The Ultimate Beginners Guide to the Rules of Pickleball

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what are the rules of pickleball

Pickleball, a sport that has taken the world by storm, combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis into one fast-paced, exhilarating game. But before you grab your paddle and rush to the court, there’s something crucial you need to master – the rules of pickleball.

This article is your ultimate guide to understanding the ins and outs of the rules of pickleball, ensuring you play the game right and, more importantly, have a blast doing it. From the unique double bounce rule to the intricacies of scoring, we’ve got you covered.

So, whether you’re a seasoned player looking to brush up on your knowledge or a newcomer eager to dive into the action, keep reading. Let’s demystify the rules of pickleball together, making sure your next game is not just fun but also fair.

Rules of Pickleball – The Basics

Pickleball Serving Rules

Before the match begins, players must determine who will have the first serve, and from which side of the court. This can be done in any agreed fashion, such as drawing straws, tossing a coin or any other method. Once agreed, the following rules apply to the service:

  • A pickleball serve is always played underhand, with the ball contact below the server’s waist.
  • The server’s feet must remain behind the baseline when serving, with entry onto the court permitted only after the serve.
  • Service is diagonal, and must land within the allotted area on the court.
  • A single attempt at serve is permitted, with a let being a ball that touches the net and lands in the allotted service area; let’s are replayed.

So, that’s the basics of the pickleball serve. Now some more specifics.

  • First serve is always from the right hand portion of the court
  • When a point is scored, the players switch from left to right, and this continues throughout.
  • When a fault is committed, the serve passes to the other player on the team
  • The second server now keeps the serve until the next fault is committed, at which point the serve passes to the opposing team.

To summarise at this point, unlike tennis – in which the serve passes from team to team, with player 1 from each team serving for a game then team player from each following on, in pickleball both players from one team serve before the opposing team get a chance. Let’s carry on.

The exception to this rule comes in the first game, in which one player on team one serves until the fault, at which point the opposing team is handed the serve. In singles, the positioning is the same, and the serve changes hands when faults are played.


In pickleball, as in some other racquet games, only the serving team can score points. Here are a few of the guidelines to the scoring process:

  • A game is played as first to 11 points, with a 2-point clear advantage. In certain tournaments, this can be extended to 15 or 20 points, still with the 2-point clear advantage.
  • Note that, when the score is even, the first server in the team will be in the right-hand sector of the court. When the score is off, they will be in the other sector.

Now for the Rules of Play

So, we know how to serve and how the game is scored, but what about when the ball is in-play? There are some interesting rules of pickleball that make it stand out from other racquet sports, the ‘two bounce’ rule being one.

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The Two-Bounce Rule

This is a clever rule designed to do away with the advantage of aggressive serves – and equally aggressive returns – and to extend the game. It goes like this: when a ball is served, before it can be returned it must be allowed to bounce once. When returned for the first time, it must also be allowed to bounce once on the server’s side of the court – thus, ‘two bounce’ rule.

Once this has happened, players are free to volley the ball should they wish – that is hit it before it bounces, or to play ground-strokes after the bounce. 

So, to summarise, the ball is only in play once it has bounced, been returned, and then bounced again.

We said that after the two bounces had been observed, players can volley the ball. This is not always the case!

The Non-Volley Zone

Any part of the court within 7-feet of the net, on both sides, is consider the non-volley zone. Within this area, players are not permitted to volley the ball. The reason for this is to make the game more technical and entertaining, by eliminating the impossible to return smashes often seen in tennis from close to the net.

If a player volleys a ball and accidentally sets foot in the non-volley zone – even after having played the shot – it is considered a fault. A player is allowed in the zone at any other time than when playing a volley shot.

For the record, you may often hear the non-volley zone referred to as ‘the kitchen’!

Line Calls

Faults can also come about via line calls. When serving, for example, the ball must be within the allotted lines on the court – that is in the correct half of the court diagonally, and beyond the non-volley zone line. If the ball touches any line other than the non-volley line it can be called ‘in’; if it is beyond the line – or touches the non-volley line – it is a fault.


So, we have the basics of what is actually a simple, energetic and quite exciting game to play, and once you learn the rules of pickleball and the techniques involved, you will be keen to play more. To summarise, here is some more about faults;

  • A fault is any violation of the rules we have listed above.
  • If the receiving team commits a fault – for example, entering the non-volley zone illegally or any line fault – a point is awarded to the serving team.
  • If the server commits a fault, play passes either to the second player on the team or, accordingly, to the other team.

Rules of Pickleball – Wrap up!

In conclusion, understanding the rules of pickleball is essential for anyone looking to enjoy this fast-growing sport, whether you’re a beginner or aiming to refine your skills. From the basic setup and serve rules to the complexities of scoring and fault scenarios, mastering the game’s regulations is key to not only playing correctly but also enhancing your overall experience on the court.

For those eager to dive deeper and truly elevate their game, we highly recommend the book Pickleball Rules for Beginners: Master the Essential Skills, Techniques, and Strategies available on Amazon. This comprehensive guide offers invaluable insights into the nuances of the game, providing you with the knowledge and confidence to take your pickleball skills to the next level. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to become a proficient player. Check out the book here and start your journey towards pickleball mastery today!

Rules of Pickleball – FAQ

How do you score points in pickleball?

Points in pickleball are scored only by the serving team when they win a rally. Games are typically played to 11 points, and a team must win by a 2-point margin. Tournament games may extend to 15 or 21 points, also requiring a win by 2 points.

What is the two-bounce rule in pickleball?

The two-bounce rule requires that the ball must bounce once on each side of the court before it can be volleyed (hit in the air without bouncing). This rule applies at the start of each point, after the serve and the return of serve.

Can you volley the ball in the non-volley zone (kitchen)?

Volleying the ball (hitting it in the air without letting it bounce) from within the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is prohibited. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone. However, players may step into the kitchen to hit the ball if it has bounced.

Is a serve that hits the non-volley zone line considered in or out?

A serve that hits the non-volley zone line is considered a fault and therefore out. The serve must clear the non-volley zone and land in the appropriate service box to be considered in.

What happens if the serve hits the net but lands in the correct service box?

If the serve hits the net but still lands in the correct service box, it is considered a “let” and the server is allowed to serve again without penalty. This can happen an unlimited number of times.

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1 reply on “The Ultimate Beginners Guide to the Rules of Pickleball”

  1. John says:

    According to USA pickleball rules service lets are played not replayed as long as they land in the proper court.

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