Rules & Scoring

While simple the rules and scoring process takes some time to learn and understand.  The best way to do this is to attend a "Come and Try" session with your local pickleball community.  To find out where these occur head to our Where to Play page

There are also plenty of resources online to help explain the basics. 

Most important is to just get on the court and try out this new fun intergenerational sport with competitive and social playing opportunities for everyone aged 9 - 90.

Some useful resources to get started:

Basic introduction to rules (video)

An exciting rally, with explanations and tips (video)

Official tournament rulebook (2024)



Rules summary
The following is an abbreviated form of the rules to give a quick overview of how the game is played. Click Here to see the official rules. If there is a conflict between this summary and the official rules, the official rules prevail. You can also download a print-friendly (PDF) of the Rules Summary here.


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 however there has been increasing popularity in a "Skinny singles" version which use half the court for singles matches.

The Serve

  • The serve must be made underhand.
  • Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist (navel level).
  • The serve is initiated with at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck.
  • New in 2021 - The pickleball drop serve is currently permitted, but may be revised or removed in the future based on its effect on the sport. To do a pickleball drop serve, you must drop or release the pickleball from any natural height, either by using your hand or letting the pickleball roll off of your paddle, and then hit the pickleball with your paddle after the pickleball bounces on the court. There is no rule prohibiting that a drop serve to bounce multiple times. As a result, the drop serve may bounce multiple times before making contact. Also, to note, you may pick up the pickleball and re-drop the pickleball if you do not like the drop as many times as you’d like (as long as you still hit your serve within 10 seconds after the score has been called).

      Remember this rule:  Iis not a fault for the server to start the serve prior to calling the entire score. It is only a fault if the server’s paddle has made contact with the pickleball for the serve prior to the entire score being called.

  • The serve is initiated with at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck.
  • The serve is initiated with at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck.
  • The serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
  •  Only one serve attempt is allowed. The let rule is removed in the 2021 rules.
  • Finally: If the wrong score is called by the server (or the referee), any player on the pickleball court can stop play, and ask for the correct score to be re-calledbefore the third shot of the rally is hit. This differs from the prior rule, as the prior rule only permitted play to be stopped before the return of serve (rather, than the third shot). If play is stopped before the third shot of the rally is hit, and the score was called incorrectly, then the server (or the referee) will re-call the correct score and re-serve the pickleball with no penalty. However, if a player on the pickleball court stops play after the third shot of the rally is hit, then the player who stopped play will have committed a fault and will lose the rally. In other words, you cannot raise the issue of the wrong score being called after the third shot of the rally is hit – you must challenge the issue of the wrong score being called before the third shot of the rally is hit.


Service Sequence 

  • Both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
  • 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 server initiates the next serve from the left-hand court.
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
  • Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right-hand court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
  • In singles the server serves from the right-hand court when his or her score is even and from the left when the score is odd.

*At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.



  • Points are scored only by the serving team.
  • Games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2.
  • Tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by 2.
  • When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right-side court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.

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.


Non-Volley Zone

  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  • Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.
  • It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone (credit esteban at dh tech), even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.
  • The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”


Line Calls

  • A ball contacting any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and 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:

  • 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 or other similar method to determine who will serve first. The winner of the coin toss will have the option to choose side or to serve or receive or they can give the other team the option to choose first.


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