What is Pickleball & How to Play Pickleball [Explained]

Has someone recently told you about a fun game with a pretty strange name? Or perhaps you’re tired of explaining it to your friends when they say pickle what? If you want to know more about this great game, just read on.

pickleball

Part 1 What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.

It can be played both insides and outsides on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.

Anyone is welcome to the sport regardless of age, sex, and playing skills. All it takes to get started is a pickleball paddle and a pickleball ball.

Although you don’t have to be an athlete to have fun, pickleball can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

Part 2. Why is Pickleball so Popular?

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the USA and is growing internationally as well.

As for why pickleball gets so popular and addictive, the reasons can be concluded as the following five points:

First and foremost, pickleball has a big social aspect so you can bond with your family and friends while exercising.

Second, it’s easy to learn, but hard to master. Pickleball provides endless opportunities for individual improvement and learning subtle techniques.

Third, it’s athletic and strategic so people will not get tired of it.

Fourth, it’s good for weight loss. I know a lot of pickleball players who’ve lost weight and gotten into better shape just because they started playing the game.

Fifth, it requires very little investment. Court fees are free to very nominal and equipment cost less than a hundred dollars.

Part 3. Why is it called Pickleball?

Pickleball is quite a strange name and thus makes people more curious about the story behind it.

There are two versions of the origin of the name and to set the stage for these two stories, we have to start with the three founders of the sport: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.

According to Joel Pritchard’s wife, who was a rower in the past, pickleball gets its name because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat crewed by oarsmen who were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.

But according to Barney McCallum, they named the game after Pritchard’s dog, who was apparently named Pickles.

Both versions may be true depending on who you ask. Even the founders themselves can’t figure it out. So it is destined to be a mystery and people take delight in talking about it.

Part 4. Pickleball Court Dimensions

Pickleball is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court, 40 feet long and 22 feet wide.

pickleball court dimensions

There’s a section called the non-volley zone that extends from the net seven feet on each side. You may hear it lovingly referred to the Kitchen.

non-volley zone

The right side of the court is the even side and the left side is the odd side.

pickleball court sides

The net measures 34 inches in the middle and 36 inches on each end.

pickleball net size

There’s no court size difference for doubles or singles. Doubles is the most popular form of pickleball play.

Asphalt surfaces are most common for outdoor play. You’ll also find pickleball played in the gym.

Now let’s take a look at the equipment.

Part 5. Pickleball Equipment

Paddle

pickleball paddles

Pickleball paddles may remind you a bit of ping pong paddles. Today they’re typically made from composite materials and can be no longer than 17 inches with the combined length and width no greater than 24 inches.

Ball

pickleball balls

The ball is similar in consistency to a wiffle ball with 26-40 round holes. It’s light so it definitely is impacted by the wind. When it’s dropped from a height of 78 inches on a granite surface the ball can bounce no more than 34 inches, which if you remember, is the height of the net at the center.

indoor and outdoor pickleball ball

There is a difference between indoor and outdoor balls. Outdoor balls are heavier and harder with smoother plastic. The easiest way to recognize them is they have smaller holes.

Balls come in a variety of different colors which is especially important for indoor play. Outdoor balls are rarely used indoors because they skid and don’t bounce as high.

Part 6. Basic Pickleball Rules: How to Play Pickleball?

Now we are done with the court and equipment, it’s time to learn how to play pickleball!

Pickleball Serving Rules

1. Players only get one opportunity to get the serve in.

2. The server must be behind the baseline and hit the ball into the opponent’s diagonal service court. No bounce on the server’s side.

3. Players must serve by striking the ball underhand and below the waist without a bounce on the server’s side. Note that a ball is allowed to be dropped to the ground and bounce before it is served, but you cannot propel it upward or downward.

4. The serve must clear the net and land beyond the opponent’s non-volley zone (inclusive of lines), otherwise, it is a fault.

