Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (2023)

Table of Contents

  • 1 The Pickleball Rules
    • 1.1 Basic Rules
    • 1.2 Scoring Rules
    • 1.3 Pickleball Serve Rules
    • 1.4 Two Bounce Rule in Pickleball
    • 1.5 NVZ Rules
    • 1.6 Unwritten Rules
  • 2 FAQs
    • 2.1 What Are 10 Key Rules to Pickleball?
    • 2.2 What Are 5 Common Mistakes That a Beginner Pickleball Player Often Makes?
    • 2.3 What Are 3 Faults in Pickleball?
    • 2.4 Can You Wear a Glove in Pickleball?
    • 2.5 What is the 10 Seconds Rule in Pickleball?
  • 3 Lastly

The Pickleball Rules

The rules for pickleball are simple. The object is to score points by keeping the opponents (the opposing team) from intercepting the shot and returning the ball.

Each player on your team gets one ball, and they are required to use it only to pass the ball back and forth between themselves and their opponents.

Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (1)

If you play pickleball for fun or competition, you’ll want to know the right rules so that you can keep your opponent(s) at bay.

There are a variety of different pickleball rules, but in this article, we will be discussing common rules based on variations of American Pickers that we have seen in actual games.

You don’t have to be a statistics whiz to play pickleball, so long as it’s legal according to the officials of the match you are playing. Let’s take a look at some basic rules of pickleball.

Basic Rules

Before playing the game, these are the rules you must be aware of;

  • The size of a pickleball court must be 44 feet by 20 feet. On each side of the net, there is a kitchen zone of seven feet.
  • A game of pickleball is either played by two (singles) or four players(doubles).
  • The dimensions and types of the court and equipment are similar for both singles and doubles.

Scoring Rules

The scoring rules of pickleball can be quite confusing for some beginners. Therefore, we have summarized the scoring rules into these four points.

  • In a normal match, the game of pickleball is played until one team has reached 11 points. This team must have a lead of two points.
  • Other options for points are 15 or 21, which are usually used in tournament matches.
  • Points can only be gained by the serving team. These points are gained when the recipient team makes any fault.
  • However if the serving team commits a fault, the reception team will be awarded the serve. This will give them a chance to win more points.

Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (2)

If these rules are still confusing you, then let’s try to understand the method of calling out the score. Hopefully, it will help you to grasp the basics of scoring in pickleball.

Suppose a doubles match is going on and the server calls out the score as 7-6-1. Here 7 is the score of the serving team and 6 is the score of the recipient team, while 1 is the server number.

Pickleball Serve Rules

The game of pickleball is always started with a service where one player has to strike the ball to initiate the game.

Every player has to make a service in the game, therefore, you must learn the basic pickleball serving rules to get started;

  • Only one serve attempt is allowed per server.
  • The server must call out the score before hitting the ball
  • The serve must be made when the player is standing behind the baseline. The server’s feet or even the tip of their shoes must not touch the baseline while making a serve.
  • Serve must be made in a way that the contact of the ball with the hand must be made below the waist.
  • In the recent edition of the pickleball guideline book, drop serve has also been permitted.
  • When the service is made, the ball must reach the inside of the diagonal court.

Let’s try to understand the rules for pickleball serve with a proper scenario. You are supposed to initiate the game by making the serve. Now you might be getting sweaty and tense, but there’s no need to worry.

Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (3)

All you have to do is to stand behind the baseline and keep the paddle below your waist. Keep your eyes on the target, which in our case is the diagonal court. Hit the ball with proper technique and you are good to go!

Two Bounce Rule in Pickleball

When the ball is in the air after the service, it is time to initiate the 2 bounce rule in pickleball! This one is a simple rule as well. This is a pickleball singles rule, as well as pickleball rules doubles.

When the ball is served, the recipient team has to let it bounce once before hitting it. Now when the ball has returned to the serving team, they will also have to let it bounce.

Now that two bounces have been completed, you can continue a simple game with the shots of your preference. The bounce rule is implemented to extend the time of a rally.

NVZ Rules

NVZ is the abbreviation of Non-Volley Zone and is commonly known as the kitchen. It is present on both sides of the net and covers seven feet of the area starting from the net till the start of the center line.

Since it is a non-volley zone, you can not play a volley shot here. For beginners, a volley is a shot that’s returned in the air without letting the ball bounce on the ground.

Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (4)

Pickleball violations are quite common and sometimes unexpected too. Therefore, you must be also mindful of these rules;

  • It will be a fault if you step on the non-volley line while playing the volley shot.
  • A fault will also occur when the shirt, shoes, or paddle of the player has made contact with the kitchen while playing the volley.

Unwritten Rules

The unwritten rules of pickleball are included under the umbrella of pickleball etiquette. Although the violation of these rules won’t cause a fault, it will be considered unethical.

So to play a fair and square game, follow the unwritten rules. Some of these are mentioned below;

  • Call out your fault whenever you commit it.
  • Before serving the ball, make sure that the other person is well prepared for it.
  • Instead of mocking or bullying them, you can give tips to the less experienced players.
  • Do not cheer when the other players have messed up as it is will be extremely rude and unethical.

