How to Play Pickleball: A Complete Guide to Getting Started

How to Play Pickleball: A Complete Guide to Getting Started

1: General Layout and Basics of Playing Pickleball

Court Dimensions

A standard pickleball court measures 20x44 feet, with various distinct zones such as the service area and the non-volley zone, or "kitchen." Understanding the court layout is essential to play strategically.

Types of Shots

  • Groundstrokes: These are shots that players hit after the ball has bounced once. Both forehand and backhand groundstrokes are essential.
  • Volleys: Hitting the ball before it bounces is a volley. A well-timed volley can be a powerful shot.
  • Dinks: These are soft shots that are designed to arc over the net and land in the kitchen.
  • Serve: Initiates play and must be hit diagonally to the opposite service court.

Winning Points and Game Length

Points are typically earned by the serving side, and games are usually played to 11, 15, or 21 points, with a win margin of at least two points. Understanding how to win points and what score to play to are critical aspects of pickleball strategy.

2: Serving Rules in Pickleball

Underhand Serves

Serving in pickleball must be executed underhand, and contact with the ball must be made below the waist. The paddle head must be below the wrist when striking, and the feet must not cross the baseline.

Bounce Rules and Serving Sides

Called the "double bounce rule," the ball must bounce once on the receiving side before being returned and bounce again on the serving side before volleying begins.

In addition, serving must start from the right-hand service court and alternates sides with each point scored. The server stands in the right court when their score is even and the left court when their score is odd.

For example:

  • If the server's score is 4 (even), they will serve from the right service court.
  • If the server's score is 5 (odd), they will serve from the left service court.

Scoring in Doubles

Scoring in doubles is complex, with a sequence of both partners serving before the other team gets a turn. The serving side continues to serve as long as they win points. For example, in doubles, if the score is 3-5-2:

  • The first number (3) is the serving team's score.
  • The second number (5) is the receiving team's score.
  • The third number (2) indicates it's the second server for the serving side.

Once both partners have lost their serve, the opposing team gets to serve, and the rotation continues in this manner. By understanding the bounce rules, serving sides, and the complexities of scoring and rotation in doubles, players can fully engage in pickleball's dynamic gameplay.

These expanded details offer a more comprehensive view of serving and scoring in pickleball, especially in doubles play, contributing to a richer understanding of the game for new and seasoned players alike.

3: How to Score a Point in Pickleball

Types of Faults

Pickleball faults can result in a loss of serve or point. Here are some common faults, along with their descriptions:

Serving Faults:

  • Foot Fault: Occurs if the server steps on or over the baseline during the serve.
  • Wrong Serving Court: If the server serves to the incorrect receiving court.
  • Missed Serve: A serve that does not land within the correct service court.

Non-Serving Faults:

  • Kitchen Fault: Occurs when a player volleys the ball while standing in the non-volley zone (kitchen).
  • Ball Out of Bounds: Hitting the ball outside the court boundaries.
  • Double Bounce: If the ball bounces twice before being hit by the receiver.
  • Net Fault: If the ball hits the net and does not land within the correct service court on a serve, or if it hits the net and doesn't go over during regular play.

Consequences of Faults During Serve and Receiving

If a Fault Occurs While Serving:

  • Singles Play: The serve passes to the opponent.
  • Doubles Play: The serve passes to the partner, and if both partners fault, it passes to the opposing team.

If a Fault Occurs While Receiving:

  • Singles and Doubles Play: A point is scored by the serving side.

Understanding these fault rules is essential to playing the game correctly. Both serving and non-serving faults have specific consequences, and recognizing these can significantly influence a player's strategy and awareness during the game.

4: Kitchen Rules in Pickleball

The kitchen, or the non-volley zone, is a critical area on a pickleball court that players must understand. It is a 7-foot zone on both sides of the net, and specific rules govern play within this area.

What Is the Kitchen?

The kitchen is a space where volleys (hitting the ball without letting it bounce) are prohibited. It's designed to prevent players from smashing the ball right at the net, making the game more strategic and enjoyable. All kitchen rules are contained in USAPA’s official rule book but, we will break this down in simpler terms for you:

When Can You Enter the Kitchen?

  • After a Bounce: Players may enter the kitchen after the ball has bounced inside the zone, and they can stay there to play subsequent shots.
  • Leaving the Kitchen: If a player hits a volley while standing outside but leaning into the kitchen, they must exit the kitchen without touching it before the next shot.
  • Partner Play in Doubles: In doubles, if one partner is in the kitchen, it doesn't restrict the other partner's ability to volley, as long as they are outside the kitchen zone.

Faults in the Kitchen

  • Volleying Inside the Kitchen: If a player volleys the ball while standing in the kitchen, it's considered a fault.
  • Stepping Into the Kitchen After a Volley: If a player volleys the ball and then steps into the kitchen, even accidentally, it's a fault.
  • Kitchen Line Faults: Players must not touch the kitchen line during the act of volleying. Even touching the line with a toe or a paddle can lead to a fault.

Strategies and Techniques

  • Dinking: A soft shot that drops into the kitchen, challenging opponents to hit a difficult return.
  • Drop Shots: Shots aimed to land in the kitchen to force opponents closer to the net, opening up the court.
  • Patience and Positioning: Successful play near the kitchen requires careful shot selection, patience, and strategic positioning to outmaneuver opponents.