5. The winner of a rally wins the right to serve in the next rally.

Singles Serving Rules

In singles, the service is always executed from the right side of the court when the server’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…) and from the left side of the court when the server’s score is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9…).

Simply put, you should always start your game serving from the right side of the court and switch to the other side every time you win a point.

Doubles Serving Rules

In doubles, each player on the team gets a chance to serve. The starting server for a team has to serve on the right side of the court when their team’s score is an even number, and on the left side of the court when their team’s score is an odd number. The reverse is true for a team’s non-starting server.

If you win a point, you just simply switch sides and keep serving until you lose the serve. However, if you lose the rally, your partner also gets to serve from the other side, which is known as the second serve. Should your partner lose that rally also, this is the end of your service (known as a side-out), and now your opponents get their two serves.

To begin the game or after a side-out, which is when the server changes sides, the player positioned on the right side of the court starts serving.

Pickleball Scoring Rules – Singles & Doubles

1. A set is typically played to 11, win by 2. The person or pair that wins two sets faster than their opponent, wins.

2. A team can only score points while they’re serving. Points are won when the serving team wins a rally or the receiving team commits a fault. Neither team earns a point when the serving team commits a fault.

3. The server should announce the score. When playing doubles, the server should respectively announce 1) the serving side’s score, 2) the receiving side’s score, and 3) the server number (either 1 or 2).

Additionally, at the end of the game, it’s customary for all the players to come to the net and tap their paddles.

Two Bounce Rule

Unique to pickleball, players must observe the two-bounce rule after a service, meaning that the opponent must let the ball bounce once before returning the serve, and the server must also let the ball bounce once on their side. This rule is to eliminate any unfair advantage gained by either side.

After that, you can hit the ball after it has bounced on the floor once, or without bouncing at all, known as a volley. Remember that you cannot hit the ball standing in the no-volley zone unless the ball has already bounced on your side. Failure to do this will result in you losing the rally.

Faults

If you commit any of these infractions, you’ll lose the rally and the right to serve in the next rally. The reverse is true for your opponent.

  • Hit the ball out of bounds.
  • Hit the ball into the net and for it to land on your side of the court.
  • Hit the ball after it has bounced on your side more than once.
  • Hit the ball twice in succession.
  • Touch the ball with any part of your body except with the racket.
  • Volley in the no-volley zone or touch the NVZ line.

For more detailed clarifications and interpretations, you can download and see its latest rulebook, maintained and updated by USAPA (USA Pickleball Association).

FAQs about Pickleball

1. How is pickleball different from tennis?

The main differences between tennis and pickleball include:

  • Pickleball is served underhand.
  • Pickleball ball has less bounce.
  • Singles and doubles are played on the same size pickleball court. Four pickleball courts can fit in the same area used for a single tennis court.
  • There is a 7-foot no-volley zone extending from the net on each side of the pickleball court.

Generally speaking, tennis players can easily pick up the game. Even those who had never played a racquet sport often get hooked.

2. Where can I play pickleball?

Pickleball can be played both outside and inside.

To find a pickleball court near you, you can check your nearby rec centers and ask your local tennis clubs if they offer pickleball. More and more tennis venues are adding or converted to pickleball.

Besides, you can contact your local USAPA pickleball ambassadors. Those people would love to help you and introduce you to the local pickleball communities.

And, of course, you can check out the “Places to Play” section of the USAPA website.

3. When did pickleball become popular?

Pickleball was initially created as a children’s backyard game during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island – a short ferry ride from Seattle, WA. Since then pickleball continued to gain popularity within community centers, physical education classes, public parks, private health clubs, YMCA facilities, and retirement communities. In 2022 pickleball was adopted as the official state sport of Washington.

Final Thought

Anyone with a little hand-eye coordination can pick up a paddle and be playing a game the exact day. Pickleball will introduce you to an interactive and social lifestyle with so much fun. Now go to the pickleball courts near you and start to play pickleball!