How to Play Pickleball: A Beginners Guide to Pickleball Rules

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If you’re reading this, you must be new and learning how to play pickleball. I would first like to welcome you and let you know that you have made an incredible decision.

We know getting into a new sport can be scary. It takes time to get a feel for the rules and you don’t want to feel like you’re holding up the other players.

Playing pickleball is more than a sport or a workout it’s a great way to meet people and be a part of a community that just wants to improve and have fun.

I can assure you, it won’t take long at all before you have a clear grasp of the rules of pickleball to where you can play confidently.

In this article, I break down the rules as easily as I can.

Let’s dive right in.

A beginners guide to pickleball rules with a ball on a court.

Intro to Playing Pickleball

You can play pickleball in either a doubles or singles format, with the simple objective of getting a set amount of points before your opponent.

It’s a lot like tennis, so those who come from a tennis background have a lot easier time learning how to play pickleball.

However, there are some key differences from tennis.

Let me explain…

The Court

Let’s start with the court.

A regulation pickleball court must be 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. In the middle of the court, you have the Non-volley zone, which is most commonly referred to as “The Kitchen.” (This will be important later)

Like tennis you have the net in the middle, however the main difference is that a pickleball net is 34 inches in the center, where as a tennis net is 36 inches.

Pickleball court dimensions

Now that you have that down let’s get into the actual positioning on the court and how serving works. 

The Serve

Like most paddle sports, the rally starts with a serve, nothing new here. The key rules for serving are as follows. Failure to do any of these results in a fault and lose os serve for that team.

  • The player on the right side service box starts the serve. 
  • Before he/she serves, they have to call the score
  • Once the score is called, then team have 10 seconds to serve the ball. 
  • The server must land the ball inside the diagonal service box over the net.
  • The ball must clear the kitchen (NVZ) or it is a fault even if it hits the line of the kitchen.
  • When the ball is served, the player has to be behind the baseline.
  • The server gets to serve and score points until they fault. Once they fault, they turn the serve over to their partner (doubles) or the other team (singles) 
  • If a point is scored by the serving team, they switch service spots, while the receiving team holds their position. 
  • If the ball bounces off or grazes the net, and lands in the correct service box, it is a legal serve.

Resource. Legal Vs. Illegal Serve: Play it Right

Determining Serving Order

The serving order took some getting used to for me when I was first learning how to play pickleball.

Here’s how it works.

The player on the right service square on the serving team is ALMOST always number 1. 

The only time he/she is not is when the game first starts. At the start, the serving team only gets one chance to serve so the first server is number 2.

KEEP IN MIND: SERVING NUMBER IS A POSITION, NOT A PERSON.

Just because you are server 1 this rally does not mean you will be number one the rest of the game. 

The Double Bounce Rule

The double bounce rule (two-bounce rule) is designed to give no team an advantage. As you can see in the diagram, once the ball is served (1), the receiving team member (3)  must let the ball bounce.

If it were not for this rule, the returning team could just drive a volley right back at you. If you can keep the serve low, the bounce gives you an opportunity to move up.

Two bounce rule in pickleball diagram
Diagram showing double bounce rule.

He can then return the shot anywhere over the net as long as the serving team (1 or 2) lets it bounce. Then all players are allowed to volley.

If a player goes for the volley without letting the ball bounce, that is a fault.

 

Faults

A fault is committed in any of the following circumstances,

  • The ball touches any part of the non-volley zone (including line) on the serve
  • If The ball is hit out of bounds long or wide on either side.
  • The ball does not clear the net. 
  • Player volleys from the non-volley zone
  • The ball hits a volley before a bounce has occurred on each side (double bounce rule)

If a player faults, on a serve, they lose the serve.

Player Positioning 

The serving team members must be behind the back baseline when they serve while the returning players should be staggered like the diagram below.  

player positioning in pickleball

Scoring

The first team to reach 11 points wins the game. However, a team should win the game by having two points more than the opponent team.

Tournaments and championships will have an increased number of points structure such as 18, 25, etc.

A point is scored if…

  • The opponent hits the ball out of bounds
  • A shot does not make it over the net
  • The player’s foot crosses the non volley zone line BEFORE letting the ball bounce
  • The ball bounces more than once.
  • the ball is hit long or wide on the side.

If the ball touches any outer line (back, side, or corner) of the court, it is considered in. But if the ball touches the line of the non-volley region ON A SERVE, is considered as a fault. Simply, ball touching any line other than the non-volley is a clear place.

Recap On How To Play Pickleball

I hope this explanation helps you get a better understanding of the basic rules of pickleball. Once you get the hang of that it’s time to dig into the strategy of Pickleball

For those of you who are more visual learners, here is a great video that explains the basics including serving, calling the score, and the serve.

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