The Rules

 

The following is a quick overview of how the game is played. To see the official rules as determined by the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), click here.

  • The serve must be made underhand (a forehand serve is most common while some players will use a backhand style as an alternative)
  • During a serve, the paddle surface must make contact with the ball while it is still lower than the players wrist and below the server’s waist (navel level).
  • At the start of a game, once the serving team is determined, the first serve is initiated from the right side of their court.  Both of the server’s feet must start from behind the baseline but they can step on or over the baseline after the ball is struck.
  • The serve direction is made diagonally cross court and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
  • A serve landing in the kitchen or even touches the short service kitchen line is considered out-of-bounds.
  • Only one serve attempt is allowed, except in the event of a let (i.e. the ball touches the net on the serve and still lands in the proper service court).  A Let results in a re-serve.
  • Both players on a serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and now initiates the next serve from the left-hand court.
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
  • Once the service goes to the opposition, the first serve is from the right-hand court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
  • In singles the server serves from the right-hand court when his or her score is even and from the left when the score is odd.

*At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.

  • Only the serving team can score points.
  • Games are normally played to 11 points and teams must win by 2.
  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce once on their court before returning, and then after returning it, the serving team must also let it bounce once on their court before returning, thus one bounce on each side of the net.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The double bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.
  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  •  Volleying is prohibited within a player has one or both feet on or inside the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if a player steps on the non-volley zone or the non-volley line when volleying a ball.  It is also a fault should the player’s momentum causes them – or anything they are wearing or carrying – to touch the non-volley zone or its associated lines.
  • After volleying, it is also a fault if a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone – even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone except when volleying a ball.
  • The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”
  • A ball contacting a line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is “in.”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.
  • A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.
  • A fault occurs when:
    • 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
    • A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play
    • There is a violation of a service rule
    • A ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying
    • A ball in play strikes any permanent object before bouncing on the court