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From day one we fought big powerful people domineering the game. These rules put every size and shape right into it.

Barney McCallum - Pickleball Co-inventor


A complete set of rules may be obtained from the United States of America Pickleball Association. However, if you are just learning, you will find the following condensed rules much easier to follow.

Game and Match

A match will usually consist of the best 2 out of 3 games to 11. A game is finished when one player or team reaches 11 points and is leading by at least two points. If the score is tied at 10-10, then the game continues until one player or team wins by two points. Players switch sides after the first game. If a third game is needed, the players will switch sides after the first player or team gets to 6 points, and the game will then continue to its conclusion.

For consolation events, or when time is short, matches often consist of just one game to 15 points. The winner in this format must also be ahead by two points. In a 15 point game, players should switch sides after one team gets to 8 points, and the game will then continue to its conclusion.

The key to pickleball is balance - offense against defense. All the rules that we made were to keep that balance. Big guys didn’t dominate little. Skill was it. The attraction was that everybody could play it. It’s a great mixed doubles game, far more than tennis. Power is not the main factor by any means. It escalates in abilities, but there’s still a place for the guy who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

Barney McCallum - Pickleball Co-inventor

Basic Rules Overview

  • Pickleball is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles is most common
  • The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles

Many of the rules came about to support the notion of making play fair for all skill levels and not just be a power game. Three of the key rules exemplify this principle: 1) Underhand serve, 2) Non-volley Zone and 3) Double-bounce rule.

The Serve

  • A player or team can only score points when serving.
  • Both feet must remain behind the baseline until after the ball is struck.
  • Players must announce the score prior to serving. The server's score is called first followed by the receivers score.
  • The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made below waist level. Waist is defined as the navel level.
  • Serves must travel diagonally and land between the non-volley zone and the baseline of the service court opposite of the serving player.
  • Each player is allowed only one serving attempt unless it is a “let” serve. A let serve occurs when the serve hits the net and still lands in the correct service court. If this occurs, the serve is played over. Each player will continue to serve until he does not win a point.

The original rules allowed the server to stand with one foot in play because of a tree that was too close to the baseline which the server would hit on the backswing during the serve.

Barney McCallum - Pickleball Co-inventor

Serving in Doubles

  • At the beginning of each game, the team that serves first only has one service opportunity. When the team that serves first does not win a point, the service opportunity passes to the receiving team.
  • Going forward, both players on the team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault.
  • The first serve after a side-out is made from the right-hand court.
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and initiates the next serve from the left-hand court.
  • The server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server fails to win a point, the partner continues the service rotation until his team fails to win a point and the service opportunity passes to the opposing team.
  • The opposing team proceeds with the service rotation beginning in the right-hand court.

Serving in Singles

  • The server will serve from the right-hand court when he has an even number of points (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10).
  • The server will serve from the left-hand court when he has an odd number of points (1, 3, 5, 7, 9).
  • The receiver will adjust their position according to where the server stands.

The underhand serve allows adults and children to play on a more level playing field because it reduces the power advantage. In an underhand stroke, the arm must be moving in an upward arc and the paddle head shall be below the wrist when it strikes the ball. The paddle head is that part of the paddle, excluding the handle.  The highest point of the paddle head cannot be above any part of the line formed where the wrist joint bends.

Non-Volley Zone

  • If a player’s momentum causes them to step on or over the non-volley line after hitting a volley they have committed a fault and lose the point.
  • If a player’s paddle, clothing, hat, or any part of their body touches any part of the non-volley zone while hitting a volley or because of their forward momentum after hitting the ball they lose the point!
  • A player may jump across the non-volley line after hitting a volley if they don’t touch any part of the non-volley zone including the lines while doing so.

To make pickleball a game of finesse and strategy rather than just raw power, the first dads instituted a non-volley zone extending seven feet from the net on each side. Within this zone, the ball must bounce before it is hit.

Double Bounce Rule

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The double bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.

In the early days (literally like the first two days pickleball was played) the server had a huge advantage. The player receiving the serve would have to wait for the ball to bounce. The server, meanwhile, could be in position for a quick return off the volley. The three founding fathers added the double bounce rule to take this advantage away. Now, the receiving team and the server must both hit their first shots off the bounce. After that, the ball can be volleyed.

Barney McCallum - Pickleball Co-inventor


  • A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.

A fault occurs when:

  • A serve does not land within the confines of the receiving court
  • The ball is hit into the net on the serve or any return
  • The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side
  • The ball is hit out of bounds
  • A ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone
  • A ball bounces twice before being struck by the receiver
  • A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play
  • There is a violation of a service rule
  • A ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying
  • A ball in play strikes any permanent object before bouncing on the court

Determining Serving Team

Players use a coin toss to determine who will serve first. The winner of the coin toss will have the option to choose side or to serve or receive.

Grow Global, Start Local

The number who know about the sport and getting on the courts is quickly increasing. It's been called the fastest-growing sport in America. Please let us know if you play pickleball in the Trussville, Birmingham metro, or surrounding areas!