Pickleball Rules of the Game: A Beginner's Guide

Updated on June 27, 2017
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Stephanie is an enthusiastic sports participant and also loves to watch a wide variety of competitive sports

What is Pickleball?

My favorite summer memories as a young teen include the hours I spent on the pickleball court at the local beach with my friends. Match after match we'd play, even coming up with competition brackets and our own playoff games. Afternoons would stretch into evenings, but my competitive nature would keep me on the court until my parents came to drag me home for dinner. I loved that game!

You must be thinking, what is pickleball? Is it something my friends and I just made up? Nope.

Pickleball is a real sport and really fun! Think of it as table tennis, meets traditional tennis, meets badminton. You have a net, a court, paddles and a lightweight ball (similar to a whiffle ball). Player can face off as singles or doubles, just as in traditional tennis.

Anyone from school aged children through elderly retirees can enjoy the game of pickleball. Because the court is smaller than a tennis court, play is more compact and slightly less strenuous. Yet, because of its "non-threatening" nature, pickleball is a great way to get outside and have fun. You won't even notice that you are exercising as you play the entertaining game!

Pickleball courts await players
Pickleball courts await players | Source

Rules of Pickleball

Although Pickleball is played in a court, the rules of the game more closely resemble table tennis or badminton than traditional tennis.

The game begins with one side serving the pickeball, using the paddle (which is wood or composite and larger than a ping pong paddle) to hit the pickleball (which is a light, plastic, hole-covered whiffle ball). To properly serve the ball, the player must keep one foot behind the back line and strike the ball with an underhand swing, aiming at the service court located diagonally over the net, and clearing the no-volley zone. Service starts from the right hand court. Only one fault is allowed. In the case of doubles, both players get to serve once, and then the serve is taken over by the opposing player/team.

Both sides must allow the pickleball to bounce first before hitting it with the paddle at least one time from the start of the game. Thereafter, players may volley the ball (hit it without allowing it to bounce), provided they are not within no-volley zone within 7 feet of the net (marked on the court). A player or team scores points only when they are serving. A pickleball game is played to 11 points and a win must be by 2 points.

Similar to tennis, the following moves are "faults" in the game of pickleball, which cause a loss of a point:

  • Failing to clear the net
  • Hitting the ball out of bounds
  • Volleying the ball from within, or while a foot is in the no-volley zone
  • Volleying the ball before it has bounced on a first serve or first return

Beginner's Guide to Pickleball

Pickleball Equipment and Court

All you need to play pickleball is a couple of paddles, a whiffle ball and a net. You can draw your own court with sidewalk chalk (at least that's what we did many years ago). Fortunately, however, you can find "official" pickleball courts at many playgrounds, community centers and private clubs, as the game is growing in popularity.

A pickleball court is approximately one-third the size of a regular tennis court, and is laid out according to the dimensions of a badminton court (20 feet x 44 feet). A net divides the court, hung at 36 inches in height on each end. On either side of the net, there is a 7-foot area (marked with a line on the court) called the no-volley zone. The playing area of the court (20 feet x 15 feet) is divided into two equal rectangles, side by side (10 feet x 15 feet).

The main reason for the no-volley zone is to take away opportunities for smash volleys or drop shots, making the game more reliant on careful placement of shots. Of course, the rule also creates opportunities for the other side to fault, which adds to the fun of the game!

How to Play Pickleball: Instructional Video

Have You Ever Played Pickleball?

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Where Can You Play Pickleball?

With the growing popularity of pickleball, you can easily find a place to play the game in every state across the U.S. In fact, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) has a list of all addresses and names of places at which you can play pickleball, organized by state. The sport is also gaining in popularity in the UK, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

There is a growing list of pickleball leagues organized through local Recreation Districts, YMCAs and private clubs. First, check the USAPA list above, and then search local directories for your hometown to see if there is a pickleball league in your area. If not, perhaps you can get one started!

If you can't find an official pickleball court, use a badminton court and simply lower the net to a height of 3 feet! Or, you can create your own court in your driveway or other blacktop surface. Because you don't need much area (compared to a tennis court), its easy to find a suitable area on which to draw the service courts and no-volley zone, and then hang a net in the middle!

Once you have introduced pickleball to your friends and colleagues, chances are they will love the game too! In fact, as more people learn about this sport, the number of courts, leagues and tournaments increase each year. The family-friendly game is enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you don't already play pickleball, why not start now?

Playing Pickleball is Addicting!

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks


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    • profile image

      Megan Blount 7 weeks ago

      Hi I️ played this game but it has been a long a time since i’ve Played this game

    • profile image

      Pat 7 months ago

      The most intriguing thing about Pickleball over Tennis is that when one goes to play they don't need to bring their own 4 person party usually. You show up, you wait until a game has complete, and they move those who are on stand by in for the next game. You are constantly changing partners, thus making it a far more social game then golf or tennis. Great social mixer!

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 10 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Why do they call it pickle ball?

    • profile image

      Rudy Lopez 22 months ago

      A very interesting blog. I started playing by looking at YouTube videos, then went to the United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA) site to find pickleball courts to play. I found one at Diamond Head Tennis Center, and am now part of a 12-15 player group on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and growing. Great fun!

