What Are the 5 Rules of Pickleball?

If you are a pickleball enthusiast, you know that the sport is a perfect mix of fun and challenge.

To be an effective player, you need to know the 5 rules of pickleball:

The 5 Basic Rules 

  1. The ball must stay in bounds 
  2. You can only serve from the baseline
  3. The ball bounce rule
  4. If the server serves in no volley zone, it’s invalid
  5. The game finishes on 21, 15, or 11 points. 

Rule 1: The Ball Shouldn’t Leave The Inbound Area

Rule 1: The Ball Shouldn't Leave The Inbound Area

Just like badminton and tennis, the ball in pickleball can’t land out of bounds. You can easily figure out the boundaries of the pickleball court because they are often represented by white paint or tape.

The pickleball will go back to the other team if you fail to serve it within the marked boundaries. You need to keep the pickleball in play but also make sure that you aren’t stepping on the boundaries.

While this may sound like an obvious rule, you’ll be surprised to know how often pickleball players fail to follow this simple rule and end up raising the serving team’s score.

Only one serve attempt is allowed. However, if the ball touches the net or is considered illegal, the serve can be taken over.


When playing pickleball, you need to watch out for faults. If the ball hits the net or goes under it, the shot is considered invalid and the ball goes to the opposing team.

This is a significant difference between other sports and pickleball, and you can only score if your team is the serving team.

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The lower the number of faults, the better your game will be!

A player can even call faults on themselves or line calls to their disadvantage.

Rule 2: You Can Only Serve from the Baseline

The serving rules of pickleball are quite straightforward. However, if you don’t want to end up in an argument about who goes first, we recommend a coin toss. 

Here are a few rules you should follow when making a serve:

To ensure that the service is being done from a proper distance, make sure that one foot is behind the baseline. 

Keep the ball below your waistline in an underhand position. You’ll need to maintain this position for the game to start. 

For a proper serve, the ball must be served diagonally. This means if the ball was served from the right side, the receiving team should return it back to the left side of the court. 

A serve will be considered a fault if the ball is hit directly across the court.

You should always serve underhand. During the serve, the racquet must not rise above wrist level.

If the serve you made is illegal, here’s who the next serve will go to according to the type of pickleball you’re playing:

  • Doubles: It goes to your teammate (unless it has already, in which case it goes to the other team)
  • Singles: It goes to your opponent

Rule 3: Two Bounce Rule

Rule 3: Two Bounce Rule

One rule in pickleball that differentiates it from other games is its double-bounce rule. If you are an amateur, you’ll likely forget this rule often.

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The rule states that there needs to be at least one bounce per side for a total of two bounces after a serve.

When the ball is served, it must bounce once on the opposite side of the court before it is returned. The return of the serve will only be considered valid if it is allowed to bounce first.

When the ball is returned, the ball must be allowed to bounce again before the serving team hits it. Thus, there are two bounces – one on each side. After this, both teams can play shots before or after a bounce. The rule resets on each serve.

The double bounce rule applies to both doubles and singles.

Rule 4: No Volley Zone

The non-volley zone rules dictate that if the ball touches the zone on the serve, it will be considered illegal.

The no-volley zone can be found anywhere inside the marked box that is approximately 7 ft away from the net.

A no-volley zone is dedicated for both teams on each side.

If your serve lands in the no-volley zone, it will be lost to the opposing team. Both teams will alternate serves until a legal serve is made.

The deeper the serve, the better it is!

Pickleball rules also state that you cannot be standing within the no-volley zone and play a volley shot. If you play a shot from that zone after the ball has bounced on your side of the court, the shot is legal. If you are outside the zone, you can play a shot without waiting for the ball to bounce first.

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You’ll need to perfect your serve and volleys before you take part in tournaments.

Rule 5: The Game Continues until Either Team Reaches 21, 15, or 11 Points First

Rule 5: The Game Continues until Either Team Reaches 21, 15, or 11 Points First

Traditionally, a pickleball game finishes at 11 points.

The modern version requires the winning team to have at least two more points than the opposing team once they reach 11 points, and play continues until one team has surpassed 11 points and has a two-point lead. 

For example, the game continues if your team scored 11 points, but the other team has 10. 

Some tournaments enforce the rule of extending the score to 15 or 21. However, this is rare, and only some tournaments exercise the rule. 

Players often choose to follow the 11-point rule when playing solo or doubles. 

Switching Sides

If either of the teams reaches 6 points, they will switch sides. 

If the teams are playing by the 15 or 21-point rule, they will switch sides when either team reaches 8 points.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the 5 rules of pickleball, it is time to host a tournament with your friends and family.

If you’re feeling extra competitive, consider registering in official contests.

To make sure you’re always on the winning team, learn these rules of pickleball by heart.