What Are the 5 Basic Rules of Pickleball?

If you’re new to pickleball, it’s important to understand the basic rules of the game. 

What are the 5 basic rules of pickleball?

  1. The ball must stay in bounds – If the ball lands outside the pickleball court boundaries, and the players can clearly see a space between the line and the ball, it’s considered out of bounds.
  2. Two-bounce rule – When the ball is served, the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before it can be volleyed. After the ball has bounced once on each team’s side of the net, both teams may either volley the ball or play it off a bounce. 
  3. The ball must be served underhand – The serve must be made underhand, and the pickleball paddle must make contact with the ball below the server’s waist. The first server must serve from the right hand side of the pickleball court and serve diagonally to the opposing team’s court.
  4. The serve can’t land in the non-volley zone – If the ball lands in the non-volley zone on the serve, it’s a fault. The non-volley zone is the area within 7 feet of the net on both sides.
  5. Serving must be done behind the baseline – The server must stand behind the baseline when serving. The server can’t step on or over the baseline until after the ball has been struck.

#1 – The Ball Must Stay Inbounds

One of the most basic rules of pickleball is that the ball must stay in bounds during play. 

When the ball is already in play, it must land within the court boundaries although it can touch any part of court lines including the non-volley line (kitchen line) and it’s still considered in.

If the ball lands outside of the court boundaries, and it’s being called “out”, the player or the referee must clearly see a space between the line and the ball before calling the ball out. (Rule 6.D.6)

IN BOUNDS AND OUT OF BOUNDS

If the ball is touching any part of a court line, the ball is considered in – not out. Play should continue.

If the ball is called ‘out’, the serving side gets a point and the second server serves.

If the second server has already served, it’s called a side-out (the serving side loses the ball) and the ball goes to the opposing team to serve (the original receiving team).

One of the most basic rules of pickleball is that the ball must stay in bounds when serving.

When serving the ball, the ball must land in the service court of the receiving team. 

pickleball ball must land in bounds

If the ball lands in the non-volley zone (the kitchen area) or touches the non-volley zone line, it is out of bounds. (Rule 4.A.2)

5 Rules of Pickleball

​If the ball lands on or touches the baseline, the center line or the side line, it is in bounds.

The service court is a rectangle that is diagonally opposite the server, and runs from the baseline, up the center line, and the sideline to the non-volley zone line.

If you are unsure whether the ball landed in or out of bounds, you should make a line call based on your best judgment. 

#2 – Two-Bounce Rule

The two-bounce rule (Rule 7.A) is a rule that is unique to the game of pickleball.

This rule states that the receiving team must let the ball bounce once on their side before returning it after a serve.

And the serving team must also let the ball bounce once on before hitting it back to the receiver.

This rule is in place to ensure that both teams get an equal opportunity to hit the ball and extend rallies.

The two-bounce rule applies only to the first two shots of a rally (the service return and the next return by the serving team). 

After the first two shots, players can volley the ball without waiting for it to bounce. 

The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve-and-volley advantage which often results in a smash return of the serve. 

It encourages longer rallies by eliminating the possibility of a smash return of the serve.

If the receiving team hits the ball before it bounces, it’s considered a fault, and the serving team earns a point.

If the serving team hits the ball before it bounces, it’s considered a fault and the second server serves. 

If the second server has already served, it’s a side-out and the ball goes to the receiving team. (Rule 3.A.39.)

The only exception to this rule is if it’s the first serve of a game. 

Because only one player gets to serve when it’s the first serve of a game, if the serving team does not let the ball bounce before returning the ball, it’s a side-out and the ball goes to the receiving team. 

Pickleball serving rules can be found in the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (4.A.).

People often confuse or inter-change the two-bounce rule with the double bounce rule (Rule 3.A.7.). These are different rules. 

The double-bounce rule states that the ball can only bounce once on one side of the court. If it bounces twice, it’s a fault.

#3 – Serving must be done behind the baseline.

When it comes to serving in pickleball, one important rule to remember is that the serve must be done behind the baseline. 

According to the USA Pickleball rules, at the point of contact between your pickleball paddle and the pickleball on your serve, at least one foot must remain in contact with the ground behind the baseline. (Rule 4.A.4.a.)

