There have been several new rules implemented for our wonderful game of Pickleball. These all began as of January 1st, 2023. So, as we welcome in our New Year’s resolutions and let them fall to the wayside in February, remember to keep the Pickleball rule changes top of mind as you hit the courts. So, let’s get started on the pickleball rule changes you need to know for 2023!
How are Rule Changes Handled?
You may have heard about the new rules and are wondering, how and why pickleball’s rules are changing. Well, USA Pickleball believes the sport is still evolving and needs a dynamic and useful set of rules to keep the sport healthy.
Their rules committee accepts, reviews, and approves rule changes from players across the country. USA Pickleball is the governing body of pickleball in the United States and its rules committee and board of directors are given the authority to review and approve the official Pickleball Rule Book annually.
The group uses a multilayered review and voting system to determine whether a rule proposal should be incorporated into the revised rulebook for the year.
There are many rule changes submitted for review, but not all are accepted and implemented. The process is still fairly detailed, but USA Pickleball has its best intentions for the game in mind.
For the gory details on how rule changes are handled and if you want to submit your own rule change, you can check the process out here.
Pickleball Rule Changes for 2023
Well, before you hop into your next tournament or even play in that competitive rec league you are so fond us, you should brush up on the latest rule changes scoop.
You don’t want to let loudmouth Bob (or whatever your club’s rule know it all’s name is), call you for an infraction during a critical point. I know for me, those loudmouths are my favorite opponents to beat, but we will leave that discussion for another day.
So over the course of 2022, the USA Pickleball organization reviewed many suggestions and allowed several to become part of the 2023 pickleball rules canon.
Many of the rule change requests are dismissed or marked as failed and not implemented, but a lucky few make it through to keep us players on our toes and ultimately, add to the game.
Rejected Rule Changes for 2023
First, let’s start with some fun ones. The ones the committees rejected for 2023. Just for fun, here are some of the rules that did not make it past the rules committee:
This rule is needed to reduce/prevent eye injury. Tagging a player is acceptable and there is a minimal injury risk. It can be uncomfortable, especially in the groin area but not life-altering. Above the shoulders should be off limits because of the chance of serious injury to the eye and in some cases possible concussion
Committee’s Ruling: Failed. This is part of the game. Wear protection. Difficult to enforce.
My Interpretation: Life is hard, when your feet are on the court, keep your head on a swivel at all times!
Rally scoring option for singles and doubles
This change intends to provide options to tournament directors to use rally scoring for either singles or doubles events. Rally scoring will just be another option, not a replacement for side-out scoring
Committee’s Ruling: Failed. USAP is not ready to incorporate this as a rule. A task force will be formed in 2023 to investigate the details of how to implement this
My Interpretation: Interesting idea, but meh, let’s toss the idea to a committee to generate more paper on the subject
Carbon faced paddles
Prohibit carbon faced paddles with high spin rates that are close to, or at the legal spin limit.
Committee’s Ruling: Failed. The paddle testing standards are based on surface roughness, not on the paddle material. If the paddle meets the standards, it should be approved
My Interpretation: Players love the grit and it adds to the speed and power of the game. Tough Bananas!
Elimination of Shots around the net post
Rule 11.M. should be eliminated. Or Rule 11.M. should be amended to reflect that the ball must land in the no volley zone after being struck by the stryker.
Committee’s Ruling: Failed. An ATP, along with the frequent defense of an ATP, are some of the most exciting shots in pickleball. The team who has to defend an ATP has often made strategic errors that set up the ATP for the opponent. Why should their opponent be restricted from making a great shot at that point?
My Interpretation: Come on ya lazy players, step up and make better dinks. Don’t pull your opponents so wide!
As you can see from this short list, there are some controversial requests for change and the rules committee has some definite opinions of where our pickleball sport is going. Overall for 2023, there were 78 rule changes accepted and reviewed by the committee and only 20 were approved.
