Pickleball - The Ultimate Guide on How to Play

The Golden Basics

It's a game with a funny name but serious competition. Played as either doubles (two musketeers per team) or singles; doubles gets the gold medal for popularity. No size discrimination here, the playing area and rules remain identical whether you're doing a solo gig or a duet. Now, let's dive into the basics...

1. Serve it Hot, But Not Too High

Here's the juicy bit about serving. As the server, your arm must elegantly ascend like a ballet dancer leaping in an upward arc when you strike the ball. But, beware of overexcitement! Paddle contact with the ball must be made below the waist level - let's keep it decent! And, the head of the paddle must not exceed the highest part of your wrist at contact - no high-flying maneuvers here.

Feeling a bit lazy? Go for a 'drop serve'. It's the laissez-faire style where the rules above turn a blind eye.

But remember, at the time the ball is hit, your feet must behave. They must not prance on the court or stray outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline. Plus, keep at least one foot anchored behind the baseline on the playing surface or the ground behind the baseline.

Your serve must then sail diagonally crosscourt and must nestle within the confines of the opposite diagonal court. Sorry, no do-overs, only one serve attempt per server!

Faults and Fumbles

Faults in pickleball are like party poopers. They halt the play due to rule violations. If the receiving team is at fault, it's celebration time for the serving team as they score a point. But if the serving team faults, it results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.

2. The Serve-Shuffle

In the world of pickleball doubles, both players have the chance to serve and tally up points until they commit a pickleball sin, also known as a 'fault'. There are a few exceptions when starting a new game, but more on that later.

The opening serve is made from the right/even court. You score a point? Great! Now switch sides and initiate the next serve from the left/odd court. If you're on a roll and score again, continue the side-switching dance until you fault, and the first server loses the serve. When this happens, the partner gets a shot at serving from their correct side of the court. This tango continues until your team commits a fault and the serving baton gets passed to the opposing team.

In the case of singles, the server operates from the right/even court when their score is as even as a chessboard and from the left/odd when the score is as odd as a two-headed unicorn.

Now about those new game exceptions. At the onset of each new match, only one teammate gets the opportunity to serve before a fault, after which the service moves to the receiving team.

3. The Two-Bounce Waltz

Now that we've learnt how to serve, let's get onto what you must do after your serve. This is pickleball's version of 'two to tango'. When the ball is served, the receiving team must allow it to bounce once before returning, and then the serving team must repeat the courtesy. After each team has allowed a bounce, they're free to either volley the ball or play it off a bounce. This two-bounce waltz encourages longer rallies and cuts the serve and volley advantage.

4. A Numbers Game: Scoring

Almost there to being a Pickleball expert, we know how to play, now let's get onto how to score and win. Only the serving team can score, making each serve as precious as gold. Games usually go up to 11 points, and it's win by 2. However, tournament games may strut to 15 or 21 points, still clinging to the 'win by 2' mantra.

Keeping track of where to be when serving or receiving? Simple! When the serving team's score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10), the player who served first in the game for that team should be in the right/even court. If the score is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), then that player will be in the left/odd court.

Calling the Lines

But what if the ball hits a line? If a ball kisses any part of any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, it is declared 'in'. But if a serve flirts with the non-volley zone line, it's a fault and is deemed too short.

5. Entering "The Kitchen"

WAIT! We're still not done. There's a danger zone that we must avoid. The non-volley zone, affectionately known as "the kitchen," is a 7-feet buffer on both sides of the net. Within this sacred territory, volleying is as prohibited as bringing a football to a chess match. This rule deters players from smashing the ball from within the zone.

It's a fault if a player steps into "the kitchen" while volleying a ball or if the player's momentum carries them or anything they're wearing into this prohibited area, even if the volleyed ball has already been declared dead. However, you can legally chill in "the kitchen" any time you're not volleying a ball.

6. Who Serves First?

Now, we've finally got to the most important issue. How do you solve it? Well, you can coin flip, rock-paper-scissors, a pickle-eating contest - your choice!