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Pickleball Rules - How to Play the Game

Pickleball is played either as doubles or singles. The same rules apply for both singles and doubles.

Rules Summary

  • The ball is served underhanded and diagonally to the opponent’s service court without bouncing it off the court.
  • Points are scored by the serving side only and occur when the opponent faults (fails to return the ball, hits ball out of bounds or into the net, etc.)
  • The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until the serving side faults
  • The first side scoring 11 points and leading by at least a 2-point margin wins
  • You must win by 2 points
  • Following the serve, each side must make at least one ground-stroke prior to volleying the ball (hitting it before it has bounced)
  • Non-Volley Zone (also known as the kitchen): A player cannot volley a ball while standing within the non-volley zone.


  • Serving must be underhand
  • Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist
  • You must start the serve with at least one foot behind the baseline and neither foot can contact the baseline or court until after you hit the ball
  • The serve should be diagonal crosscourt and must land in the opposite diagonal court
  • You only get one serve attempt unless you hit the ball into the net and it lands on the other side in the proper service court (known as a “let”)

Serving Sequence

  • Both players on each team of a doubles game get to serve until they commit a fault
    • The exception is the first service of each game, where only one player from the initial serving team gets to serve before service passes to the other team
  • Every time service changes sides, the first serve is from the right hand court
  • Every time you score, you switch sides of the court for your next serve
  • In doubles play, when the first server loses the serve, the partner moves to serve from the same side of the court their partner had last served from
  • In singles play, the server serves from the right side of the court when their score is even and from the left side when their score is odd


  • Points are only scored by the serving team
  • Games are generally played to 11 and you must win by 2
  • Tournament games are sometimes played to 15 or 21 and you must win by 2

Double Bounce Rule

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning it, and the serving team must let it bounce before returning as well.
  • After the initial two returns, no bounces are mandatory. You may then hit the ball with a ground stroke where the balls bounces first or with a volley where no bounce occurs.


  • Volleying isn’t allowed within the non-volley zone, an area of the court within 7 feet of the net on both sides, marked with a line on pickleball courts. It is also known as the “kitchen”.
  • Volleying isn’t allowed within the non-volley zone, preventing smashes from the net.
  • It is a fault to step in the non-volley zone or even on the line when volleying.
  • It is a fault when your momentum carries you into the kitchen or causes you to touch the line after a volley.
  • You may be in the non-volley zone at any other time as long as you’re not volleying the ball.

Line Calls

  • Balls contacting any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, are considered in.
  • Serves contacting the non-volley zone line are short and cause a fault.


A fault occurs when:

  • A serve does not land within the receiving court
  • The ball is hit into the net on the serve or any return
  • The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side
  • The ball is hit out of bounds
  • The ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone
  • The ball bounces twice before being struck by the receiver
  • The player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play
  • There is a violation of a service rule
  • A ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying
  • A ball in play strikes any permanent object before bouncing on the court

Determining Serving Team

  • The first serve is determined by a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss will have the option to choose side or to serve or receive.


Click here for the full official IFP (International Federation of Pickleball) rulebook