While there are some fairly standard rules that are typical of a racquet/paddle sport, there are definitely some that are unique to pickleball.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with a good understanding of 7 pickleball rules that are less familiar to many players but important for your game.
These rules focus on doubles play although the rules for singles are similar.
IN THIS GUIDE
Do you know these 7 pickleball rules?
Here are the 7 pickleball rules being covered in this article:
- Non-Volley Zone Rule
- 10-Second Rule
- Wrong Score Called Rule
- Service Fault Rules
- Line Call Rule
- Another Line Call Rule
- Double Hits Rules
#1 – Non-Volley Zone Rule (Kitchen Rules)
I don’t believe that the Non-Volley Zone rules are that complicated although they are somewhat lengthy.
However, as straightforward as they seem when you read them in a rule book or in a list (see below), they are challenging rules to remember while playing a game.
It’s just tricky business, watch your feet, watch the lines and watch the ball so hopefully, you can connect with it, at the right time with your feet in the right place (or more importantly not in the wrong place, AKA, not in the kitchen) or any other body part attached to you.
Rule Summary: No part of you, your paddle, or anything you’re wearing can be inside the non-volley zone while volleying the ball. Both feet must be re-grounded outside the Non-volley zone before volleying the ball again.
If you would like to learn more, have a look at this great video, just below. It does a great job of explaining the non-volley zone rules.
#2 – 10 Second Rule
I believe this is a pickleball rule that many players are unfamiliar with, particularly in recreational play.
And while it doesn’t seem like it’s all that important, it’s a rule that’s key to keeping the game moving along in a fair way so that neither team feels like they are at a disadvantage.
In professional play or tournaments, the referees will keep close tabs to be sure all players are adhering. This rule applies to both the serving team and the receiving team.
Rule Summary: The server has 10 seconds to call the score, and then once the score is called, the server has 10 seconds to serve.
#3 – Wrong Score Called
There’s no doubt in my mind that this pickleball rule is not understood or followed by many people in recreational play.
Let’s face it, understanding how to keep score is problematic for new(ish) players (and understandably), and then trying to remember the score, ya, that’s a whole different ball-game.
Rule Summary: If the server calls the wrong score, any player may stop play before the return of the serve and ask for it to be corrected. If the score is incorrect, it will be corrected and the ball will be re-served with no penalty.
I think that in most situations where I’ve seen this rule being followed, the score is only challenged because the player challenging the score is confident that they know the score (and how to score) and are confident that the score has been announced incorrectly.
It’s really about ensuring everyone is on the same page and the score is correct.
If you would like to learn about how to score, read my guide on How to Keep Score In Pickleball.
#4 – Service Faults
The list of service faults that could happen against the server is long.
In fact, there are 12 rules, that if not clearly understood, could result in a fault against the server resulting in a loss of serve.
I believe that most of these rules are intuitive and known by most players. However, I see Rule 4.M.9 frequently not followed.
Rule Summary: The server begins the service motion before the entire score is called, it’s a service fault
#5 – Line Call Rules
In my opinion, line call rules appear to be some of the simplest rules to follow and yet, I’ve played games where it’s clear that no 2 players are aligned.
There are a lot of pickleball rules to remember and I think the line rule calls are definitely worth some extra attention.
It’s also interesting to note that there is a Code of Ethics for Line Calling that is important to understand. If you would like to learn more, read the Code of Ethics for Line Calling.
I mention two of these rules below because I believe they are worth highlighting.
I’ve included rule 6.D.7 because it’s often misunderstood.
I have often seen an opponent making a call from across the court and this rule dictates that this not allowed because it’s too difficult for the eye to make an accurate call (of course, unless it’s way out past the line). Here’s the rule that I’m referring to:
Rule 6.D.7. Players should not call a ball “out” when looking across a line unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits. The player’s depth-of-field judgment, based on the laws of parallax, prevents accurate judgment in these cases.
#6 – Another Line Call Rule
This is another line call rule that I think is worth reviewing.
Quite often I see teams debating an in/out call rather than just deferring to the opponent’s call or simply calling it “in” if neither team can confidently make an “out’“ call.
Here is the rule I’m referring to:
Rule 6.D.6. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make a line call on the player’s side of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is considered “in”.
If you would like to learn more about this USAPA rule, read Line Call Rules.
If you would like to learn more, read the Code of Ethics for Line Calling.
#7 – Double Hits Rule
When a player hits a ball twice, is that considered a fault? According to rule 11.A. balls can be hit twice as long as it’s unintentional.
This question is asked often.
Rule Summary: 11.A. Double Hits. Balls can be hit twice, but this must occur during an unintentional, continuous, single-direction stroke, by one player. If the stroke is deliberate, or not continuous, or not in a single direction, or the ball is struck by a second player, it is a fault.
