How to play pickleball

Learn the basics of how to play pickleball.

PlayPickleball.com

how to play pickleball

02/14/2024

February 14, 2024

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Playing pickleball isn’t nearly as hard as it might look. Pickleball has a very short learning curve and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. Watch the above video for an introduction on how to play pickleball.

The anatomy of a pickleball court

Pickleball is played on a rectangular 44’ by 20’ court. The court is divided into two sides by a low net.

There are two sidelines and two baselines, both marked in orange. The net across the center of the court is shown in red and is 34 inches high. (This height was originally chosen because it was the waistline height of one of the founders. He would stand next to the net to make sure it was at the correct height!)

The centerline on each side is marked in blue and divides each side into two service courts: the left service court and the right service court. (This allows players to know where to stand when serving the ball.)

The two non-volley lines marked in white create an area affectionately known as the “kitchen.”

Learn more about player positions on a pickleball court.

Matches

Matches are played best two games out of three. Each game is played to 11 points, win by two. Or if you are playing one game, it is played to 11 or 15 points, win by two.

Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, with doubles being the most popular. Singles and doubles are played following the same rules with slightly different scoring methods.

The rules of pickleball

The Serve

Every pickleball game starts with a serve. The player standing in the right service court is always the first server, both at the beginning of a game and after a side out. Before serving, the server must call out the score. A pickleball serve must be hit underhanded from behind the baseline cross-court into the opposing team’s service court. The serve must clear the net and not land in the kitchen.

If the ball hits the net but still lands in the correct serving court, it's labeled a “let” and the server must redo the serve until the ball either lands in the opposing team’s service court, hits the net, or lands out of bounds. If the ball hits the net and lands in the kitchen, it is known as a “fault.”

Learn more about pickleball scoring rules.

The return of serve

The player returning the serve must then let the ball bounce before returning it to either side of the opposing team’s service court.

The double bounce

An important rule in pickleball is the double bounce rule. The double bounce rule says the ball must bounce once on each side before either team may start volleying the ball in the air.

Kitchen

A unique and important aspect of pickleball is the non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen.” Players may not hit the ball while standing in the kitchen, unless the ball has already bounced on their side. Players may also not step into the kitchen to volley the Pickleball. Additionally, players may not enter the kitchen on a volley, even if their momentum carries them into the kitchen zone.

Faults

When playing pickleball, mistakes are called “faults.” There are five major faults that can be made in the middle of a rally, causing the other team to win the game:

  1. Hitting a volley before the ball has bounced at least once on each side of the court.

  2. Letting a ball bounce more than once on either side of the court before hitting it.

  3. Hitting the ball out of bounds (where the center of the ball touches the ground determines whether a ball is in or out of the court lines).

  4. Hitting the ball into the net.

  5. Stepping into the kitchen to hit a volley.

Learn more about the basic rules of pickleball.

At first it can sound complex, but it is very simple and the main point of playing Pickleball is to hit the ball back and forth until someone faults and the game is won by the opposing team.

Learn more about all the basics of pickleball before you get started.