Pickleball Rules - Palms-O-Aces

Pickleball Rules

Mastering the Basics: A Guide to Pickleball Rules for Beginners

Welcome to our guide on mastering the basic pickleball rules. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, understanding the rules is crucial for excelling in this exciting sport. In this article, we will provide you with an in-depth exploration of the must know pickleball rules.

The Basic Rules:

  1. Start with a Serve
  2. Underhand Serve
  3. Double Bounce Rule
  4. No Volley Zone aka The Kitchen
  5. Continuation of Play and Faults
  6. Scoring
  7. Winning the Game

Start with a Serve: Each point in pickleball begins with an underhand serve. The server must stand behind the baseline and hit the ball diagonally over the net making sure to clear the kitchen and kitchen line. The ball may hit the net as long as it clears and lands in the service court after.

Pickleball Serve

But who serves? The question of who serves is central to understanding pickleball's intriguing serving rotation, which sets it apart from other games. Also, it’s worth noting that the serving mechanics differ between doubles and singles play.

  • Singles: The server serves from the right side beyond the baseline. Should they secure the rally, they switch to the left side for the next serve. This switching continues until they lose the rally, after which the competitor takes over serving, beginning from their right service court. An even score dictates serving from the right service court, while an odd score requires serving from the left.
  • Doubles: It’s essential to grasp that every player on a team has to serve at least once before the serve changes hands to the opposite team, with the exception of the match's initial server.
    • The initial server commences from the court’s right-hand side. They switch between the right and left service courts as they serve, until a rally is lost.
    • Instead of the serve transitioning to the opponents, the team’s second server steps in to serve. The second server continues serving from where the last rally ended, which is formally known as the second serve.
    • Once the second server loses a rally, the serve switches sides to the opposing team. The opposing team retains the serve until each of their players loses a rally, leading to another side out, and the serve goes back to the original team.
    • It's critical to monitor the first server’s position for every team as they will always be on the right when their score is even and on the left when it is odd.
  • Match’s Initial Serve: In doubles pickleball, during the very beginning of the match, only one player from the starting team serves instead of both players. This exception is made to ensure that the serve alternates between the teams right from the outset to prevent an advantage.

Underhand Serve: The serve must be made underhand. The paddle must be below the waist at the point of contact, and your arm must be moving in an upward arc with the highest part of the paddle staying below your wrist. The ball can be hit out of the air which is most common or dropped on the ground and hit after it’s bounce, called a drop serve.

Double Bounce Rule: After the serve, the ball must bounce once on each side before either team can volley. This means the receiving team must let the serve ball bounce, and the serving team must let the return of serve bounce before playing it.

Double Bounce Rule


No Volley Zone aka The Kitchen: Players are not allowed to volley the ball (hit the ball in the air without letting it bounce) when they are in the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, which is 7 feet on either side of the net. However, you can hit groundstrokes in the kitchen if the ball has bounced. Be sure to read Rules of the Kitchen prior to stepping into this zone.

The kitchen holds a pivotal role in pickleball as it is designed to foster equitable and tactical engagement in the game. Observing the regulations linked to the kitchen not only enriches the playing experience but also guarantees a level playing field for competitors. Additionally, by navigating the constraints of the kitchen adeptly, players can incorporate an extra dimension of strategy.

Continuation of Play and Faults: Each point continues until one commits a fault. Rallies are commonly lost due to faults which can be in three ways:

  1. Hitting the ball out-of-bounds or into the net.
  2. The ball bouncing twice on a side before being hit.
  3. Violations in the kitchen.

Common Pickleball Faults


Scoring: In pickleball, only the team that is serving has the opportunity to score points. This scoring rule is deceptively simple but is uniquely fundamental to pickleball. New players usually take some time to become accustomed to it. The key to triumph in pickleball often lies in maintaining the serve for longer duration compared to your opponent.

When your team is serving and wins a rally, you earn a point. On the contrary, if you win a rally while not serving, this does not earn you points but causes a rotation in serve to either the second server of the opponent or back to the first server on your team.

It’s obligatory for the server to vocalize the score before initiating each serve.

In singles, the server says their score first, followed by the receiver’s. In doubles, there’s an additional component; the server states their own score, followed by the opposing team’s score, and then a third number which denotes whether they are the first or second server for their team.

Pickleball Score


Winning the Game: Games are commonly played to 11 points, but can sometimes be played to 15 or 21 points. The game must be won by a margin of at least 2 points.

What's fantastic about pickleball is that its fundamental rules are remarkably easy to grasp. The sport's accessibility ensures that virtually anyone can enter the court and commence playing complete matches in just a short span of time. The simple rules are a large reason pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the US.

For more in-depth rules and regulations, you can visit USA Pickleball for the official rules. Also, be sure to check out our guide to the pickleball court and pickleball terminology.

Now you are ready to go play pickleball!


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