Understanding the kitchen rules is an essential aspect of pickleball, adding layers of strategy and skill to the game. It encourages longer rallies and requires players to think creatively about shot placement and timing.

5: How to Play Pickleball Singles

Playing pickleball singles is an exciting variation of the game that offers players the opportunity to fully control the court and showcase their individual skills. Below are the key aspects of playing singles in pickleball:

Serving Rules

  • Service Sequence: The server starts serving from the right service court and alternates between right and left as points are scored.
  • Score Calling: The server calls their score first, followed by the receiver's score.
  • Serving Position: Serving should be diagonal, and the server must not touch the baseline or the court before striking the ball.


  • Points: Points can only be scored by the server, and the game usually goes to 11, but can be played to 15 or 21.
  • Winning: The first player to reach the game point with a lead of at least two points wins.

Double Bounce Rule

  • Serving Side: After serving, the ball must bounce in the receiver's court before being struck.
  • Receiving Side: The ball must also bounce in the server's court after the receiver returns it.

Strategies and Techniques

  • Court Coverage: Singles play demands excellent mobility and strategic use of the entire court.
  • Serve and Return: Effective serving and accurate return shots are key to success in singles.
  • Playing the Net: Controlling the net and utilizing the kitchen can be an effective tactic, but players must be prepared to move quickly.
  • Patience: Singles play often involves extended rallies. Patience and shot selection can outmaneuver an opponent, forcing them into a mistake.

Adaptation to the Opponent

  • Analyzing Opponent's Play: Understanding and adapting to an opponent's strengths and weaknesses can be crucial in singles play.
  • Changing Tactics: Being able to switch tactics and styles can keep an opponent guessing and create opportunities to score.

Pickleball singles is a thrilling and demanding variation of the game that puts individual skills to the test. Understanding the specific rules, strategies, and dynamics of singles play can lead to an exciting and rewarding pickleball experience.

6: How to Play Pickleball Doubles

Pickleball doubles is a highly engaging and strategic variant of the game that involves teamwork, positioning, and tactical plays. Here's a quick guide to understanding how to play pickleball doubles:

Serving Rules

  • Service Sequence: In doubles pickleball, both players on a team get the chance to serve and score points. This is how the sequence works:
    • The player on the right of the serving team goes first. If a point is scored, the serving player will switch to the left side and continue serving.
    • If a fault happens while the player is serving, the serve will switch over to his/her partner.
    • If both players on the serving side register a fault, the serve is turned over to the opposing team. This is called a “side out”.
  • Serving Position: The server must serve diagonally, starting from the right-hand court. The server’s score will determine whether to serve from the right or left side.
  • Double Bounce Rule: Both the serve and the return of serve must bounce once before being volleyed.


  • Calling the Score: The score is called in the sequence of the serving team's score, the receiving team's score, and the server number (1 or 2).
  • Points: Points are scored only by the serving side, and the game is typically played to 11, winning by at least two points.


  • Serving Faults: Includes serving before the receiver is ready, stepping on or over the baseline, and serving out of turn.
  • Non-Volley Zone Faults: Includes volleying the ball while standing in the kitchen.


  • What is Stacking? Stacking is a tactical positioning strategy where players align themselves to be on their preferred side of the court. As an advanced strategy, it is better to stack only when your team's score is odd.
  • Why Stack? Stacking can be used to exploit the opponents' weaknesses or protect your team's weaknesses.

Strategies and Techniques

  • Communication: Effective verbal and non-verbal communication between partners is vital for coordinated play.
  • Positioning: Understanding where to stand and when to move is essential in doubles. This includes both lateral positioning (side-to-side) and rotational positioning (front-to-back).
  • Serving and Returning: Serving deep and returning low can set the tone of the rally.
  • Playing the Net: The team that controls the net often controls the rally. However, overcommitting to the net can leave the rest of the court vulnerable.
  • Use of the Kitchen: The non-volley zone or kitchen can be used strategically for soft dinking rallies, forcing opponents into errors.

Adaptation and Tactical Changes

  • Analyzing Opponents: Identifying and exploiting the opponents' weaknesses can be the key to winning the game.
  • Changing Strategies Mid-Game: Adapting strategies based on the flow of the game can keep opponents off-balance.

Playing pickleball doubles requires a blend of individual skills and collaborative teamwork. Understanding the specific rules and deploying strategic plays can lead to exciting and rewarding gameplay.

7: Conclusion


  • Every game starts with a serve on the right
  • Serves need to be underhand while standing outside of the court’s boundaries
  • Ball must bounce once on each side of the court before a volley
  • The serve changes side when a fault is made (or to your partner in doubles pickleball)
  • You can only score points on your serve
  • Winning score is at 11 and leading by 2 points. If the score is tied at 10-10, the game is played till one player scores 2 points more than the opponent.

With a total game time generally lasting around 15 minutes for a game to 11 points, pickleball offers an engaging, social, and physically rewarding experience suitable for all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re playing for fun or competition, this guide should provide everything you need to enjoy pickleball. Happy playing!