Okay, so you’ve learned the fundamentals of this super-addictive game, and you must understand the pickleball scoring system to take your pickleball game to the next level. Initially, it cannot be easy to understand, but we’ve simplified it all for you in this guide for all skill levels.
So don’t worry – you’ll be able to score like a pro in no time! We will thoroughly explain everything throughout this post, but I know some people are here for the short version.
Here’s The Condensed Version
So who serves first in pickleball? I like the rock, paper, scissors method, but you are free to use any fair selection process.
I know from playing tennis I would spin the racquet on the court, and my opponent would select up or down. How the label on the butt of the handle fell would determine the server.
- Games are played to 11 points (Tournament play is 15 or 21 points)
- You must win by two points (for example, 10-12, 9-11)
- You stand behind the baseline and not touching it when you serve.
- The serving side is the only side that can score a point.
- The singles rotation order always starts on the right side of the court (even side)
- If the server scores, they move to the left side of the court (odd side)
- The server hits the ball over the net to the diagonal side of the opponent’s court.
- On the serve, the ball must land passed the non-volley zone (If the ball hits any line in/on the non-volley zone during the service, it’s a fault.)
- All serves must be underhand and below the server’s waist.
- Only one server per player unless there is a let (The ball hits the net and falls into the opponent’s court), then the serve is replayed.
- The server calls out the score before every score. Start with the server’s score and then your opponents.
Pickleball Scoring Rules & Serving Basics – Doubles
The same rules apply to doubles pickleball scoring, but there are other things to note.
- Both players on a team serve before the service is moved to the other side of the court.
- The players keep switching sides from right to left until a fault is made, then the next person on that team servers.
- Only the serving team switches sides from left to the right, not the receiving team (even to the odd side)
- At the start of the game, only one player serves on the first-serving team. Once a fault is made, the service moves to the other team.
- The score is called out in three parts: first, the serving team scores, the opponent’s score, and the team server number (Remember: Me – You – Who)
- The server number only applies to one service round. Once the ball returns to your side, whoever is on the right side of the court is the first server.
Now you have the basic outline of how pickleball scoring works, let’s jump into the details of the scoring system and all the pickleball terms you will need.
If you are still feeling confused, I have a pickleball scoring-for-dummies post.
Pickleball Scoring Basics - What is a Fault?
A fault is any rule violation that occurs on the court and results in a Dead-Ball; remember, only the serving team is allowed to score. A fault occurs in any of these situations:
- A serve doesn’t land within the lines of the court.
- Any ball hit into the net or outside of the court’s dimensions.
- A ball is volleyed before the Two Bounce Rule has happened (More on this below)
- A ball that is volleyed within the non-volley zone (This includes your carrying momentum into the zone)
- The ball bounces twice before it is hit.
- A serve that lands in the non-volley zone or hits any of its lines.
- A ball hits a player anywhere below the wrist or anything a player is wearing. This is the fault of the player hit by the ball or their team.
- If the player, pickleball paddles, or player’s clothing hits or touches the net or posts, it’s a fault.
- If the wrong receiver returns the service, that is a fault.
- If the serving team is out of position or the wrong person serves, that is a fault. The score is an easy way to know what side of the court you serve. If you have an even score, you serve from the right, with an odd score serve from the left.
Dead Ball Rules
Here’s how the dead ball rules work; it’s pretty straightforward. Any fault will result in a dead ball. If the ball hits a permanent object after bouncing on the opponent’s court, it is a dead ball, and the pickleball player who hit the ball wins the rally. Any faults committed during live play are enforced immediately with the stopping of play.
What is a Side-Out?
A Side-Out occurs when the serving side of the court loses its right to serve. A side-out applies in both singles and doubles, although both players must serve in a doubles game, and then it’s called a side-out.
What Is A Rally?
A rally is any play back and forth between your team and the opposing team. Rally can go on a long time before a fault happens. Try and position yourself just behind the non-volley zone; this cuts off a lot of angles your opponent can attack.
What is a Volley?
