Pickleball Scoring Simplified: A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering the Game

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how to score in pickleball

Are you new to the pickleball craze and find yourself puzzled by how scoring works? Or maybe you’ve played a few games and still have questions about the pickleball scoring rules. Fear not, because this article is here to help! We’ll walk you through the pickleball scoring system step-by-step, explaining everything from how to start a game to how to clinch the winning point. Understanding the scoring is key to enjoying the game and improving your play, so let’s make sure you have all the information you need to keep score like a seasoned player!

Pickleball Scoring System

The winning team in a game of pickleball – or, if it is a singles match the winning player – is the team that reaches 11 points first. However, they must also be two points clear. To put that simply, a team will win if they score 11, and their opponents have 9 or fewer points.

If there is not a clear two-point lead, the play continues until there is. It is important to understand that you can only score points when you are serving. Also, the rules – and the court – are the same for singles and doubles games (we will refer to ‘the team’ throughout as it is usually played as doubles). 

The Serving Routine

Pickleball is unusual in that both players on a team serve before the opposing team gets a chance to do so. The only exception to this is during the very first serve, in which the serve will pass to the opposing team after the first player faults. Following this, when a fault is played – or made by foot fault or other rule infringement – the serve passes to the other player on that team, and then to the opposing team when the next fault is called.

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Before each serve, the score must be called out loud, along with the number – or name – of the server. For example, if the serving team is on 6 points, and the opposing team on 2, the scorer or umpire will call ‘6-2’ plus the name or number of the server who is about to serve. So, if the serve remains with the first server on the team, the scorer calls ‘6-2-1’. 

Reading this, it looks far more complex than it actually is! Once you get used to the routine of play, you will begin to understand the scoring better. Unlike in tennis, ever score is a single point, which is somewhat easier to get to grips with!

Scoring Faults

Points are scored – remember, only the serving team can score – when the opposing team loses a rally by way of a fault. This can include hitting the ball out of court, failing to return the ball, or playing an illegal shot in the ‘no volley zone’ which is also known as the ‘kitchen’. This is an area signified by a line 7-feet from the net on each side. Inside this area, volleys – shots played while the ball is in the air – are not permitted. If a player hits a ball outside the zone, he or she cannot then enter the zone while that shot is in play – to do so is a fault.

One further part of play that is important is the ‘double bounce rule’. This is something the scorer needs to be aware of and to watch for at all times. When a ball is served, it must be allowed to bounce once by the opposing team before it is returned. It must then bounce once before the serving team can also return it. Only then can the ball be intercepted before it bounces, and of course, never in the No Volley Zone!

Wrap Up – Pickleball Scoring

Put simply, the following facts are to be remembered:

  • Only the serving team can score
  • Both players on the serving team get to serve before the serve is passed, apart from the following exception:
  • On the first serve in any game, just one player serves before the serve is passed.
  • Observe the No Volley Zone and Double Bounce rules at all times.
  • Winner is first to 11 with a two point advantage

That’s about it, so enjoy your pickleball!

FAQ – Pickleball Scoring

How does pickleball scoring work?

In pickleball, points can only be scored by the serving team. If the serving team wins a rally, they earn a point. If the receiving team wins the rally, the serve switches to them, but they do not earn a point. The game continues in this manner until one team reaches the required points to win the game, typically 11 points, but they must win by a 2-point margin.

What is the correct way to call the score in pickleball?

The score in pickleball is called out before each serve in the format of three numbers: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server number (1 or 2). For example, if the serving team has 5 points, the receiving team has 3 points, and the server is the first server of their team, the score is called as “5-3-1”.

Can the receiving team score points in pickleball?

No, the receiving team cannot score points in pickleball. Points are only scored by the serving team. If the receiving team wins a rally, they earn the right to serve, which then gives them the opportunity to score points.

What happens if the score reaches 10-10 in a game to 11 points?

If the score reaches 10-10 in a game that is played to 11 points, the game does not end at 11. Instead, the game continues until one team leads by a 2-point margin. This rule ensures that the winning team has a clear advantage over their opponents.

How does scoring work in singles versus doubles pickleball?

Pickleball scoring in singles and doubles follows the same basic principles, but there is a slight difference in how the score is called. In singles, the score is called with just two numbers: the server’s score and the receiver’s score, since there is no server number. In doubles, the score is called with three numbers: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server number (1 or 2), indicating which server on the serving team is serving.

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