What Are the Basic Rules of Pickleball?

Pickleball Serving Rules

A pickleball serve must be hit underhand and from behind the baseline, cross-court into the opposing team's service court, but not outside the sideline.

You can hover one foot over the baseline, but one foot must always be on the ground when you serve. I prefer to serve a good foot behind the baseline because there are no lines I can accidentally step on.

Also, you can't jump in the air and serve.

There are two ways you can serve. You can either make your serve before or after the ball bounces.

If you let it bounce first (drop serve), you should release the ball from your hand and let gravity pull it down. Therefore, you can't throw it down and hit it before it comes up.

If you’re a beginner, I suggest using the drop serve. As per my experience, it feels a little smoother than the backhand or underhand serve.

Another pickleball serving rule states that the serve must clear the net and land past the kitchen area. We call it a “fault” if the ball lands on the kitchen line or within the kitchen.

It's acceptable if it lands on any other line besides the kitchen.

Pickleball Double Bounce Rule

The double bounce rule states that a pickleball ball must bounce once on both sides before either team starts volleying it out of the air.

Your game can continue until one of the teams hits the ball into the net, is out of bounds, or lets the ball bounce twice on their side.

Let's use an example of team A and team B to explain pickleball’s double bounce rule.

If team A serves to team B, team B should let the ball bounce once before they return the serve. Upon returning the serve, team A must allow the ball to bounce once before returning the serve. This is done to eliminate the unfair advantage gained by either side.

You win a rally in pickleball when your opponent commits a fault.

Rally is the continuous back and forth of hitting the ball after a serve. A rally ends when one of the players commits a fault.

But that’s not the only way to win a rally in pickleball.

You can also win a rally if your rival:

  • Hits the pickleball ball out of bounds or into the net
  • Lets the ball bounce twice on their side
  • Violates kitchen rules
  • Is hit by the ball

Winning a rally doesn’t always mean you've scored a point. That’s what I thought when I won my first rally.

You can only score a point if you're the one who served the ball. You only get the next serve if you didn’t serve but won the rally.

A player wins a set when they score 11 points and is at least 2 points ahead. Essentially, the team that wins two sets faster than their opponent wins.

Sometimes, the score is equal, say, 10-10. In such a case, both teams keep playing until one is ahead by at least 2 points.

Pickleball Playing Rules

Pickleball playing rules are as follows:

  • Don’t hit the ball while inside the non-volley zone unless the ball has already bounced in the kitchen area on their side.
  • If you hit the ball out of the air, your feet can't be on the kitchen line or inside the kitchen area. It is okay if your feet hover on the non-volley zone line.
  • You can't hit the ball outside the area of play into the net and have it land on your side of the net.
  • You can't hit the pickleball ball twice consecutively. I once made this mistake trying to stop the ball from falling; little did I know I was making another mistake! So, make sure you give the ball a solid whack to enable it to cross over the other side of the net.