The Complete Rules of Pickleball

One of the fastest blooming sports in the United States, Pickleball, is combined with elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. It is a paddlesport where two or four players use solid paddles usually made of wood and a lightweight plastic ball. It’s played on a court similar to that of a badminton court with a modified tennis-style net.

The rules of this game are easy and are quick for beginners to learn. It is created for all ages and skill levels. However, it can develop into a fast-paced competitive game for experienced players, despite it being quick to learn.

Basic Overview

  • Just like a badminton court, the Pickleball court size is 20’ x 44.’
  • Serving is started with the right-hand service square with the ball served diagonally. The side that serves is where points can only be scored.
  • The ball must bounce once before volleys are allowed.
  • To prevent “spiking,” there is a seven-foot no-volley zone on each side of the net.
  • Like badminton, the server continues to serve at alternating service courts until he/she faults.
  • The first side with a leading of 2 points that reaches 11 points, wins.

The Pickleball Serve

With both feet behind the back line, the server must do an underhand to serve with the paddle below the waist or at the navel. The player’s feet must not come in contact with the court until after the ball is struck. After proper positioning, you should keep in mind the following do’s and don’t’s during serving:

  • DO’s
    • The serve must clear the seven-foot non-volley zone in front of the net and land in the diagonal service court.
    • The serve must be done diagonally and must land in the diagonally opposite service court – the area between the non-volley zone and the back line.
    • The service will be given to the opposite side when the serving side creates a fault on the service. Until then, the serving side will continue to serve at alternating service courts.
    • Only one fault is allowed for the first serving team at the start of each new game.
    • On a doubles game, only one partner on the serving team at the beginning of the game has the opportunity to serve before faulting. The service then passes to the receiving team after the fault.
    • Both members of the team, during doubles, will get to serve and fault before the ball is turned over to the opposing team.
    • If the serving team scores the first point, the player who served switches sides and begins the next serve in the left-hand court. The player switches again to the right-hand court after another score.
  • DON’T’s
    • The ball should not bounce while being hit onto the air.
    • The server is not allowed to hit the ball off on the first bounce. He/she is also not allowed to bounce the ball and must hit it in the air when serving.
    • Do not serve at the non-volley zone. Otherwise it is considered out.
    • The player is not allowed to serve if he/she is not at the right-hand court at the start of the game.
    • The player can only serve once, except on the events of a let – the ball touches the net during service and fall in the proper service court. Let serves are an exception, allowing the player to serve again.

Volleys

Volleys mean hitting the ball in the air without letting it bounce or touch the ground. A player’s feet must be behind the non-volley zone line to do a volley. If the player steps over the non-volley zone line during his/her volley follow-through, it is considered a fault.

Non-Volley Zone

Also commonly known as “The Kitchen,” it is the seven feet court area on both sides of the net. The non-volley zone prevents players from doing a smash or a volley when standing in this zone.  When a player’s foot or any part of his clothes crosses the line to the non-volley zone while doing a volley, it is immediately considered a fault. A player is only allowed in the non-volley zone if, and only if, he or she is doing anything aside from volleying.

Double-Bounce Rule

Another name for this rule is the “Two Bounce Rule.” Teams have to play their first shot off of the bounce. Before playing it, the receiving team must first let the serve ball bounce, and the serving team also allowing the return of the serve bounce. Thus making two bounces. Once these bounces have been applied, the ball can finally be volleyed or played off the bounce.

Fault


A fault happens when a rule is violated, thus pausing the game. Faults by the receiving team lead to points for the serving team. Faults only happen when:

  • The ball is hit out of bounds.
  • The ball does not clear the net.
  • The ball falls into the non-volley zone.
  • The player makes a volley in the non-volley zone.
  • The ball bounces twice before getting hit by the receiver.
  • The ball hits the player anything the player is wearing.
  • The server serves before the referee’s signal.
  • A fault happens when a rule is violated, thus pausing the game.
  • Faults by the receiving team lead to points for the serving team.

Scoring

A team scores a point only during serving. The serving team continues to serve until a fault is made by his/her teammate. A “Side Out” occurs when the serve moves to the opposing team after the first serving team creates a fault during serving continually. When the score is even, the serving team’s server stays at the right-side court during serving and receiving, and at the left-side court when the score is odd. The game is won when a team is ahead by two points and reaches eleven points. Tournament games may be until fifteen or twenty-one and are still won by two points.

Strategies

  • Forehand Groundstroke

One of the most comfortable and familiar strokes for players between the baseline and mid-court. The player immediately hits the ball after it bounces. This shot is made from the player’s most active side and is mastered with necessary skills.

  • Overhead Smash

The most aggressive technique in pickleball, smashing requires hitting a high ball downward using the leverage of a fully extended arm. Experts have mentioned that your non-paddle arm should be pointing at the ball, while your arm with the paddle should come high above your head to prepare for that striking shot.

  • Approach Non-volley Line to Hit Volleys

Although this might be risky for faults, the volley is best used at the non-volley line where it becomes an invaluable weapon. Your knees should be shoulder width apart with your paddle ready and facing the net.

  • Dinking

A dink is a short drop shot that comes from the non-volley line and drops into the non-volley zone. Bend at the knees and not at the waist to prepare yourself to catch the ball.  Since most players opt for an aggressive and powerful strategy, using a gentler technique will catch them off guard neutralizing their strategy.

  • Placing Serves Deep Into the Court

Professionals have a particular term when it comes to serving – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Otherwise known as KISS. Plenty of players have lost all because of their flair for the dramatic. Always try not to hit the ball out, but place it deep in the court. This may need practice since the power required is difficult to control.

Final Thoughts

Not only is Pickleball an exciting game to play, but it’s also a great form of exercise for all-around fitness. It focuses on major muscle groups and also improves mobility, dexterity, agility, and balance.

Knowing the basic rules and regulations of the game is the key to growing and developing into a better player. Winning strategies are there to help you guide your way in becoming a Pickleball champion. By knowing the basics, you can use the mentioned strategies, mix it up with others you might learn, and you’ll soon be sailing through tournaments as a titleholder.