Pickleball kitchen rules: Everything you should know about the non-volley zone

Pickleball kitchen rules: Everything you should know about the non-volley zone


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 02/14/2024

Rules of the pickleball "kitchen," or non-volley zone.

The kitchen in pickleball, also known as the non-volley zone or NVZ, is one of the defining rules of pickleball. But what is it, and why do pickleball kitchen rules seem so complicated at first?

What is the kitchen, or non-volley zone?

The kitchen zone is also called the non-volley zone, or NVZ. All three terms are regularly interchanged when talking about pickleball. The zone is the area extending seven feet from the net toward the baseline, on both sides of the net, and 20 feet wide from sideline to sideline.

The kitchen area includes the kitchen line and the kitchen’s sidelines.

What can you do in the pickleball kitchen?

Although you will hear many different rules about the kitchen, there is actually a lot you can do in the zone. Here are the things you can do while in the NVZ:

  • Hit a ball after it has bounced.

  • Enter the zone before, during, or after a ball has bounced.

  • If you enter the zone during play, you must re-etablish both feet behind the kitchen line before hitting a volley.

  • You can occupy the airspace above the kitchen, as long as your feet, clothing, or items you are carrying are not touching the ground or floor in the NVZ.

What can’t you do in the pickleball kitchen?

There are only a few things you cannot do in the kitchen:

  • Hit a volley out of the air while one or both of your feet are in the kitchen.

  • If you hit a volley in the air before entering the non-volley zone, you may not land in the kitchen.

  • If you hit a volley before entering the non-volley zone, your momentum may not take you into the zone from that volley.

    • This includes anything the player is carrying or touching (including clothing, your paddle, and your partner).

So basically, you can be in the kitchen zone at any time except during a volley or after you have volleyed the ball, if the volley takes you into the zone.

The kitchen line

The kitchen line and kitchen sidelines are considered a part of the kitchen. The kitchen line, or non-volley line, is the line that stretches 20 feet wide from sideline to sideline at the top of the kitchen and parallel to the net.

This means you cannot step on the kitchen line as a part of the kitchen rule (ie if you volley the ball), and a serve that hits the kitchen line is considered a fault.

The kitchen momentum rule in pickleball

The kitchen momentum rule says that after a player volleys the ball, they are carried by momentum into the non-volley zone. This includes:

  • If a player volleys the ball and either or both of their feet land in the NVZ.

  • If a player volleys the ball and their momentum causes them to run into the zone.

  • If anything a player is wearing or holding is in the zone or lands in the zone after a volley.

The NVZ momentum rules applies even if the ball has already been declared dead.

When does the momentum rule end?

If you volley a ball but temporarily stop your momentum from sending you into the NVZ, the momentum rule does not end at the next play.

If you are regaining your balance after that same volley, you must re-establish yourself behind the kitchen line before stepping into the kitchen for it to be considered a legal volley. Even if it’s three or four or seven plays later, if the momentum from that first volley eventually sends you into the non-volley zone, it will be a fault.

Pickleball non-volley zone

If you can break the pickleball kitchen rules down into one sentence, it is: “You cannot volley the ball while in the kitchen,” but it is more complex than that. The kitchen rules of pickleball are one of the most important pieces of the game, so it’s worth spending time to learn the intricacies of the non-volley zone and what it will mean to your pickleball game.

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