What Is The Pickleball Kitchen Rule?
The pickleball kitchen rule is unique to pickleball and is unlike any rule in other racquet sports.
This means that people are unfamiliar with the concept of a kitchen and often break the rule because it’s difficult to keep straight.
In actuality, the kitchen rule is not just one simple rule, although, technically, “stay out of the kitchen” is the simple explanation.
However, it’s a bit more complicated and is actually a set of 8 rules that all roll-up into the kitchen rule.
The objective of this article is to simplify the kitchen rule so that when you step onto a court, you are more certain that you won’t break the rule.
If you are a player looking for some clarity on all things kitchen related so you don’t continue earning faults, please keep reading.
5 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.
Kitchen Rules Summary
The kitchen rules, 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, in the kitchen or touching the kitchen line
Allow their swing, the follow-through or the momentum from hitting the ball in the kitchen or touch the kitchen line
What this means is that it’s best to stay out of the kitchen and behind the kitchen line, always.
Unless you know that the ball has bounced.
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
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 the kitchen line. Keep reading to understanding 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 is volleying.
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.
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 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.