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Singles and Doubles Pickleball Rules 101

Did you know that Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the nation? In fact, pickleball has had a 650% increase in popularity over the last several years! It's no longer a sport played only in senior living communities. Since 2020, pickleball has been having quite its day in the sun - and so can you if you learn the few simple rules we’ll share below!  So, what is pickleball? Are you wondering how to play this entertaining sport? Read on to learn the official pickleball rules and why this sport has taken off like wildfire. Then get ready to grab your pickleball paddle, lace up your favorite pair of pickleball shoes, and serve up some good times!


What Is Pickleball?

Pickleball is like tennis, badminton, and ping pong rolled into one, without being entirely like any of them! Whatever quirky combination of sports pickleball is, 4.8 million players have caught on and are crazy about the sport. Pickleball gets played in singles or doubles, with either one or two players on either side of the net. Players use a special paddle and a iffle ball that's hit back and forth across a net. The court resembles a tennis court without being quite as large and has fine horizontal lines drawn closest to the center net.


Pickleball Overview

Pickleball is played either indoors or outside on the same size court as badminton which is 20′ x 44′. The pickleball gets served diagonally across the court to begin the game—the first server stands in the right-hand service square. You must be the one serving the ball to score points. Once the ball gets hit across the net, it must bounce once before players can start a volley back and forth. That’s when the excitement begins! Pickleball courts come with a no-volley zone near the net, which prevents players from spiking the ball at the opposing side. 


Pickleball Scoring and Rules for Singles

Rule Detail
Serving Only the serving team can score a point. The server must serve underhand. No overhand serves (paddle and ball below waist). The server must serve to the opposite box of the court. The serve cannot land in the kitchen. 
Serving You always start your serve on the right-hand side when your score is even. If you win the point you go to the left-hand side. If your score is odd, then you start on the left-hand side and go to the right if you win the point. 
Switching Serve The server switches sides until they lose a point. Then the ball goes to the opponent to serve
Bounces One bounce max. The first two shots in a rally must bounce. After the first two shots, you can hit a ball without a bounce or 1 bounce max. 
KItchen You cannot volley in the kitchen
Net  You lose a point if the ball hits the net and lands back on your side. 
Out of Bounds You cannot hit the ball out of bounds
Points You play until 11 points. You must win by two points. 
While Pickleball games are typically played up to a total of 11 points, some tournaments will allow players to compete up to a higher score. A team is only eligible to score points when they are serving. Once a server scores a point, they move to the other side before serving again. 2 points must win a game, so if you happen to be playing and the score is tied at 10, you would continue playing until a team wins by the additional 2 points. Here’s a fun fact! It is proper pickleball etiquette for the server to call out the score before serving. In fact, some players take this rule so seriously that you could even get called out on a fault if you fail to announce the score before serving. So don't forget to get loud and let your voice be heard!

Pickleball Scoring and Rules for Doubles

Serving Player one or two starts the game by serving to the opposite box on the opponent's side of the court. The serve cannot go in the kitchen or out of bounds. 
Opening Serving  Whoever served first will serve and switch sides until he loses the point. Then the serve will belong to the opponent. 
Subsequent Serves Player one and two will get an opportunity to serve before returning the ball back to the opponent. 
Kitchen You cannot volley in the kitchen
Bounces One bounce max. The first two shots in a rally must bounce. After the first two shots, you can hit a ball without a bounce or 1 bounce max.
Out of Bounds You lose a point of the ball goes out of bounds
Net You lose a point of you hit the  ball into the net and it lands back on your side
Points You play until 11 points. You must win by two points. 

There are three line items for scores in doubles pickleball. The first number is the serving team's score.  The second number is the receiving team's score.  The third number is which player is serving (i.e. player one or two).

Player one on the serving team will start the game by serving into the opposite box of the opponent's side of the court. If the serving team wins the point, then player one will continue to serve until they lose a point. The server will also switch sides serving until he loses the point.  A serve cannot go into the kitchen. If the serving team loses the point then the opponent now serves. This is important because normally both player one and two get an opportunity to serve before the ball goes back to the opponent. 

Now that the second team has the ball, it follows the same rules. The only difference is if player one loses the point, then player two on the same team now will serve. Once both players have served and lost, then the opponent will get the ball back to serve. 

The game is played to 11 and you must win by two.


Serving in Pickleball

Like the initial serve, follow-up pickleball serves are hit diagonally to the opposing side across the court. The first bounce must land on the far side of the no-volley zone from the server before the opponent can return it. When serving, you must stand behind the end of the court line. You must serve underhanded, and your paddle should not come above your waist to serve. This may sound like a lot of details to keep in mind, but remember, practice makes perfect! As the game continues, the server retains control of the ball until there's a fault. Once there's a fault, the service goes to the opposing side. When a new game starts, the first team up to serve is only allowed one fault. In the case of doubles, both players will have a chance to serve and fault before the ball goes to the other side. 


Getting a Volley Going

In pickleball, a volley means hitting the ball back to the opposing side without it bouncing off the court first. The player attempting to volley must be behind the court line that keeps players away from the net, called the non-volley zone. It's important to note that it is considered a fault if you step over the line while volleying the pickleball to the other side. Be sure to remember this important rule!


Two-Bounce Rule

Pay attention because the following rule includes a lot of back and forth! The two-bounce rule, sometimes called the double-bounce rule, applies just after a serve. Once the serving team sends the ball over the net, the opposing team must let it bounce once before hitting it back. Once they hit it back over the net, the serving team must also allow the ball to bounce once before hitting it. Once both teams have honored the two-bounce rule after a serve, the ball can continue to be hit off a bounce or hit from a volley without a bounce. 


Faults in Pickleball

Along with gaining points and server changes, faults are essential for the pickleball scoring system. So, what actually constitutes a fault? 

Some of the most common faults in pickleball include:

  • The ball does not clear the net

  • The ball goes out of bounds

  • The ball gets volleyed from the middle non-volley zone

Additionally, if the server serves the ball to the other side and the ball touches any part of the non-volley zone, it is also considered a fault.


Pickleball for Exercise

There's no doubt that pickleball is popular with seniors and non-seniors alike. It is such an enjoyable and easy game to learn. The main draw of pickleball is how it can turn a fantastic exercise into a social event. Pickleball doesn't have the same level of impact as tennis or racquetball, making it perfect for exercising at a less intense level. While you're busy moving your body and arms around to get a great cardio workout on the court, you can also laugh and build special memories with friends. This is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable ways to stay active at any age, surrounded by the people you care about. It is so simple- you can even teach your grandkids! 


Common Asked Pickleball Questions

Can the non-serving team score a point? No, only the serving team can score a point.
Can you serve overhand? No, only underhand serves are allowed.
Can you hit the ball after two bounces? No
Can you step in the kitchen before the ball lands? No
Do you serve from the right-hand side if your score is even? Yes
Do you serve from the left-hand side if your score is odd? Yes
Does the opponent serve if you lose the point? Yes, if you lose the point then the opposite team will serve
Can you win by one point in pickleball? No, you will play until one team wins by two points after 11. 
Do you have to win by two points in pickleball? Yes
Can a serve land in the kitchen? No
Can you hit the ball in the air without a bounce? Yes, but only after the first two rallies.


Hit the Court

We hope this article served up some great facts and taught you the basics of Pickleball! If you are ready to join the pickleball craze, bounce back and review some of the basic rules we described, and you will be prepared to get started in no time. Grab some friends or the grandkids and a couple of pickleball paddles, and get ready to have a blast!

We look forward to seeing you on the court!