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How to Play Pickleball - A Beginner’s Guide

If you've been curious about pickleball but are unsure how to start, Play-PKL is here to serve you the basics.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a dynamic paddle sport blending elements of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. Play with two or four players (singles or doubles) on indoor or outdoor courts. The courts are smaller than that of tennis, and are usually made of concrete or asphalt. The goal is simple: send the ball over the net to opponents, staying within court boundaries. 

Why is it Called Pickleball?

Like many stories, the tale of how pickleball got its name has many variations. Most accepted is the explanation that Joel Prichard, one of the sport’s three founders, named the game after his dog, Pickles, who loved to chase after the game balls. 

Another version is that the name is “a reference to the thrown-together leftover non-starters in the ‘pickle boat’ of crew races”. Learn more.

Pickleball Game Rules

Pickleball starts with a diagonal underhand serve from the right side. The serve must bounce in the receiving area before being returned, and a bounce on the serving side is needed before volleys. Players take turns serving until a fault or point loss, then the service switches. The score is said as the serving team's score, opponent's score, and server number (starting with Server 1). Points are earned by the serving team through opponent faults. To win, a team needs 11 points with a 2-point lead. Much of the game's charm is its simplicity, all you need is some basic equipment. 

Pickleball Serve and Return - Pickleball Game Rules

Five Rules of Pickleball

  1. Volleys from inside the kitchen are prohibited.
  2. The ball must bounce twice (once on the serve and once on the service return) before a player is allowed to hit the ball out of the air.
  3. Serves must be hit from behind the baseline.
  4. Serves cannot land in the non-volley zone.
  5. The game ends at 11 points.

Pickleball Lingo

We’ve compiled some of the most common pickleball terms for you below. To be fluent in pickleball, check out the full Play-PKL A-Z Pickleball Dictionary.

Two Bounce Rule: The ball must bounce twice (once on the serve and once on the service return) before a player is allowed to hit the ball out of the air

Kitchen: Also called the non-volley zone, the kitchen is the 7’ area between the net and non-volley line on both sides

Dink: A soft shot with the intention of landing the ball in the kitchen or at the feet of your opponent

Fault: A fault occurs when the ball:

  1. Is hit out of bounds
  2. Doesn’t clear the net
  3. Doesn’t clear the non-volley line during a serve (including the lines)
  4. Is volleyed from inside the non-volley zone
  5. Is volleyed before bouncing once on each side

Side Out: When service is passed to the opposing team