Pickleball is a game that is easy to learn but hard to master. The best way to pick up this sport is to play it!
If you’re a newbie or encouraging a friend to join in on the fun, our simple guide explains how to play pickleball! From the complexities of the double-bounce rule, how to serve and what you need to play – we have everything you need to know.
What you need to play pickleball
- A ball
- A pickleball court
- 2-4 players
- A paddle
- A good attitude!
The ball used in pickleball is a light plastic ball with holes. There are differences between outdoor and indoor pickleballs so make sure to pick up the correct type for you.
The pickleball paddle is similar to a table tennis paddle but much larger. You can find the dimensions and specifications here.
Pickleball paddles come in a range of materials but lighter ones are usually deemed the best option for beginners. You can find more information on how to find the best pickleball paddle for you in our guide.
Luckily for fans, pickleball courts are becoming common across the USA and Canada. Find somewhere to play in your local area here.
Pickleball can be played by 2 players (skinny singles) or 4 players (doubles). This guide focuses on how to play pickleball doubles.
How to play pickleball
A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court. The exact dimensions are 20ft wide and 44ft long. You can play on an outdoor or indoor pickleball court. So you can play rain or shine!
The court is divided in the middle by a 36-inch high net. Nearest the net each side has a 7ft non-volley zone. This is also known as the kitchen.
What is left of the court is divided equally into left and right service areas, with the center line in the middle.
The baseline is the area on the outside of the court.
Players on the same side are on the same team.
The most important rules of pickleball
- The Non-Volley Zone/ The kitchen
- Double Bounce rule
The object of pickleball is to be the first team to reach 11 points and you must win by 2 points. You can only score a point while you are serving.
Before you serve you must announce the score for everyone on the court to hear. You state your team’s score first, the other team’s and then the which server you are (1 or 2).
For example, if the serving team says 3-1-1 this means they are winning by 3 points to 1 and they are the first server.
When serving a player must hit the ball underhand. The ball must make the first contact with the paddle below the hip level.
The ball must be hit in the air and not bounced on the ground.
The server must stand behind the baseline and serve into the opponent’s service area.
You must hit into the service area opposite you diagonally rather than directly.
If you hit the ball off the court, into the kitchen or the net – you only get one serve.
While, if a ball hits the net and then goes into the service box, this is a let serve and the player would retain the serve. Find a more in-depth explanation of the let serve here.
If the ball lands in the baseline, sidelines and center line, this is considered in.
A ball that lands on the kitchen line is called a “side out”.
In doubles the players on a team will serve until a point is lost and then it is the other team’s turn.
Double bounce rule
When a player is receiving a serve they must let the ball bounce once before hitting it. It then needs to bounce again when it is returned.
After that, the ball can be hit normally unless you are in the kitchen (non-volley zone).
This 7-foot section of the court is on either side of the net at the front. It is commonly referred to as “the kitchen”. Find more pickleball terms here.
A player is not allowed to hit a ball while they are in this area unless it bounces on the ground once first. Once it bounces, the ball can be hit.
If a player hits the ball and accidentally ends up in the non-volley zone then the point would be lost.
Even if your foot or any part of your body touches the non-volley line this is considered being in this area.
If a player’s serve hits the non-volley line then the serving team will lose a point.
After a serve a fault occurs if a player steps in the non-volley area or on the non-volley line.
Hitting a ball onto the net, a pole or out of the boundary lines of the court is also a fault.
These are some of the basic shots you will see and use during a pickleball game.
A shot that you make after the ball has bounced. Most of the shots used in pickleball are groundstrokes
A shot that is made before the ball hits the ground. This is the most powerful shot in pickleball. Remember you can’t do this in the kitchen!
This type of groundstroke is only used at or near the net. It involves you hitting the ball very softly, at the kitchen line so it barely makes it over the net.
Tips for beginners
- Communicate with your partner
- Warm and cool down before and after a game
- Practice with pickleball drills
- Learn to dink ASAP
- Learn from more experienced players
- Keep your paddle in the ready position when moving forward (elbows and paddle in front of your body, feet shoulder-width apart, on your toes).
- Always congratulate the winner and the end of a match
- Have fun!
How long have you been playing pickleball? Did you find it hard to learn? Let us know in the comments or in our FREE Facebook community.