Basic Pickleball Rules


Pickleball is played with a paddle and a perforated plastic ball on a court the size of a badminton court. The net is 34” high in the center and 36” high on each side. The ball is served underhanded off the paddle and is served diagonally to the receiver’s court. Points are scored by the serving team only, when they hit a winner or the opponents commit a fault. The first side scoring 11 points and leading by at least a two point margin wins the game.


Local Rule:  A player crossing a court divider is a fault.

    * Includes the imaginary line from divider to wall and curtain.

    * Regardless of whether the adjacent court is occupied.

    * Even if the ball is dead before momentum causes player to cross the divider (same as a kitchen fault).

    * Does not apply to merely reaching over a divider, nor safely retrieving a ball after a point has ended.

THE SERVE - There are two types of serves -  Volley and Drop

Volley Serve - . The server shall use only one hand to release the ball to perform the serve. If the ball is visibly spun by the server during the release, the part(s) of the hand contacting the ball must be bare. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver.  The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc at the time the ball is struck and may be made with either a forehand or backhand motion.  The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when it strikes the ball. When serving, both feet must be behind the baseline until after the ball is struck.  The serve is made crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.  Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist. The serve must be made without bouncing the ball off the court and hitting it. 

Drop Serve - Servers must release the ball from one of the server’s hands or dropped off the server's paddle face from any natural (unaided) height and hit the ball after the ball bounces. There is no restriction how many times the ball can bounce nor where the ball can bounce on the playing surface. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. When serving, both feet must be behind the baseline until after the ball is struck. The ball shall not be propelled (thrown) downward or tossed or hit upward with the paddle. If the drop serve is used, the ball may be struck with either a forehand or backhand motion without any other restriction 


• At the beginning of each new game, only the player in the right hand court of the serving team has the opportunity to serve until faulting. When a point is scored, that server moves to the left-hand court to serve the next point. When a fault is committed, the service passes over to the receiving team. Thereafter, each player on the serving team serves and scores points until a fault is committed. It is then side out, and the serve goes back to the other team.

• The first serve of each side out is made from the right hand court. If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the same server serves from the left -hand court. The server continues serving and switching sides until a fault is made. The serve then goes to his partner, who serves until a fault is made, switching sides when a point is scored.

NOTE:  When serving, if the ball clears or touches the next and then lands in the correct service box, it is a valid serve.  There are no serve lets in pickleball.


• Points are scored only by the serving team.

• Games are normally played to 11 points, win by two.

• The score must be called out, loud enough for all 4 players to hear, before serving, or it will result in a server fault.

• At the beginning of the game, the server calls out “0 - 0 – 2”. The first zero is the serving team’s score, the second zero is the receiving team’s score, and “2” indicates that only one player (whoever is in the right hand court) will serve and fault before the opponents get the serve. Thereafter, both players on each team will serve and fault before the next side out. The server will call out the score using three numbers, with the 1st number being the serving team’s score, the 2nd number being the receiving team’s score and the 3rd number being either “1” or “2” indicating the first or second server for that serving sequence.


• When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, AND the serving team must then let the ball bounce before returning it back to the opposite court, thus the “two bounces”.

• After the ball has bounced ONCE in each team’s court, both teams may then either volley the ball (hit the ball in the air) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke) until the point is over.

NO-VOLLEY ZONE (also referred to as the “kitchen”)

• The no-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net. Volleying the ball (hitting it in the air) is prohibited within this area.

• It is a fault if, when volleying the ball, the player steps into the no-volley zone or onto the no-volley zone line AND/OR when the player’s momentum causes him and anything he is wearing or carrying to touch the no-volley zone and its lines even when the ball is declared dead before this happens.

• A player may legally be in the no-volley zone any time (EXCEPT when volleying a ball), to return a “dink” or drop shot.


• A ball contacting any line, except the no-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in”.

• A serve contacting the no-volley zone line is short and is a fault.


• 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:

• The score is not called out prior to serving the ball

• A serve does not land within the confines of the receiving court

• The ball is hit into the net

• The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side after a serve (i.e., serve and service return must bounce)

• The ball is hit out of bounds

• A ball is volleyed from within the no-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 (such as a side arm serve)

• 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 (such as the basketball goal equipment)

Useful websites: Official Website for United States of America Pickleball Association. This is an excellent resource for all things related to pickleball, including videos of pickleball being played, official rules, education/training, Places to Play and USAPA Membership/benefits. Online store for all pickleball supplies, including paddles and balls. Use the discount code CRODELL for a 5% discount on purchases. Aiken Pickledillys website has pickleball information for the program at Odell Weeks Activity Center and all things related to the sport. Click on the Calendar tab on the Home Page to see our playing schedule, as well as clinic dates.