BASIC PICKLEBALL RULES
Below are the basic rules for pickleball, for more details download the 2023 USA Pickleball Rules Book (pdf format).
Pickleball can be played as a singles or doubles game, the court and rules are the same for both.
A pickleball game is normally played to 11 and must be won by 2. You can only score a point while serving. The score should be said aloud before each serve with the serving teams score stated first, in doubles both players on a team serve so the last number stated should be to identify which server is serving. e.g. 5 - 3 - 1 would mean the serving team is winning 5 to 3 and the server is the 1st server on the team, for the 2nd server it would be 5 - 3 - 2
The serve must be hit with an underhand swinging motion and the ball contacted below the hips. When hitting the serve the server must be behind the baseline and serve into the adjacent service box as is done in tennis. You only get 1 serve, if the ball is hit out of the court, into the net or into the no-volley zone (kitchen) it is a side out. The center line, side lines and baselines are considered in on a serve but if the ball lands on the no-volley line it is a side out. Note: As of 1/25/2021 there are no longer any lets in pickleball, if the ball hits the net and goes in it must be played by the receiving team. You only score points while serving.
RULES UPDATE (1/25/2021) - A new provisional rule allows for a "drop serve". You can now drop the ball and hit it after the bounce while serving. You can drop the ball from any height but you can't throw it with any force to bounce it.
In doubles each player serves until a point is lost then the other team gets the serve. At the start of the game the team that serves first only gets 1 player to server so the score starts at 0 - 0 - 2. The 2 meaning it is already the 2nd server. The 1st server on each side is always from the right service box serving into the right service box on the other side.
Double Bounce Rule
When the ball is served the player on the receiving side must let the ball bounce once before hitting it. When the ball is returned to the serving side the ball must again bounce once before being hit. After the ball has bounced once on each side the ball can be hit without bouncing as long as you arent in the no-volley zone 7 feet from the net.
No Volley Zone
The No-Volley Zone is 7 feet from the net on each side. A player can not hit a ball if he is inside the No-Volley Zone unless the ball bounces first. If a ball hit a player in the No-Volley zone before bouncing the point is lost. Once a ball bounces a player can hit the ball while inside the zone. If a player hits a ball while outside the No-Volley Zone the momentum takes him/her into the zone the point is lost. If your foot touches any part of the line you are considered inside the zone, you can reach over the line and hit a ball as long as your foot is behind the line. If a serve hits the No-Volley line the serving team loses the point.
The Official 2023 Rulebook is the one that will be used as a reference during tournaments.
Due to several factors, including an immediate positive impact on quality of play during the remainder of the 2023 amateur tournaments, as well as uniformity between the USA Pickleball Rulebook and the amateur and pro games, these rule revisions necessitated a mid-year implementation rather than delaying changes until 2024.
Most Notable Mid Year Rules Changes for 2023 relating to incorrect player positioning
- 4.B.9. The referee will confirm and correct, if necessary, that all players are in the correct position and the correct server has the ball before calling the score.
- 4.B.9.a. If the referee or a player stops a rally in progress to correctly identify a player/position error, the rally shall be replayed. If a player stops a rally and incorrectly identifies a player/position error, it is a fault on the player who stopped the rally. If the referee stops a rally in progress and incorrectly identifies a player/position error, the rally shall be replayed.
- 4.B.9.b. If a player/position error is identified after the rally has played out, the rally shall stand.
- DELETED EXISTING RULE - 4.B.9 When an incorrect player serves or receives, or a player serves from an incorrect position, the referee will immediately stop play and identify the fault(s).
- DELETED EXISTING RULE - 4.B.10: Incorrect Player or Position. When an incorrect server or player position is discovered after a rally, game, or match has ended, the offending team can be faulted until the next serve occurs or prior to the scoresheet being returned to the tournament operation’s desk. A point scored during the rally by the offending team will not count. Any previous points scored by the incorrect server or with players in the incorrect positions will stand. After a match is completed, an incorrect player or position error may not be corrected after the scoresheet has been returned to tournament operations personnel.
New Rules for Pickleball for 2023
There are many changes to the pickleball rulebook for 2023 but here are the 6 most impactfull changes.
- Apparel (2.G.1/2.G.4) - Inappropriate apparel may now include apparel that approximates the color of the tournament ball. Section 1 encourages players to avoid wearing apparel that approximates the color of the ball. The Tournament Director retains the right to require an apparel change during a non-chargeable time-out.
- Spin Serve (4.A.5) - Manipulating the ball to add spin during the release of the ball is not allowed. Some natural rotation of the ball when it is released is allowable but the server must not impart manipulation or spin prior to striking the ball to serve. This applies to the volley serve and the drop serve
- Replay or Fault on the Serve (4.A.6/4.A.9) - The referee has the authority to immediately stop play and order a replay if the referee is not certain that one more required elements of a serve have been met. The referee will call an immediate fault if a serve clearly violates one or more of the requirements. The intent is to induce players to adjust their serve so that it clearly and obviously meets all requirements.
- Player Questions about Correct Server, Receiver or Position (4.B.8) - Player questions about correct server, receiver or position remain allowed before the serve is hit. A generic question by the server such as “Am I good?” is considered to encapsulate both the correct server question and the correct position question, and the referee will answer both questions. In non-officiated play, a player may ask the opponent the same questions and the opponent must respond with the appropriate information.
- Wrong Score Called (4.K) - If the wrong score is called, the referee or any player may stop play before the return of serve to correct the score. It is a fault to stop play after the return of serve to identify or ask for a score correction. It is a fault to stop play to identify or ask for a score correction when the score was correctly called.
- Equipment Time-Out (10.D) - Players are not required to use a regular time-out for equipment adjustments or changes necessary for fair and safe continuation of the match. The referee will call an equipment time-out of a reasonable duration.
New Rules for Pickleball for 2021
There are many changes to the pickleball rulebook for 2021 but here are the 3 most impactfull changes. If you want to learn more about all the 2021 pickleball rules changes and the reasons for these changes download the summary of 2021 pickleball rules changes and why they were made.
- No More Service Lets - If the ball hits the net on the serve and goes in it is a live serve if it hits the net and goes out, hits the no volley-zone line or in the no volley-zone it is a fault.
- Added the Drop Serve - In addition to the current serve you can now drop the ball and hit it after the bounce on the serve. This addition is a provisional rule change which means they are testing it for a year and may change it next year.
- Ball out calls - A ball should not be called out unless you can see visible space between the line and the ball. This may seem like common sense to a new player coming from tennis but because a pickleball doesnt compress in the past a ball overhanging the line by a little was called out by some and not others causing a conflict that the new rule is trying to remove.