How to Play Pickleball (Official Rules)

Pickleball is an internationally popular family outdoor game that is loved by masses for its ease and flexibility. If you’re wondering how to play pickleball and are curious about its official rules, let us introduce you to the game and take you through its gameplay.

Pickleball is a happening game played with perforated balls, dedicated paddles, and a net, but unlike Crossnet, it requires a single lowered net to make it favorable for children and adults alike. Internationally the highest governing body is the International Federation For Pickleball, which governs the rules and holds tournaments worldwide.

RELATED: Our Guide to Choosing Pickleball Paddles for Beginners.

Read on to find out how to play pickleball, how to score in pickleball, and how to master the game.

What Is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport outdoor game that involves teams volleying a pickleball in a strategic fashion to score points. While pickleball rules are relatively easier than other racquet sports, the court and scoring structure pose healthy challenges to make it fun.

Number Of Players: 2/4.

Ages: Fun for all age groups

Difficulty: Medium.

Length Of Play: 20-30 mins.

Main Objective: Volleying without getting faults and reaching the 11 point-score mark first.

Why We Love It: Pickleball is an easy-going game that can scale to a cut-throat competitive game real quick. This makes it the perfect outdoor game for basking in some sun and throwing in a bit of workout into the mix.

Brief History Of Pickleball

playing pickeball image

The discovery of pickleball has a rather interesting story behind it and explains why it is so similar to present-day badminton. In the summer of 1965, one Joel Pritchard decided to replace a shuttlecock with a perforated ball and racquets with makeshift paddles. 

Not much later, one of his friends, McCallum, designed specialized paddles for the game, and the M2 version became particularly famous. By 1972, he incorporated Pickleball Inc. to further promote the game and officially manufactured the paddles. It was later spilled that the game got its name from Pritchards’ family dog Pickle

What You Need To Play Pickleball

First things first, to play a legitimate game of pickleball, you will need a dedicated court. Even if you can’t find a space with exactly the same dimensions, you can have a look here at the standard measurements of a pickleball court to create a rough sketch on your own.

  • A pickleball court will have 3 main regions on either side of the net — 1 non-volley zone and 2 service courts. 
  • The positions of these regions are in a similar arrangement to that of a badminton court and opposite to that of spec tennis.
  • The court dimensions are generally 20×44 feet.
  • The non-volley zone extends to 7 feet on both sides of the net.

In terms of apparatus, you will need:

  • Pickleballs, generally yellow in color, with regular holes in the design.
  • 2/4 Paddles according to the number of players. These are similar to TT racquets, except these are wide-bodied and have a soft spot at the center. 

This pickleball set by Uteeqe brings together 4 paddles with extra-large soft spots as well as 4 pickleballs so that your game is never disrupted due to insufficient equipment. In our opinion it’s the best pickleball paddle for those just starting out learning to play the game.

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Pickleball Game Rules and Gameplay Instructions 

Before we get to how to play pickleball, getting a clear idea about the placement and positioning of the players is very important. In a singles match, players position themselves in diagonal service courts. 

The players are supposed to serve and volley the ball only and only from these courts. The non-volley zone is completely off-limits, unless during the shot where the players are required to let the ball bounce once and then hit the ball. That’s the only condition in which they can use the zone to play.

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Serving Rules

Once the positions of players are sorted, there are two primary serving rules in pickleball.

Rule 1 states that a service should be made in an underarm stroke in a way that the contact between the pickleball and racquet is made below the waist (or belly button). This means that a player cannot bounce the ball with his hand and then strike the ball off that bounce.

Rule 2 states that the service has to be made towards the diagonal service court and should clear the opponent’s non-volley zone without bouncing off anywhere in between. If the service hits the net, bounces, or doesn’t reach the said court, it will be considered a fault.

Volleying Rules

Once a proper service is made, the first shot has to compulsorily follow the double-bounce rule. According to this rule, on the first shot, the receiving team has to let the ball bounce once in the service court and then hit the ball off the bounce. The opponent (the serving team) should also do the same on this shot as this is their first, too. 

For example, let’s say team A did the service. Team B will have to let the ball bounce off their serving court and then take the shot. Team A, who will now be on the receiving end, will also let the ball bounce once before making their shot. This point onwards, the players have to volley the ball, and no bounce is allowed.

A volley means taking a shot that reaches the target without bouncing. 

If players volley on their first shot and miss the bounce, they get a fault. Similarly, once the double-bounce criteria are fulfilled, the players must only volley. If they end up letting the ball bounce instead of volley, it will then lead to a fault. 

Fault, Out, and Passing The Service

Faulting rules determine which player/ team will take the service and differs according to whether the game is played in singles or duals.

For a duals game, when the scores are leveled at 0-0, each team gets out on a single fault. An out means that the team loses the chance to serve, and the opponent serves next. 

After each team has faulted once, both teams only get an out once they get two faults (one for each player). 

For example, at the beginning of the game, teams A and B are both at 0-0. Team A serves and faults during the relay, so the next serve gets passed on to B. If B faults during the game, the single-fault criteria are lifted, and now the teams have two chances to keep their service. 

So if team A faults again, it will still have the service until it gets a second fault, and then the service will be passed on to B. 

Since a singles game basically means one player in each team, even after the first fault, the players get an ‘out’ for every fault they get. So the serves keep passing on to the opponent whenever a player faults.

Pickleball Scoring and Winning Rules

From the above discussion, we understood that serves and faults are interrelated. Now, the reason why serving is so important in pickleball is that that is the only way a team can score points.

In technical terms, Pickleball follows the side-out scoring approach wherein only the team that serves gets to score points until the team gets a fault. As long as the position is maintained and the rules are followed, a team continues to serve and score even if shots are missed. 

The game is generally played until a team reaches the 11 point mark and wins. It is important to note here that a margin of 2 points is important. If the margin is only 1 point or the teams are tied at 10, the game continues until a team gains a margin of 2 points.

How to Play Pickleball – Video Instructions

Pickleball Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pickleball An Olympic Sport?

No. Pickleball is neither an Olympic nor a paralympic sport. It is more of a leisure sport that has been formed as a variation from similar sports like badminton and tennis. 

What Is Kitchen In Pickleball?

The kitchen is a slang word adopted as a reference to the non-volley zone where the players are not supposed to enter.

Is A Half-Volley Considered A Fault In Pickleball?

A half-volley is when the ball bounces off the ground and is instantaneously picked off in a scoop to make a shot. Regardless, since the ball touches the ground, it is considered a fault in pickleball.

More Outdoor Games You Might Like

The end of one game should not mean the end of your sports day. Here are some fun game ideas that you can easily play outdoors with little to no equipment.

If you are a fan of net and ball games like Pickleball, you should try Spikeball. Another family game that involves fun with balls is Bocce; a game you can play anywhere as long as you find a little empty ground.

In case you want to try out something completely different, you can add a twist to your afternoon with Fricket.

Not what you’re looking for? Don’t worry; we’ve got plenty of more outdoor game options for you!

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