For an extended understanding of Pickleball with terminology, rules, and more, download this pdf.
What kind of balls does our area use?
For indoor balls, we use the Onix Pure 2 and Fuse balls - orange color. (We use orange because it is easy to see while playing on a gym floor.)
For outdoor balls, we use the Franklin X-40.
For more information about pickleball equipment, including borrowing paddles, trying paddles and more, please see our Pickleball Supplies and New Players webpages.
For complete set of RULES and DEFINITIONS, please click HERE to go to the USAPA website and download your FREE copy! The following is a SUMMARY to get you playing the game of Pickleball confidently and knowing a good 90% of the rules.
HOW DID IT GET ITS FUNNY NAME?
One of the origins of Pickleball is that its name is derived from the "pickle boat" - a rowing crew term meaning a "mix" of different teams. And it's true, Pickleball is a mix of tennis, ping pong and badminton rules which you will see as you read these rules... and has several of its own unique rules, in particular the 1) non-volley zone/the kitchen, 2) underhand serve, and 3) double bounce rule.
The second origin of the funny name to this sport is that the family dog, Pickles, would run after the ball while they were playing this game. Both are claimed to be true by the founders of Pickleball.
Pickleball is played on a badminton size tennis court, which is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. It has many similar rules to tennis where the outside lines are played as "in" if the ball lands on the lines therefore causing play to continue. Unlike tennis, there is a non-volley zone near the nets where the ball must bounce before you can hit it if in that zone. In addition, a served ball must clear the non-volley zone and its boundary lines and land in the correct serving court (or serving court sidelines and base line are also considered in) or it would be considered a fault. To see how this works, watch this VIDEO.
On a side note, the non-volley zone is also called "the kitchen" because of the phrase "best to stay out of the kitchen". Yes, we can go into "the kitchen" anytime, but to WIN the game, STAY OUT of the kitchen unless the ball bounces in it - then you go in to hit it back - then get back out of the kitchen once again!
And last, the net is 2 inches lower than a tennis net. It is 36" on the ends and 34" in the middle. So if playing outside on a tennis court that has Pickleball lines, you will need to use the middle strap of the net to pull it down 2 inches. The sides will still be higher than they should be unless you bring them down 2 inches as well.
There are 2 ways to serve in pickleball:
1. One serve is underhand with two rules. One, the ball must be hit below the waist. Two, the ball must be hit below the wrist. There is not a bounce with this serve.
2. The ball can be dropped and then hit to serve. With the drop serve there are no "rules" when hitting the ball.
Either serve is legal.
Like tennis, you must stand 1) behind the baseline to serve as well as 2) between the sideline and center line of the court.
Like tennis, your serve MUST land in the diagonal box, beyond the kitchen, from where you serve. Unlike tennis, it's a fault if you do not land your serve correctly the first time - there are no second chances to serve! So work hard to get your serves in.
A few additional notes:
SCORING and SERVING SEQUENCE
As 95% of all Pickleball is played as doubles, the following will be written from a doubles perspective. (The following can be confusing... don't worry about it. Other players will help you learn how to do scoring as you play. Playing the game and learning how to say the score is easier to learn than to read it. Don't let scoring keep you from playing -- come play and all will help you! In time, it will become easy.")
Both players on the 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. At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve. This person will serve until a fault occurs, after which the service passes to the receiving team.
The first serve of each side-out is made from the right-hand court. That person becomes server one (1). The first score to be called is 0-0-2. Note: the call of "0-0-start" was eliminated in January of 2016 when the rules were updated. You may see this in old videos online, but PLEASE follow the rules and call 0-0-2.
If a point is scored, the server switches which the side to serve from. So the server initiates the next serve from the left-hand court.
As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth between right and left-hand sides of the court until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
When the first server (1) loses the serve, the partner then serves from whatever side they are on at the time.
The second server (2) continues serving until that team commits a fault and loses the serve. The ball then goes to the opposing team as a "side out".
Once the service goes to the opposing team, server one (1) also serves from the right side of the court and follows the rules as above until they also commit two faults and the serve returns to the other side.
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. All other rules are the same.
Who serves first? Any fair method can be used. Sometimes a local area will have a system. Examples: 1) play a rally like you do in ping pong to see who serves first, 2) north side always plays first, 3) flip a coin, etc. At the Onalaska YMCA, the side that is by the curtain always serves first.
For visual learners, watch this video below to learn how to do scoring.
One note: this video says scoring begins with 0-0-start. A reminder, a change in rules has taken place and we now say 0-0-2. The rest of the video is excellent!
Additional IMPORTANT rules for serving:
So what happens if the person serves from the wrong side? Rule B.6 says: "If the ball is served by the wrong team member or from the wrong court, the service is a fault. If the fault was by the first server, then the first service is lost and the correct second server serves from the correct service position. If the fault was by the second server, then it is a side out. A point made from an incorrect service position or an incorrect server will not be retained unless play has continued and another point has been scored or the opposing team has served." For additional clarification on this, see this article.
THE NON-VOLLEY ZONE (NVZ), aka "THE KITCHEN"
The NVZ is commonly referred to as "the kitchen" because we all know it is "best to stay out of the kitchen".
Below are two great videos! One that explains every part of the non-volley zone and one is a great video on calling foot faults in the kitchen when the ball is volleyed.
Double Bounce Rule
When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning the serve, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning the ball, thus two bounces.
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.
A ball contacting any line, except the kitchen lines on a serve, is considered "in."
A serve contacting the kitchen lines or the kitchen/NVZ zone is short and considered a fault.
If not sure if a ball was in or not, the rules say to call it "in." If you and your partner disagree on the line call, then you should call it in. However, it is appropriate to ask the other team what they saw. What that team says for the call is then the final say. If a referee is available, and the ref is asked, the ref's call stands as the ref saw it.
Visual learners, and for additional information, see this video:
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... (there are many more listed in official rulebook)
Portable Net Rules