    • Drew Lawrence profile image

      Drew Lawrence 2 years ago

      This looks amazing

    • profile image

      Gill Smith 4 years ago

      We have 20 keen pickle ball players in Kidlington England and 8 in Abingdon England , we need some more in Abingdon . Anyone interested?

    • profile image

      Garth 4 years ago

      Any pickle ball in Australia ? Can't find any. Can anyone help?


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Annette,

      I'll bet that pickleball was great fun as a college class! Writing this hub brought back memories for me too, and I am now inspired to find a place to play the game. Best to you, Steph

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Great hub, Steph! Reading it brought back some fun memories. I haven't played the game since my college days, when I took a badminton/pickleball class for one of my P.E. requirements (my other class was tennis). Voted up and awesome!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      It is a great game! Let me know if you find pickleball courts in Sacramento. I would bet that you do. Cheers, Steph

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      I had never heard of pickleball before. Sounds like a fun game and a nice way to exercise. Thanks for sharing this hub! I'm gonna google for pickleball courts in Sacramento. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Susan! I'm glad to hear that there are pickleball courts nearby. Really hope you go see what the game is all about. Best, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Kimberly,

      Thanks! I am so happy to have found the helpful videos on pickleball. Hope you enjoy trying it one day! Best, Steph

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a cool game. I've played squash, tennis, table tennis, but never pickleball. After watching the video it looks like it would be loads of fun to play. I see that we have courts right here in Ontario and only a 20 minute drive from where I live. I may just go and check this out.

      Thanks for introducing pickleball to us.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      This sounds like a great spring and summer sport. I have never heard about this game before it does sound like fun I love the fact that you included the videos great hub socially share from youtube

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon


      So glad to hear from someone who is familiar with pickleball - even if you haven't tried it. :) It's a really great, fun game. Do let me know if you give it a whirl. Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Tom, that is hilarious!! You totally cracked me up. Now, I wonder what a 40+ year old pickleball tournament would look like? Thanks for sharing your story and memories. Cheers, Steph

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 5 years ago from home


      Holy crap i haddn't thought about pickleball in 23 years before last month and then i come across your hubb this month-in 12th grade we had a tournament- we me n Bil Fix had crushed everyone...eVERYONE for weeks leading up to it we on two matches per day three on gymn days for 3 weeks...then the lights came on an bill couldn't "get it up" over the net...we were knocked out in round two. still stings :(


    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Pickleball is quite popular at some of the campgrounds we visit, and seems to be gaining ground. I've never played, but maybe after reading your article, I won't be so hesitant about trying it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hey dipless - thanks! Do let me know if you find a local pickleball court in your area... and if you try a game! Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Veronica - pickleball should be a natural next step for you! I have been hoping that at least someone here at HubPages has heard of the sport! :) Best to you, Steph

    • dipless profile image

      dipless 5 years ago from Manchester

      Wow in all my 27 years I have never heard of this, I am going to go and try to find somewhere to have a game it looks great, thank you so much for sharing this.

    • VeronicaFarkas profile image

      Veronica Roberts 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Wow this sounds like fun! I played badminton and table tennis growing up, and play tennis now. I guess the next step is pickleball! You did an excellent job of explaining how to play, the rules, and equipment needed! Thank you!

      Up, useful, & interesting!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Marie,

      Sorry to hear about your pain playing sports! There are some definite similarities between pickleball and raquetball, though. Glad to have brought out some memories for you. Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Simone,

      I am not surprised that you haven't of pickleball! It looks like the game is played more in areas like Palm Springs/Palm Desert and Arizona, here in the U.S. It was interesting to learn about all the other countries where pickleball is gaining in popularity, too!

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 5 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Sounds like oodles of fun! I've never been a big player of any sport because of a birth defect that causes severe pain when I run about, but I remember a few summers when my sis and I would play racquetball a lot. This reminded me of those fun tomes.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      How cool! This was my first time reading or hearing of pickleball, but it sounds like so much fun! I am surprised that I've not seen more people playing it. I wonder if it's more popular in certain areas of the States than others.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Melvoy,

      Funny, huh? :) When I saw the WTI, I wondered if there were still pickleball courts and places to play the game. I was so pleasantly surprised to find that the sport is becoming quite popular. I especially loved that video of the CBS coverage of pickleball. Let me know if you find any local courts in your area. Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Cliff - I hope you get to try it some day. With the WTI and writing this hub, I am personally inspired to find a place to play pickleball this spring. Going to introduce my kids to the sport too! Best, Steph

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      If you hadn’t included all those Amazon links and the video I truly might have thought you were making this up!! I’ve never heard of pickle ball before. Yet, strangely, when we were kids we had table tennis paddles but no table, so we used to play ping pong in way that bore some resemblance to pickle ball. This is a really interesting hub, and I now want to know if there are any pickle ball courts near us!

      Voted up.

    • Cliff Mendrez profile image

      Cliff Mendrez 5 years ago from Philippines

      Awesome hub, steph! You covered everything really well. I have never played pickleball but it looks fun!