This means that you cannot step over the baseline or jump and serve at the same time. 

At least one foot must remain in contact with the ground behind the baseline. Neither of the server’s feet can touch the court or the baseline.

It’s important to follow this rule because it ensures that the serve attempt is made from the correct position. 

If a player steps over the baseline or jumps and serves at the same time, it can affect the player’s momentum and balance, which can lead to a fault. 

#4 – The Serve Can’t Land in the Non-Volley Zone

One of the most basic pickleball rules is that the serve cannot land in the non-volley zone.

The non-volley zone is the area that extends seven feet on either side of the net, from the sideline to the center line, and is marked by a non-volley zone line. 

This rule is in place to prevent players from getting too close to the net during a serve and smashing the ball.

SERVE CANNOT LAND IN THE NON-VOLLEY ZONE

If the first server hits a serve that lands in the non-volley zone, it’s a fault.

If the second server also hits a serve that lands in the non-volley zone, it’s also a fault and side-out.

The receiving team now gets to serve.

It’s important to note that the non-volley zone line is considered part of the non-volley zone. 

This means that if a player steps on or over the line while volleying a ball, it is considered a fault. 

The only time a player can enter the non-volley zone is to play a ball that has bounced in the zone.

#5 – Pickleball is played to 11 or 15 points.

In tournaments, a pickleball game is played to 11 points.

In recreational games, a game is played to either 11 or 15 points. 

Whether a pickleball game is played to 11 or 15 points, it is won by the team that scores at least two points more than the other team. 

Only the serving team can score points.

The first serve of a game is made from the right side of the court, and the ball must be served underhand. 

The serve must land in the opposite diagonal service court. 

If the ball lands outside the court or in the net, it is a fault, and the serve is lost.

The return of the serve must bounce once on the receiving side before it can be hit. 

After that, the ball can be hit in the air or after it bounces. The objective is to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court without the opponent returning it.

The official rules of pickleball are governed by the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). 

The IFP provides a comprehensive guide to the rules of the game, including scoring, serving, and faults.

FAQ – What are the 5 Basic Rules of Pickleball?

What are the basic rules of serving in pickleball?

The basic rules of serving in pickleball are: 
– The server must stand behind the baseline and serve the ball diagonally to the opponent’s service court. 
– The serve must be underhand, and the pickleball paddle must contact the ball below the server’s waist. 
– The ball must land within the opponent’s service court  and clear the non-volley zone. 
– If the serve lands outside of the service court or hits the net, it is a fault, and the serve is lost.

What is the role of the kitchen in pickleball?

The kitchen, also known as the non-volley zone, is a seven-foot area on both sides of the net.

The role of the kitchen in pickleball is to prevent players from hitting volleys too close to the net, which can be dangerous but can also end a game very quickly.

Players are not allowed to hit volleys while standing inside the kitchen, but they can enter the kitchen after hitting a shot and must exit immediately.

If a player hits a volley while standing inside the kitchen, it is a fault.

What are the rules for doubles play in pickleball?

The rules for doubles play in pickleball are that each team has two players, and each player serves the ball at least once before the receiving team gets the ball to serve.

The serve must be hit diagonally across the pickleball court, and the ball must clear the non-volley zone.

After the serve, both teams must let the ball bounce once before hitting it – this is called the two-bounce rule.

A team scores a point if the opposing team fails to return the ball or hits the ball out of bounds.

What are the rules for singles play in pickleball?

The rules for singles play in pickleball are the same as doubles play, except that each player plays alone.

The serve must be hit diagonally across the pickleball court, and the ball must clear the non-volley zone.
After the serve, both players must let the ball bounce once before hitting it.

A serving player scores a point if the opposing player fails to return the ball or hits the ball out of bounds.

What are some coaching points for serving in pickleball?

Some coaching points for serving in pickleball are to keep the serve low and deep in the opponent’s service court, vary the placement of the serve, use spin to make the ball bounce unpredictably, and follow the serve to the net to put pressure on the opponent.

It is also important to maintain good technique when serving, including keeping the elbow close to the body and following through with the pickleball paddle
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