pickleball vs paddle tennis

5 Basic Pickleball Rules Every Beginner Should Know: A Quick Guide

Pickleball is a popular game that combines elements of badminton and table tennis. With its simple rules and minimal equipment requirements, pickleball has become an increasingly popular recreational activity for people of all ages and skill levels.

This article will provide a brief overview of five basic rules every beginner should know before jumping into the world of pickleball.

the basic pickleball rules

The Basics of Pickleball

Understanding the basics of each game you play to get the most out of your experience is important. Rules are designed to create an enjoyable environment for everyone involved, making it easier for players to compete fairly against each other, thus fostering a sense of camaraderie among participants.

Here are some quick shots to get you familiar with pickleball:

  • Pickleball is a paddle sport incorporating elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis.
  • The basic rules of pickleball dictate that the game is played with a paddle and a plastic ball on a court similar in size to a doubles badminton court.
  • The game can be played in singles or doubles format. It starts with a serve, which must be made diagonally and underhand from the service court behind the baseline.
  • The serving team must let the ball bounce before hitting it, and the ball must clear the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, which is a seven-foot area on both sides of the net.
  • The game continues with volleys and bounces, with the ball bouncing once on each side before it can be volleyed.
  • The first team to reach 11 points, with a lead of at least two points, wins the game.

There are various rules regarding serving, volleying, and hitting the ball, including the double bounce rule, which requires each team to let the ball bounce once on each side before volleying. The USA Pickleball organization provides comprehensive guidelines on how to play and the game’s specific rules.

A great way to start off on the right foot is by familiarizing yourself with these five essential rules that serve as the foundation for playing pickleball!

The dimensions of a pickleball court. The kitchen line is 7 feet from the net on both sides.
The dimensions of a pickleball court. The kitchen line is 7 feet from the net on both sides.

1. Court Size And Layout

Pickleball is a growing sport that requires skill, athleticism and strategy. With its court size and layout, it’s no wonder why this game has become so popular amongst today’s sports fanatics. Pickleball is played indoors or outdoors – on a gym floor (a badminton court will do) or on a tennis court (with pickleball lines pained on, the tennis net lowered with a strap or a portable pickleball net).

The pickleball court measures 20 x 44 feet with lines indicating the boundaries of play. To begin, anachronistically speaking, one could say that each side of the court should look like a ‘perfectly pickled’ rectangle to ensure fair gameplay for all involved.

The net stretches across the middle of the court, separating both sides from each other at a height of 36 inches from the ground at the center and 34 inches on either end. This specific measurement ensures that players can hit shots over it while giving them enough time to react by returning the ball to their opponent’s zone.

As long as these measurements are adhered to and players stay within their respective court boundaries. They will be able to enjoy hours upon hours of thrilling pickleball matches without any worry about safety or unbalanced competition.

2. Scoring System to Play Pickleball

Now that the court size and layout have been established let us discuss pickleball’s scoring system.

the basics of pickleball

This system is based on player rotation; each side of the net serves twice in succession before switching to the other side.

The first team to score 11 points wins a game, provided they have at least a two-point lead over their opponent. If both teams reach 10 points, play continues until one team gains a two-point advantage.

Games are typically played as best in 2 out of 3 sets but can be extended further depending on the players’ preferences.

The height of the net is also important when it comes to gameplay and scoring.

During singles matches, men use a 36-inch high net, while women and juniors use a 34-inch high net for regulation games; however, some tournaments allow the nets to be raised or lowered slightly per preference.

Additionally, doubles games require everyone playing, regardless of gender, to use 36 inches (at the poles and 34 inches at the middle of the net) during official tournament matches. However, lower heights may be used if all parties agree upon it beforehand.

3. Serving And Return Rules Of Pickleball

When beginning to play pickleball, it is important to understand the rules of serving and returning. How can one become a successful player if they do not know how to serve or return properly?

Your serve needs to land in the diagonally opposite service court to yours.
Your serve needs to land in the diagonally opposite service court to yours.

Here we will discuss the basics of each technique for the serving team and the returning team.

Serving etiquette includes:

  • Standing behind the baseline when serving
  • Servers  must hit the ball diagonally across the court
  • Keeping your feet on either side of the center line when throwing the ball into service
  • Not touching any part of the non-volley zone before hitting your serve
  • You can bounce the ball before serving or hit it out of the air, but you must hit it underhand with your paddle
  • The first serve by the first server to start the game calls out 0-0-2 (the first service team starts on the second serve)

The return technique also follows some basic guidelines:

  • Stepping in front of the non-volley zone after receiving service to put yourself in position for an offensive return shot
  • Hitting within 10 seconds after receiving a service otherwise, it’s considered a fault
  • Trying to hit low shots that bounce twice before reaching back over the net
  • Making sure that you don’t let your returns go long past the opposite baseline resulting in a point for your opponent

Developing these skills takes practice, but with dedication and focus, players can master their serves and returns like experts!

4. Volleying Rules In a Pickleball Game

Pickleball is a game made to be enjoyed by all levels of players, from beginner to expert. As such, several rules must be followed for the game to remain fair and enjoyable for everyone.

basics of pickleball, volleying
Stay out of the kitchen when volleying!

One key set of rules relates to the volleying and rallying technique. When playing pickleball, players must keep the ball in play until one team earns a point or makes an error. This means that after each serve, there must be a minimum amount of hits back and forth between teams before the shot crosses over the net.

The number of shots will depend on skill level; however, experts recommend at least three consecutive shots per side, known as volleys. Additionally, volleys should occur no lower than two feet above the net height so that both sides have enough time to react and reach any balls sent their way.

Moreover, even though serving can be used as a tactical advantage during play, serves cannot exceed more than five strikes before crossing into opposing court space. These basic guidelines ensure fairness amongst opponents while providing ample room for creativity within rally exchanges.

You cannot volley the ball if you are standing in the kitchen (it is a fault and loss of serve or point). If you are standing in the kitchen and the ball comes at you, you must let it bounce before returning it.

You can volley the ball back with no bounce if you are not standing in the kitchen (except on the serve and the return of the serve – two bounce rule).

basics of pickleball - doubles play

5. Doubles Play

After reviewing the rules of volleying, it is time to move on to a more complex form of pickleball: doubles play. In this variant, two players will be working together as a team against another duo to win.

This form of playing requires partners to work together and understand each other’s strategy and positioning during the game. An important factor for success when playing doubles is communication between partners. It is essential that teammates talk with one another and give direction throughout the match.

Players must keep their eyes open and watch how their opponents move to strategize accordingly. Both members should practice different shots from various spots around the court to adapt quickly if necessary. Additionally, good footwork and positioning are critical for teams looking to succeed at this level; knowledge of proper movement, angles, and coverage within the court all contribute to successful doubles play.


Pickleball is an exciting and fast-paced sport that all ages can enjoy. Understanding the basics of pickleball rules is essential for any beginner looking to get into the game.

By knowing the court size and layout, scoring system, serving and return rules, volleying rules, and doubles play rules, you are well on your way to becoming a pickleball expert!

Just like a jigsaw puzzle, learning basic pickleball rules is only part of gaining expertise in the sport – practice makes perfect! With each hit comes experience which ultimately leads to mastering the art of playing pickleball.

So get out there on the court and start having fun while learning this unique sport!

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