A volley is any ball hit out of the air before it bounces. Volleying is an exciting aspect of the pickleball game. As we mentioned, ensure you aren’t in or touching the non-volley zone when you hit the ball back to the receiving team. This includes any momentum or equipment that carries you or falls into the non-volley zone.
Rule 9. B. States:
9. B. It is a fault if the volleying player or anything that has contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying touches the non-volley zone.
What Is the Two Bounce Rule?
The two-bounce rule sounds more daunting than it is. Once the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning it over the net, and vice versa for the serving team. Once the ball bounces on each side of the court, anyone can hit a volley. However, remember that you can’t be in or touch the non-volley zone if you are hitting the ball out of the air.
Want to calculate your pickleball calories burned? Check our latest post.
Pickleball Scoring Explained
Pickleball scoring is unique because it’s the only racquet sport where the serving team can score points but not the opponent. Now that you have the basics of the scoring system down, let’s get into the more minor details of the game.
In Pickleball, scoring is quite simple. Players earn points by hitting the ball into the opponent’s court and avoiding faults. The first team to score 11 points wins, but be sure you achieve this feat by two. Volleys, rallies, and faults are part of each game, and you are less likely to win if you commit more errors.
As we discussed earlier, there is no volleying in the 7-foot radius around the net. A player who accidentally steps or loses momentum while entering the NVZ is at fault.
The only difference between a singles game and doubles is the absence of a second server. The server starts on the right side with an even score and from the left with an odd score. The receiver switches from side to side diagonally, following the alignment of the server until it’s a side-out. Also, be aware of calling out the pickleball score as your opponents first follow your score.
The same rules as singles scoring apply. Points depend on serving, and the receiving side does not score points. The serving side players keep changing sides, moving from the right side and serving to the diagonally opposite side. The scores determine the service court side’s position.
The serving team keeps playing until the serving team commits a fault. Once a fault occurs, the server can pass it on to the second server. When the second server loses a point, it’s a side-out, and the serving team loses its turn.
Calling The Score
Calling the pickleball team score is an essential part of the game. The score calls should be as three numbers with proper sequencing. The sequence followed is server score, receiver score, then, in the case of doubles, the server number: 1 or 2. At the beginning of a match, the score will be called zero-zero-two. In doubles, the 1 or 2 as the server numbers apply for that specific service turn. Once the opposing team has a side out, the services come to your side.
In double scoring, the first service of the game is only one serve. This rule assists in minimizing the bias of one team being the first to serve in the game. This rule applies as follows: One player on the right side gets the opportunity to serve first on the first turn of the game; however, when the player loses the serve after the serve returns from the other team, then the player automatically loses their first position, becoming the designated second server. At the beginning of the game, the score should be 0-0-2, with the 2 indicating the second server.
When the team has an even score, the first server must be on the court’s even side and the left when the score becomes odd. This aspect means that when the first server of that game happens to be on the right side, the team score should be even. Otherwise, the player’s position is termed wrong, and the score is called accurate.
Do You Switch Sides In Pickleball?
Switching sides in Pickleball keeps the game fair and balanced, so when do you switch sides? Well, that depends. Teams switch sides after each game, but there are a few additional rules to note. Suppose you are playing 11 points and the best of three games. In the 3rd game, teams or individuals switch sides of the pickleball court at the six-point mark. In a game with 15 points, pickleball players switch sides at 8 points. Lastly, in a game with 21 points, players switch at 11 points. Read our full post on switching sides.
(Do you know the difference between indoor and outdoor pickleballs? Read our post now)
My Thoughts & Conclusion
Pickleball scoring can be challenging at first, but we’ve provided you with a complete guide to the USA Pickleball Association rules. The next time you get out on the pickleball court, you will feel more confident in your understanding of the game. As you continue to play, things will become much more accessible; one thing I love about the game is how welcoming the community of players is. If you need clarification on some rules, ask your newfound friends on the court. We have a great post on how to find pickleball courts and local games, no matter where you live.
If you have any questions or want to discuss the rules further, feel free to comment below. We hope you enjoy playing pickleball as much as we do!