What is the pickleball kitchen rule?
The pickleball kitchen rule states that a player must hit all volleys from outside of the non-volley zone (the kitchen). In summary, players can NOT step into the kitchen or be touching the kitchen line when volleying the ball. The ball must have bounced before stepping into the kitchen to hit it.
Updated: March 3, 2023
But, here’s the deal:
The pickleball kitchen rule is a bit more complicated and is actually a set of 8 rules that all roll up into the kitchen rule.
This means that people are unfamiliar with the concept of a kitchen and often break the rule because it’s difficult to keep straight.
The objective of this article is to simplify the kitchen rule so that when you step onto a court, you won’t break it.
IN THIS GUIDE
5 Important Pickleball Kitchen Facts
- The kitchen is formally called the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) but is most often referred to as the kitchen. For simplicity, I’m calling it the kitchen in this article.
- The kitchen is the area on either side of the net that spans 7 feet deep from the net into the court and covers the entire width of the court.
- As with all pickleball court lines, the kitchen line is 2 inches thick and is considered part of the kitchen (the kitchen includes the lines – this is important to understand).
- The kitchen rule exists so that players can’t stand up close to the net and smash the ball directly over the net. If the rule did not exist, it would be difficult to have a pickleball game that was a fair and reasonable play allowing for more than just smashing the ball over the net and into the ground or your opponent.
- The kitchen is the physical ground, not the space above it. When you volley a ball, it’s legal to have your paddle over the kitchen but you can’t be touching the kitchen line or standing in the kitchen.
Here are 2 additional terms that will be helpful to understand when learning about the kitchen rules:
A volley is when you hit the ball in the air before it has bounced.
Dinking is when the ball comes over the net, bounces once, and you return the ball.
It’s a very strategic part of a pickleball game because the intent is to dink or lob the ball over the net to ensure your partner can’t smash the ball back to your side.
If you can learn how to strategically place or dink the ball to your opponent’s side this can be a game-changer and help you win more points and games.
What Is The Kitchen In Pickleball ?
The kitchen in pickleball, officially known as the non-volley zone (NVZ), is defined by a line that is parallel to the net and is 7 feet from the net on both sides of the net and runs to each of the two sidelines. The lines are part of the kitchen.
The concept of the kitchen is to eliminate the “smash” type of hits that you find in other sports such as tennis, badminton, squash and racquetball. A smash hit that is close up at the net inevitably ends the play by putting the opponent at a disadvantage because of the hard, fast hit.
The original inventors of pickleball, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum wanted the game to be a game that was easy enough for most people to play and one where the ball could be hit with pickleball paddles, without the worry of a constant spray of hard hits that interrupt play.
As a result, they created the non-volley zone and introduced the concept of a “dink” hit which is to gently lob the ball over the net while up close, either while standing in the kitchen zone (if the ball has bounced) or from behind the line. A pickleball game can get very strategic and interesting when players have a “dink” rally.
One key point about the pickleball kitchen rule is that it’s about the physical ground not the space above the ground. The rule does not prohibit you from standing outside the kitchen (and not on the kitchen line) and hitting a volley shot with your pickleball paddle over the kitchen zone.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules Summary
The kitchen rule, in summary, means that when volleying a ball, a player can’t:
- Be in the kitchen or be touching the kitchen line.
- Have any part of their body or anything it’s in contact with including the player’s partner, or paddle, physically in the kitchen or touching the kitchen line.
- Allow their swing, the follow-through, or the player’s momentum from hitting the ball in the kitchen or touch the kitchen line. If your leaning into hit a volley, that’s okay because your paddle is in the space above the ground – not on the ground.
To simplify it, the kitchen rule means that it’s best to stay out of the kitchen and behind the kitchen line, always.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules Explained
If you want to learn more about the official kitchen rules, keep reading because I’ve included further explanations of the official rules from the USAPA Rule Book.
All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone during a volley.e
Okay, I think this one is clear. If you are going to volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) you must be standing outside of the kitchen and not on or touching the kitchen line. Keep reading to understand that although this rule appears simple, it gets more complicated.
It is a fault if the volleying player or anything that has contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying, touches the non-volley zone.
9.B.1. The act of volleying the ball includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the action.
9.B.2. If the paddle touches the non-volley zone during the volley motion, before or after contacting the ball, it is a fault.
See, this is tricky. What this rule is saying is that it’s not just your feet that must stay out of the kitchen and off the kitchen line when volleying. It includes anything that is attached to you or your body, including your paddle, your hands etc.. So, if you volley the ball while standing outside the kitchen but you drop your paddle or anything else in the kitchen after the volley, this is a fault.
9.C. It is a fault if the player’s momentum causes the player to contact anything that is touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s partner.
9.C.1. It is a fault even if the ball is declared dead before the player contacts the non-volley zone.
Ya, this is serious business. Stay out of the kitchen. Always. Unless you know the ball has bounced.
If you lose your balance after a volley and land in the kitchen or on the kitchen line or put your paddle in, this is a fault.
And it’s a fault even if the ball is dead.
If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley a return until both feet have made contact with the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing outside the non-volley zone is prohibited
Yes, stay out of the kitchen, always. Unless the ball has bounced.
You can’t start a volley in the kitchen zone or on the kitchen line, and finish by landing outside the kitchen. That’s a fault.
Wow, I feel like I’m repeating myself.
This rule is stating that if you are going to volley the ball, ensure that you have both feet grounded and re-positioned outside the kitchen and off the kitchen line before starting to volley.
A player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball.
A player may enter the non-volley zone before or after returning any ball that bounces.
A player may stay inside the non-volley zone to return a ball that has bounced. There is no violation if a player does not exit the non-volley zone after hitting a ball that bounces.
Yup, I think I’m saying it again. Stay out of the kitchen always unless the ball has bounced.
There is no violation if a player returns the ball while their partner is standing in the non-volley zone.
This is a good one to know.
I’ve actually seen some players who thought that both players had to stay out of the kitchen when one player hits a volley shot.
It’s okay for the player who isn’t hitting the ball to be in the kitchen or on the kitchen line, as long as the player volleying the ball does not come into contact with the player who is in the kitchen.
FAQs About The Pickleball Kitchen
When can the ball be hit out of the non volley zone in pickleball?
The ball can be hit out of the non volley zone in pickleball when the ball has bounced.
What is a non volley zone called?
A non volley zone is also called the “kitchen”.
Can you ever go in the kitchen in pickleball?
You can go in the kitchen in pickleball at any time during a game but you can’t stand in the kitchen and volley the ball. This means that if the ball has bounced, you can stand in the kitchen and hit the ball.
What is the kitchen in pickleball?
The kitchen in pickleball is the area that is 7 feet from the net on both sides of the net and goes to both side-lines. The official name of the kitchen is the non-volley zone. Players can not volley the ball while standing in the kitchen or standing on the kitchen line.
Summary – Pickleball Kitchen Rules
Yup, I think I hear myself saying it again. Stay out of the kitchen, always.
Unless you know the ball has bounced.
It’s no doubt that the kitchen rule is one of the most challenging rules in pickleball to follow and is often misunderstood.
It takes practice and a constant awareness of the rule in order to master it so that you avoid earning faults and losing games.
If you are interested in learning about other pickleball rules that are often misunderstood, read my article called 7 Must-know Pickleball Rules That Will Surprise You.
If you want to learn more about the kitchen rule and the other official pickleball rules, read the USAPA Rules Book. The kitchen rule can be found in section 9, Non-Volley Zone Rules.
If you like to learn from videos, look at this video from Pickleball Channel that does a great job of explaining the kitchen rule.
Non-Volley Zone Video