What are the 5 rules of Pickleball?

First off, the game of pickleball has way more than just 5 rules. The USAPA rulebook alone contains 84 pages. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probably because you just want the short version of the rules so you can get to playing. 

Anyhoo, I’m here to help. I’ve compiled what I believe are the most important 5 rules of pickleball.

Rule 1: Serving must be done at the baseline

The serving rules in pickleball are the most complicated part of the sport in my opinion. 

  • First serve is traditionally decided by coin flip
  • First, you’ve got to serve from the baseline.
  • Serving must be done by hitting the ball underhand (lower than your waistline)
  • You must begin serving from the right-hand side of the court.
  • You must serve diagonally. If you’re on the right, you serve towards your left (similar to tennis)
  • Your serve must go beyond the no-volley zone(NVZ) of the opponent. More on this later.

Rule 2: You can’t serve into the No Volley Zone (NVZ) a.k.a the Kitchen

“Stay out of the kitchen” is an odd saying that’s part of the daily parlance on pickleball courts. 

The Non-volley zone is the area that extends 7 feet from the net on either side of the court, within which a player is not allowed to volley (hit the ball without it bouncing first) the ball.

pickleball court dimensions
Pickleball court dimensions

Note: the whole length of the court can be used for pickleball play but you just can’t volley within the non-volley zone as that constitutes a fault or infringement of pickleball rules.

When serving, the ball must be hit beyond this NVZ diagonally towards the opponent. 

Serving into the NVZ is a fault and the serve must be passed over to the opponent in singles play or to the second server in doubles play.

Related post: Complete pickleball kitchen rules

Rule 3: Keep the ball inbounds.

Like most sports played with a type of racquet and ball, the key to winning is keeping the ball within the dimensions of the court. This rule also applies to pickleball. When serving or rallying, make sure you keep the pickleball within the perimeter of the court. 

Also, remember that if the ball lands on the boundary line (sideline or baseline), the ball is still inbounds

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Rule 4: Double bounce rule

Pickleball takes volleying very seriously. They are a bunch of rules about when you can or cannot hit a volley.

  • When a serve is performed, the ball must bounce once on both sides of the court (server and opponent’s side) before a player can legally hit a volley (hit the ball without it bouncing first).
  • After those 2 bounces (double bounce rule), any player may volley the ball. However, no player can volley the ball from within the non-volley zone.

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Rule 5: Games typically end at 11 points (15 or 21 in pickleball tournaments). The winner must lead by 2 points.

  • Points can only be scored by the server or the serving team.
  • After a point is scored, the server must then serve from the alternate side of his/her baseline.
  • Like tennis, you begin by gaining points to win a game. Gain 11 or 15 or 21 points to win (depending on tournament rules), 
  • A game must be won with at least a 2-point advantage over your opponent.
  • Then, you need to triumph in 2 out of 3 games (or 3 out of 5) to win the match. 

So there you have, these are the 5 most important rules in pickleball. In total, they summarise the serving, scoring, rallying, and distinct nuances of the sport. If you’d like to go through all the rules of the sport, check out the USAPA rulebook here

With these, you have the basic knowledge to understand, play and win at the wonderful game of pickleball. 

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