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What Are 10 Key Rules to Pickleball?

Although there are numerous pickleball rules, these are 10 keys rules that you must be aware of;

  1. The server must call out the score before every serve.
  2. After calling out the score, it is important to stick to the 10 seconds rule.
  3. The serve has to be an underhand stroke.
  4. Serve must be made by standing outside the baseline.
  5. Two bounces rule is important to start the momentum of the rally.
  6. You can not play a volley in the kitchen zone.
  7. The ball must stay inside the boundaries of the court.
  8. Only the serving team can win the point.
  9. A typical game ends at 11 points. However, some matches might extend to 15 or 21 points.
  10. The unspoken rules or the pickleball etiquette must be followed.

What Are 5 Common Mistakes That a Beginner Pickleball Player Often Makes?

These are the 5 common mistakes that are often made by beginners;

  • Don't read and memorize all of the pickleball rules before playing the game. Also, many beginners are not mindful of the rules while playing the game, which leads to a fault.
  • Many beginner players don't pay attention to the movement of the ball, therefore, they fail to generate spins or other tricks on the ball.
  • They try to smash the ball earlier and harder. Both of these situations usually occur due to a loss of focus.
  • Have a poor serving technique, which often leads to a fault in the first seconds of the match.
  • Kitchen mistakes are also very common among beginners who don't abide by the kitchen rules.

What Are 3 Faults in Pickleball?

These are the 3 fault rules in pickleball;

  • If the receiving team makes a fault, the serving team will win a point.
  • If the fault is made by the serving team, then the receiving team might only receive a serve.
  • The fault causes the game to stop temporarily until the points or serve are given to a team.

Can You Wear a Glove in Pickleball?

Yes, you can wear gloves in a pickleball game. Many pro players wear the gloves to be more comfortable and most importantly, have more control and grasp over the paddle.

What is the 10 Seconds Rule in Pickleball?

A server has 10 seconds to make a service once the score is called out. If a player fails to stick to the 10-second rule, it will be a fault.


We tried to provide a compact summary of the official pickleball rules that are mentioned in the rulebooks of the national and international authorities.

If we missed any important rule, please mention it in the comment section. Also, we would love to know about your favorite pickleball rule, so drop it in the comments as well.

Rules of Pickleball: Simple Explanation [Rules Summary] (6)

Author: Johan Nguyen

Hey, my dearest friends!
Here is Johan - a 26 years old sports enthusiast who has been playing this fantastic pickleball game for over 3 years. I love every angle of it!
With almost 10-years-experience of playing tennis and table tennis, I can help you fill your mind with the best tactics, tips & tricks to become a good pickleball player in no time!
Stay tuned, so you don't miss out on my blog's great articles about racket sports!


What are the rules of pickleball quick summary? ›

Simply put, the rules of pickleball are: the ball must stay inbounds, there should be one bounce per side, serving must be done at the baseline, the serve can't land in the no-volley zone, and the game ends at 11 or 15 points.

What are 10 key rules to pickleball? ›

10 Essential Pickleball Rules to Learn Before You Play
  • Volley serves must be underhand.
  • Scoring in doubles includes three sets of numbers.
  • Sides alternate serving in doubles.
  • There's a method to remove the advantage of serving first in doubles.
  • The ball must bounce once per side after the serve.

What are the 7 rules of pickleball? ›

See also the [absolute] worst 2023 pickleball rule!
  • #1 Pickleball ball must stay in bounds. ...
  • #2 Two-bounce per side. ...
  • #3 Serving must be done at the baseline. ...
  • #4 Non-volley zone restrictions. ...
  • #5 Drop serve rule. ...
  • #6 10 second rule. ...
  • #7 Extra pickleball balls.

What are the three 3 key things you should focus on in pickleball? ›

Drill, Practice, Play

Most people enjoy playing pickleball. And I suspect, the vast majority of pickleball players only play. However, if you want to improve you must spend time practicing and drilling. Taking time to practice and to drill is important if you want to improve.

What are the 5 common faults in pickleball? ›

  • 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 ball is hit out of bounds.
  • A ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone.
  • A ball bounces twice before being struck by the receiver.

What are you not allowed to do in pickleball? ›

The server's arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is struck. Paddle contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level. The head of the paddle must not be above the highest part of the wrist at contact. A 'drop serve' is also permitted in which case none of the elements above apply.

What are the scoring rules for pickleball? ›

Points are scored only on the serve; the receiving side cannot score a point. At the start of the game, the player on the right side (even court) serves to the diagonally opposite court. If a point is scored, the server moves to the left side (odd court) and serves to the diagonally opposite court.

What are 2 essential tips for playing pickleball? ›

Keep your paddle high, near your chest; your reaction time will be quicker. Keep the ball in play -- let your opponent make the mistakes. Seventy-five percent of all rallies are won or lost because of unforced errors, many of them at the baseline. Return your baseline shots to the center line as often as you can.

