Pickleball Rules And How to Play

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles. Both singles and doubles follow the same rules.

Rules Summary

  • The ball is handed diagonally and underhanded to the opponent’s court of service, without it being bounced off the court.
  • Points are scored only by the serving side and are awarded when the opponent fails to return the ball or hits the ball out of bounds, into the net, or otherwise causes injury.
  • The server continues to serve until the serving side is faulted.
  • The winner is the side that scores 11 points or more and leads by at least 2 points
  • You must win by at least 2 points
  • Each side must serve the ball and make at least one groundstroke before volleying it (hitting the ball before it bounces).
  • The Non-Volley Zone, also known as the kitchen: A player can’t volley a ball if they are within the non-volley area.


  • Serving must be done underhand
  • The server must have paddle contact with the ball below their waist.
  • Start the server with one foot behind the baseline. After you hit the ball, neither your foot nor the baseline can touch the court.
  • The diagonal crosscourt serve must be in diagonal court and it must land in diagonal court.
  • You can only serve once unless the ball is hit into the net or it lands on the opposite side of the court. This is known as a “let”

Serving Sequence

  • Each player on a doubles team gets to serve until they commit an error
    • One exception is at the first service in each game. Only one player of the original serving team can serve before the service passes to the second team.
  • Each time there is a service change, the first serve comes from the right-hand court
  • You can switch sides every time you score a goal.
  • Doubles play is when the first server loses the serve. The partner then moves to serve from the exact same court where their partner last served.
  • Singles play is played from the right side of a court. If their score is even, the server serves from their left side.


  • Only the serving team can score points
  • You must win at least 2 games to be considered a winner.
  • Tournament games can be played up to 21 or 15 and you have to win by at least 2

Double Bounce Rule

  • The ball must be bounced by the receiving team before it is returned to them. The serving team must also let the ball bounce back before it is returned.
  • No bounces are allowed after the first two returns. The ball can be hit with either a groundstroke if the ball bounces first, or a volley if it bounces second.


  • The non-volley area is a zone of the court that lies within 7 feet of both the net and the net on the other side. It’s marked with a line from pickleball courts. Volleying is not allowed in this area. It is also called the “kitchen”.
  • The non-volley area prohibits volleyball, thus preventing any smashes to the net.
  • It is a mistake to step in the zone that is not intended for volleying or on the line while volleying.
  • It’s a mistake when your momentum takes you into the kitchen or causes you to touch the line after a full volley.
  • As long as you are not volleying, you can be in the non-volley area at any time.
  • All balls that touch any line except the non-volley line on a service are considered in.
  • Contacting the non-volley line is a shortening of serves that can cause a fault.



  • A serve is not served in the receiving court
  • The ball is hit into the net when the serve or any return is made
  • Before the ball bounces on either side, it is volleyed
  • The ball has been thrown out of bounds
  • The ball is volleyed from a non-volley area
  • The receiver strikes the ball twice after it bounces.
  • When the ball is in play, the player, the player’s clothing, or any part of the player’s paddle touches either the net or the post.
  • A violation of service rules
  • A ball in play hits a player, or any player wearing or carrying it.
  • Before it bounces on the court, a ball in play hits any permanent object.

Determining Serving Team

  • A coin toss determines the first serve. The coin toss winner will be able to choose to side, to serve, or to receive.

This post was written by Kristian D’an, a pickle pall specialist with Pickleball Connection. Pickleball Connections is a private club offering the latest news, training, sportswear, supplements, and more. For exclusive deals, and to stay up to date on everything Pickleball click here for more information.