Note: This is an abbreviated form of the rules to give a quick overview of how the game is played.
The serve must be hit underhand, and each team must play their first shot off the bounce. After the ball has bounced once on each side, then both teams can either volley the ball in the air or play it off the bounce. This is called the “double bounce rule” because the ball must bounce once on each side before it can be volleyed. This eliminates the serve and volley advantage and prolongs the rallies. To volley a ball means to hit it in the air without first letting it bounce.
The non-volley zone is the 7-foot zone on both sides of the net. No volleying is permitted within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone. When volleying the ball, the player may not step on or over the line. It is a fault if the player’s momentum causes the player or anything the player is wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone. It is a fault even if the ball is declared dead before the player touches the zone. A player may be in the non-volley zone at any other time. The non-volley zone is sometimes referred to as the kitchen.
Both players on the serving team are allowed to serve, and a team shall score points only when serving. A game is played to eleven points and a team must win by two points. Rallies are lost by failing to return the ball inbounds to the opponent’s court before the second bounce, stepping into the non-volley zone and volleying the ball, or by violating the double-bounce rule. The hand is considered an extension of the paddle. The player loses the rally if the ball hits any other part of his body or clothing.
At the beginning of the serve, both feet must be behind the baseline. At the time the ball is struck, at least one foot must be on the playing surface behind the baseline and the server’s feet may not touch the playing surface in an area outside the confines of the serving area. The serve is made underhand. The paddle must contact the ball below the waist. The serve is made diagonally cross court and must clear the non-volley zone. If the ball hits the non-volley line the serve is a fault. All other lines are good at all times. Only one serve attempt by a severing player is allowed at the start of each new game. If the ball touches the net on the serve, and lands in the proper service court it is in play and needs to be returned. Let serves (served balls that touch or hit the net) are not replayed (ball must land in the proper service court). Thereafter the first serving team serves them both members of each team will serve and fault before the ball is turned over to the opposing team. When the receiving team wins the serve (side out occurs) the player in the right-hand court will always serve first.
When the serving team wins a point, the server moves to the other side of the serving team’s court. Note that if the serve rotation is done properly, the serving team’s score will always be even when the player that started the game on the right side is on the right side and odd when that player is on the left side.
Singles Play: The server serves from the right side when his score is even and from the left side when his score is odd.
Rule exception: Games are usually won by two points. In some situations, tournament event directors may choose to win by one to speed up play.
Explanation of Pickleball Scoring
The following information applies to scoring in doubles matches.
Points are scored only on the serve. The receiving side cannot score a point. At the start of the game, the player on the right side serves. If a point is scored, the server moves to the left side and serves to the opposite court. Each time that a point is scored, the players on the serving side alternate from the right to left or left to right. That player continues to serve until the serve is lost by losing a rally. Players on the serving team do not alternate sides unless a point is scored. The receiving side never alternates sides.
When the receiving team wins a service turn, the player on the right serves first and continues to serve and alternates sides each time that a point is won. When the first server loses the serve, the serve goes to the second server on the side. When the second server loses the serve, the serve goes to the other team and the player on the right serves first. That pattern continues throughout the game.
Call the score in the order of server’s score, receiver’s score, then the server number. For example, if the score of the serving team is 3 and the score of the receiving team is 6, and the second server on the side is serving, the score would be announced as 3-6-2. Some players might say “first” or “second” for the server number, for example 3-6-second. Either way is correct. Note that the server number is for that service turn only. Whoever is on the right when the team gets the serve back is the first server for that service turn only. The next time that the team gets the serve back, it might be the other player that is on the right and is the first server for that service turn only. Beginning players often mistakenly assume that the player keeps the same server number throughout the game.
It is important to call the score including the server number prior to each serve. That helps the players to keep the server and the score straight. When you announce, as part of the score, that you are the first server, everyone on the court knows that when you lose the serve, the serve goes to your partner. When you announce that you are the second server, everyone knows that when you lose the serve, the serve goes to the other team. To minimize the advantage of being the first team to serve in the game, only one player gets a service turn on the first service turn of the game. To help everyone remember that the serve goes to the other side when that player loses the serve, it is customary to say that the player is the last server or second server. Therefore, at the start of the game, it is customary to say that the score is 0-0-2. The “2” means that the serve goes to the other side when the serve is lost.
At the start of each game, make a mental note of the player that served first for each side. If the rotation is done correctly, a team’s score will always be even when that player is on the right and odd when that player is on the left. As you call the score, use the player position as a double check on whether you have the correct score.
Singles scoring is very similar except that there is no second server. The serve is always done from the right side when the server’s score is even and from the left side when the server’s score is odd. Note that it is the server’s score that matters, not the combined score of server and receiver.