What is the most difficult thing to do in pickleball? ›

One of the hardest things to do in the sport of pickleball is to keep the pickleball low (while still over the net). A low pickleball will prevent your opponents from being able to go on the offensive with an aggressive shot.

Do you get 2 serves in pickleball? ›

The First Side to Serve in Doubles Pickleball Only Has One Serve; Then, Each Side Has Two Serves. Each team in doubles pickleball will receive two serves, one for each partner, except for the team that serves to start the game. The team that serves to start the game will only receive one serve.

What is Rule 9 in pickleball? ›

It is a fault. if the volleying player or anything that has contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying, touches the non-volley zone.

What is the #1 mistake beginner pickleball players make? ›

1. Scooting up after the serve. The most common mistake I see is that after serving, they scoot up a bit. The problem with this is that the return server is going to hit the ball as deep as possible, and if you've scooted up following your shot, you'll have to run back or will have a very hard time returning the shot.

What is the most important skill in pickleball? ›

Dinking. Dinking is essential to any pickleball strategy. This is a move that isn't just an important part of your arsenal but should be your primary skill. Anyone that's been to a pickleball training camp will tell you the same.

What is the most important shot to learn in pickleball? ›

There are a lot of shots to learn in pickleball, but the most important ones to master are the basic ones. The serve is the shot that gets the point started. It's neither a volley nor a groundstroke.

What does a dead ball mean in pickleball? ›

A dead ball is declared in the game of pickleball when any of the following occur; one of the players commits a fault, the ball hits a permanent object, or a hinder is declared. When a player commits a fault, the other side wins the point.

What if the ball hits your hand in pickleball? ›

It is a fault if a ball hits any other part of the body. Hand Hitting the Ball: Balls hit by the paddle hand below the wrist while holding the paddle, are legal. It is a fault if a ball hits any other part of the body. An “out” ball is not “out” until it bounces.

Can you lean into the kitchen in pickleball? ›

A player cannot be in the Kitchen, or on the Kitchen line, during play unless the ball lands into the Kitchen first. A player's body or any part of it that comes in contact with the Kitchen, or Kitchen line, will be at fault. A player cannot touch the kitchen line with their swing, follow-through, or momentum.

Is pickleball hard for seniors? ›

Fun, social, and easy to learn, pickleball is growing in popularity throughout the United States and Canada. With simple rules and inexpensive equipment, pickleball can be enjoyed by all ages and is a great physical activity for seniors.

Is pickleball easy for seniors? ›

Among the reasons older adults love pickleball: The court is small enough that you don't need to move much to hit the ball, especially if you're playing doubles. The game encourages players to socialize. There's none of the frustration factor that accompanies sports like golf.

What is the best way to learn pickleball? ›

The easiest and most efficient way to get started in pickleball is to find someone you know who is really into it. It's incredibly likely that they will do whatever they can to give you a healthy start to the sport. Trust me; Pickleball players are always searching for new players to play with.

Can you bounce and serve in pickleball? ›

The ball can be dropped from any height but cannot be thrown, tossed, or otherwise released with any added force to bounce it. Serve to the diagonally opposite service court from behind the baseline and on or within the imaginary extension of the sidelines and centerline.

Can you step into the kitchen before the ball bounces? ›

For starters, “the kitchen” is a nickname given to pickleball's non-volley zone. No player is allowed inside (or on the line) of the non-volley zone unless the ball has bounced. This includes stepping into the kitchen following a volley or after the ball has been ruled dead.

Can you wear a yellow shirt in pickleball? ›

As for the hat and socks: USA Pickleball doesn't care if you have a logo on your cap or one sock is purple and one is green. But if your neon-yellow shirt is the same color as the ball, we hope you brought a change of clothes in case your opponent objects and the tournament director agrees that it's a distraction.

Do you have to say the score before you serve in pickleball? ›

Players must announce the score prior to serving. Always call the server's score first, opponent's score second and then the number server you are on your team, so a 1 or a 2. The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made below waist level.

What does 002 mean in pickleball? ›

To start a pickleball match, the score will be called zero, zero, two. This means that as soon as the serving team commits a fault, the other team gets to serve.

How do you determine who serves in pickleball? ›

Serve – To determine the first server, one player from each team will play rock, paper, scissors. Winner will determine whether to serve or receive. Player must keep one foot behind the back line when serving.

Why is pickleball called pickle? ›

In the summer of 1965, pickleball was founded by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Within days, Joan Pritchard had come up with the name “pickle ball”—a reference to the thrown-together leftover non-starters in the “pickle boat” of crew races.

What is the best way to practice pickleball? ›

Just as tennis players do, hitting against a wall can be very good practice. It isn't very hard to find a wall somewhere that you can bang a pickleball against. Just put some tape on the wall at net height and you even have a target area. You can practice serves, dinks, volleys and drives using a wall.

How do you remember your pickleball score? ›

In order to keep track of the score, you'll simply have to remember that your partner served first. The same rules apply: when your partner is on the right side of the court you'll have an even score, and when they're on the left you'll have an odd score.


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