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The rules of pickleball

Pickleball is a paddle sport that follows a set of simple rules, making it easy for players to understand and enjoy the game. Played on a smaller court, the objective is to score points by outmanoeuvring the opponents and following specific rules. The following covers the basics. Members are encouraged to read the 2023 Official  Rule Book.

The serve

The game begins with an underhand serve, where the serving team must aim to hit the ball diagonally over the net and into the opponent's court (diagonally opposite from the server) . The serve must clear the non-volley zone and land within the boundaries of the receiving area. The receiving team must let the serve bounce once before returning it. There are no let serves in Pickleball. If the ball strikes the net and lands within the receiver’s court, play continues. Only one serve attempt is allowed.

There are two types of serve:

  • A drop serve - this is executed by dropping the ball and then striking it after it bounces. The server can release the ball from any natural height, but only gravity can be used to create the bounce. Both feet must be behind the baseline when serving. Many beginners start by using this serve.

  • Volley serve – this is where you toss or drop the ball and hit it before it bounces. Both feet must be behind the baseline when serving. Specific additional rules apply to this type of serve:

    • The ball must be hit below your waist height.

    • The ball must be hit in an upwards arc.

    • The head of the paddle must be below the highest part of your wrist at contact.

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The return of serve

The returner must allow the ball to bounce before returning the ball to the opponents. When the  ball is returned to the opponents’ court,  the team who has served must allow the ball to bounce. (Hence, the “two bounce” rule).

Continuing play

The ball must clear the net and land within the court boundaries to remain in play. The non-volley zone, often referred to as the "kitchen," is a seven-foot area on both sides of the net where players are not allowed to volley the ball, to hit the ball out of the air. A fault can occur when a player steps into the non-volley zone while volleying the ball.

The game continues until one team fails to return the ball, hits it out of bounds, or commits a fault.

Points are scored by the serving team only. Each time they win a rally, they score a point. The server continues to serve until he/she commits a fault, at which point the serve passes to their partner or to the opposing team. In doubles, each team has two serves, one for each partner.

The first team to reach 11 points (or an agreed-upon number) with a lead of two points wins the game.

Pickleball encourages fair play and sportsmanship. It offers options for both singles and doubles play, with specific guidelines for each format. Understanding and following these basic rules allows players of all ages and abilities to engage in pickleball and enjoy the exciting and competitive nature of the sport.

When playing singles, the player serves from the left if he or she has an uneven number of points, and from the right with an even number of points.

Scoring

These are the basic rules for scoring in doubles. Don’t worry! You’ll pick it up, once you’ve played a few games. The server must call out the score before serving.

  • 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 (even court) serves to the diagonally opposite court.

  • If a point is scored, the server moves to the left side (odd court) and serves to the diagonally opposite court.

  • Players on the serving side continue to move from the right to left or left to right each time a point is scored.

  • Players on the serving team do not alternate sides unless a point is scored. The receiving side never alternates sides.

  • The first server continues to serve until the serving team loses a rally by committing a fault; then the serve passes to the second server on the team. However… if it is the opening serve of the game, only one player, the one on the right side, gets to serve on the first service turn of the game.

  • 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.

  • Calling the Score:

    • The score should be called as three numbers. E.g. 1-2-2

    • The proper sequence for calling the score is: server score, receiver score, then, for doubles only, the server number: 1 or 2.

To start a match, the score will be called as: zero - zero – two (as the starting team only gets one serving opportunity.

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