Top Pickleball Rule Changes for 2023
As mentioned above, there are now 20 rule changes or amendments in place for 2023. Some are significant and others are minor (wording changed on a rule). So to keep you from being bored and maximize your on-court time, here are the ones you need to know:
An Illegal Service Motion may be a Replay (if called by a referee)
- In tournament play, if a referee sees what they think could be an illegal service motion, they may call for a replay
- Serves that are clearly illegal will still be called a fault
- The call must be made by a referee, not a player. The receiver may call for a replay if they cannot see the release of the ball or see the server spin the ball, but may not call an illegal service motion
- This is not completely clear in the 2023 rulebook wording but has been clarified by Mark Peifer, Managing Director of Officiating at USA Pickleball
- My Interpretation: Unless you get a ref, good luck calling an illegal service motion!
The Spin Serve is No More!
- If a player spins the ball as they release it from their hand, it’s an automatic replay / re-serve
- Players can still hit the ball with topspin, slice…etc, as long as they follow all of the other service rules
- The only new restriction is spinning it upon release. Here’s the video from Zane Navratil explaining what a “spin serve” is
- My Interpretation: Man, I’m going to miss the spin serve. I love watching opponents set up for a forehand drive and then lunge for the ball as it spins away from them
Clothing Matching Ball Color is Not Allowed
- Specifically, this changes the existing rule (See rule 2.G.1) which adds the mention of clothing that “approximates the color of the ball” as something that could be a “Safety” or “Distraction” issue and may require the player to change apparel
- My Interpretation: Leave your yellow and orange shirts and shorts at home and save them for the old ’80’s flashback parties
Use of Equipment Time-Outs
- Equipment time-outs no will longer require the use of a team’s time-outs.
- Also, the limitation of “up to 2 minutes” has been replaced with “of reasonable duration”.
- So if a player breaks their paddle, a shoelace, or their shorts tear off (it could happen), they do not need to use up one of their time-outs, since it is reasonable to take more than 2 minutes to find a replacement paddle, or slip into a new set of shorts
- My Interpretation: Makes sense to me. 2 minutes for a player to find and put on a new pair of shoes or shorts is ludicrous. Come on people!
Wrong Score Called On Service
- If the wrong score is called, the referee or any player may stop play before the return of serve to correct the score. The rally shall be restarted with the correct score called
- After the return of serve, play shall continue to the end of the rally, and the score correction made before the next serve
- After the return of serve, a player who stops play to identify or ask for a score correction will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally
- Too many complaints about the wrong score being called were being sent to the USAP’s committee
- This gives an additional couple of seconds for the receivers to process the score called with our resorting to the 2021 rule
- Too many complaints about the wrong score being called were being sent to the USAP’s committee
- My Interpretation: Make a decision during a point and stick with it and focus on play. Don’t blame your lack of focus on the score, if you decide to play out the point. Either stop and replay or play on people!
Full Details of the 2023 Rule Changes
For the full list of rule changes and rejected rule proposals, please refer to USA Pickleball’s 2023 Rules Changes. There you will find all of the details and reasoning the rules committee used to pass or fail the pickleball rule request for the 2023 year.
You will find that many of the rule changes not listed in the bulleted list above are general edits or additions to the existing rules for clarity. Such as this one:
- Service foot fault wording – Neither of the server’s feet may touch the court outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline
- Original Rule: Neither of the server’s feet may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline of the court
- Updated Rule: Edited to use ‘playing surface’ instead of ‘court’. Use extension, not extensions
- My Interpretation: Makes sense for those pre-2023, nit-picker rule mongers
Not the most groundbreaking change to a rule, but this definitely adds clarity to the pickleball rule book.
2023 Pickleball Rule Changes – The Bottom Line
Reading over the 5 rule changes listed above will very likely cover you during your games with Loud Mouth Bob, Mary, or Jose.
The other 15 changes are adding clarity to the existing rules and should be reviewed, but will not cause you to lose a point when playing against those pickleball rules sticklers. So, brush up on your rules before your next match and play footloose and rule-breaker-free!