Code of Ethics for Line Calling
Pickleball is played according to specific rules.
It also requires a Code of Ethics for line calling responsibilities, when line calling is being done by players.
The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or line judges.
The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind.
However, when a player is assigned line-calling duties, here is what the rulebook book dictates:
The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.
Articles Related to Pickleball Rules
USAPA Pickleball Rules
These rules have been taken directly from the USAPA Rulebook (2020).
Non-Volley Zone Rules
9.A. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone.
9. B. 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.
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.
9. D. 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.
9. E. A player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball.
9. F. A player may enter the non-volley zone before or after returning any ball that bounces.
9. G. 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.
9. H. There is no violation if a player returns the ball while their partner is standing in the non-volley zone.
10 Second Rule
4.E. The 10-Second Rule. Once the score has been called, the server is allowed 10 seconds to serve the ball.
4.E.1. The service motion must not start until the score has been called in its entirety.
4.E.2. If the server exceeds 10 seconds to serve, a fault will be declared.
4.E.3. After the score has been called, if the serving team changes serving courts, causing the receiving team to be incorrectly positioned, the referee shall allow the receiver time to reposition and the score shall be re-called to re-start the 10-second count. In a non officiated match, the server will allow for the same repositioning.
Wrong Score Called Rules
- 4.K. Wrong Score Called. If the server or referee calls the wrong score, any player may stop play before the return of serve to ask for a correction.
- 4.K.1. If the score was incorrect, the player or referee will call the correct score and the ball will be re-served with no penalty.
- 4.K.2. After the score has been called, a player who stops play to challenge the score when there is no error will have committed a fault.
- 4.K.3. A player who stops play after the return of serve will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.
Service Fault Rules
4.M.1. The server serves from the incorrect serving area.
4.M.2. The incorrect player serves the ball.
4.M.3. The served ball touches any permanent object other than the net, the receiver, or the receiver’s partner before it hits the ground.
4.M.4. The served ball touches the server or server’s partner, or anything the server or server’s partner is wearing or holding.
4.M.5. The served ball lands in the non-volley zone.
4.M.6. The served ball lands outside the service court.
4.M.7. The served ball hits the net and lands inside the non volley zone.
4.M.8. The served ball hits the net and lands outside the service court.
4.M.9. The server begins the service motion before the entire score is called.
4.M.10. The server uses an illegal service motion.
4.M.11. The server or their partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
4.M.12. The serving team asks the referee to confirm the correct server and/or the team’s score after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
Line Call Rules
6.A. A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.
6.B. Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.
6.C. A ball contacting the playing surface completely outside of the court is “out”.
6.D. Code of Ethics for Line Calling
Pickleball is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line calling responsibilities when performed by players.
The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or line judges. The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind. The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.
The basic elements are:
6.D.1. Players are responsible for calling the lines on their side of the court (excluding service foot faults and all non-volley-zone lines, if being called by a referee).
6.D.2. Players’ only line call is the centerline on the serve in matches that have line judges.
6.D.3. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a “let” because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty. A player who does not make a call may appeal to the referee to make the call if they did not clearly see the ball land. If the referee is unable to make the call, the 29 USAPA & IFP Official Rulebook ball is “in.” The moment the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call.
6.D.4. Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.
6.D.5. A player should not question an opponent’s call, although any player may appeal a call to the referee before the complete score is called to start the next point.
6.D.6. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make a line call on the player’s side of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is considered “in”. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call.
6.D.7. Players should not call a ball “out” when looking across a line, unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits. The player’s depth-of-field judgment, based on the laws of parallax, prevents accurate judgment in these cases.
6.D.8. All “let” or “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “let” or “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before a dead ball is declared.
6.D.9. In doubles play, if one player calls the ball “out” and the partner calls it “in,” then doubt exists and the team’s call will be “in.” Any player may appeal a call to the referee. If the referee did not see the ball, the ball is considered in. USAPA & IFP Official Rulebook 30 6.D.10. “Out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and may include a hand signal (See Rule 13.E.2.), regardless of how obviously the ball is “out.” People who are Deaf or hard of hearing are allowed to use hand signals only.
6.D.11. While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to their partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.
6.D.12. An “out” call made after the ball bounces is a line call. The ball is dead and play shall stop. If, upon appeal, the referee overrules any type of “out” call, it is a fault against the player or team that made the “out” call. Exception: If the match has line judges, the baseline and sideline judges are responsible for the call. (See Rule 13.E.)
6.D.13. Players may call faults on themselves or line calls to their disadvantage during or after the completion of a rally. This includes overriding a line judge’s call if it is to their disadvantage.
You can read all pickleball rules in the USAPA Pickleball Rule Book.