stacking is a doubles tactic where partners arrange themselves on the court based on their strengths or to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses. This strategy often involves having the stronger player cover more of the court or handle specific shots.

Bonus: Etiquette and Sportsmanship

While not an official rule, maintaining proper etiquette and sportsmanship is essential for fostering a positive and enjoyable pickleball environment.

Importance of Good Sportsmanship in Pickleball

Good sportsmanship promotes fair play, respect for opponents and officials, and a positive atmosphere on the court.

Respecting Opponents, Partners, and Officials

Treat all players and officials with respect, regardless of skill level or the outcome of the match. Be gracious in victory and defeat, and always shake hands or exchange kind words after a game.

Practicing Proper Court Etiquette

Demonstrate proper court etiquette by:

  • Avoiding excessive noise or distractions
  • Calling lines fairly and accurately
  • Respecting court boundaries and not interfering with adjacent games


Understanding and following the five essential rules of pickleball will enhance your playing experience and ensure enjoyable, fair competition. As you continue to explore and enjoy this exciting sport, remember to maintain good sportsmanship, respect your fellow players, and have fun on the court!



About the author

John's love for pickleball began when his wife bought him a set for Christmas one year. He quickly became obsessed with the game, and now plays several times a week.

John loves nothing more than spending an afternoon on the court with friends, whacking balls back and forth.

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