Key Rules & Etiquette
USA Pickleball Association official rules shall govern play. Full list of rules and a summary of the most recent changes can be found at Official Rules or download a copy of the 2023 Rules (both open in a new tab). Please note that the changes to the Official rules are effective beginning January of the year promulgated.
There is an important addition to serving rules (Section 4). When a drop serve is used, many of the usual restrictions are relaxed. Please see below for more on Rules on Serving.
2023 Rules on the NVZ (Section 9)
- 9.A. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone during a volley.
- 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. For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone.
- 9.B.1. The act of volleying the ball includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the action.
- 9.B.2. If the paddle touches the non-volley zone during the volley motion, before or after contacting the ball, it is a fault.
- 9.C. During the act of volleying, it is a fault if the volleying player’s momentum causes the player to contact anything that is touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s partner. For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone.
- 9.C.1. It is a fault even if the ball becomes dead before the player contacts the non-volley zone.
- 9.D. If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley a return until both feet have made contact with the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing outside the non-volley zone is a fault. If the rear wheels of a wheelchair have touched the non-volley zone for any reason, the player using a wheelchair cannot volley a return until both rear wheels have made contact with the playing surface outside the non-volley zone.
- 9.E. A player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball.
- 9.F. A player may enter the non-volley zone before or after returning any ball that bounces.
- 9.G. A player may stay inside the non-volley zone to return a ball that has bounced. There is no violation if a player does not exit the non-volley zone after hitting a ball that bounces.
- 9.H. There is no violation if a player returns the ball while their partner is standing in the non-volley zone.
2023 Rules on Line Calling (Section 6)
Here is a shortened version of these rules. Pickleball is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line-calling responsibilities when performed by players. The player must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty. Spectators should not be consulted on any line call. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s end of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent's opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent "in" or "out" call for that rally. Players shall not call a ball “out” unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits the ground.
2023 Main Rules on Serving. (Section 4)
- 4.A.1. The entire score must be called before the server begins his or her service motion.
- 4.A.2. The server must serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server). The serve may clear or touch the net and must clear the NVZ and the NVZ lines. The serve may land on any other service court line
- 4.A.3. If the serve clears the net or hits the net and then touches the receiver or the receiver’s partner, it is a point for the serving team.
- 4.A.4. The moment the ball is served:
- 4.A.4.a. At least one foot must be on the playing surface behind the baseline.
- 4.A.4.b. Neither of the server’s feet may touch the court on or inside the baseline.
- 4.A.4.c. Neither of the server’s feet may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.
- 4.A.4.d. (Wheelchair) Both rear wheels must be on the playing surface behind the baseline and may not touch the court on or inside the baseline or outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.
- 4.A.5. The serve shall be made with only one hand releasing the ball. While some natural rotation of the ball is expected during any release of the ball from the hand, the server shall not impart manipulation or spin on the ball with any part of the body immediately prior to the serve. Exceptions: Any player may use their paddle to perform the drop serve (see Rule 4.A.8.a). A player who has the use of only one hand may also use their paddle to release the ball to perform the volley serve.
- 4.A.6. In officiated matches, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and receiver. In matches without a referee, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. There is no fault if the release is not visible to the referee or receiver.
- 4.A.7. The Volley Serve. The volley serve is made by striking the ball without bouncing the ball off the playing surface and can be made with either a forehand or backhand motion. A proper volley serve includes the following elements:
- 4.A.7.a. The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc at the time the ball is struck with the paddle.
- 4.A.7.b. The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when the paddle strikes the ball.
- 4.A.7.c. Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist.
- 4.A.8 The Drop Serve The drop serve is made by striking the ball after it bounces on the playing surface and can be made with either a forehand or backhand motion. There is no restriction how many times the ball can bounce nor where the ball can bounce on the playing surface. A proper drop serve includes the following elements: .
- 4.A.8.a. The server must release the ball from one hand only or drop it off the paddle face from any natural (un-aided) height.
- 4.A.8.b. The ball shall not be propelled (thrown) downward or tossed or hit upward with the paddle.
- 4.A.8.c. The restrictions on the Volley Serve in Rule 4.A.7 do not apply to the drop serve.
These volley serve rules are illustrated in this picture. The ball is below the waist and the paddle head is below the wrist. In this picture the paddle head is just barely below the wrist and is in jeopardy of being called a fault. Most experienced players keep the paddle head well below the wrist so there is no question.
The list of USA Pickleball Approved Paddles and Balls is updated as they test new products appearing on the market. It is strongly recommended that you only use Approved paddles and balls for your play. The loaner paddles and the BCPA balls we use for regular play are all Approved.
Key Local Rules:
- BCPA’s number one rule is to keep play Friendly and Fun.
- Make sure your name is on your paddle. Name … not initials.
- If a ball enters the court from another court, play is halted by a player calling “Ball” or “Ball on the Court” and the point re-started.
- The person on the side of the court closest to the entry gate will serve first.
- When sun and/or wind is a consideration or issue, players should agree before the start of the game that they will switch sides once one team has scored at least half the points needed to win the game.
- If a player on the serving/hitting side of the court makes a call on the ball whether in or out without the receiving team deferring to them, then the ball will be counted out of bounds.
- Spectators should NEVER make a call on a line fault.
- Spectators should NEVER be asked to make a call on a line fault.
- Servers, please announce the score loudly enough for opponent side to plainly hear the score. It’s best to call the score loud enough that everyone can hear and give them a couple seconds to disagree.
- Many friendly players, while waiting to play, retrieve balls hit to the fence and return them to the players playing so they don’t have to be chasing balls around the court. Realize how nice this is when you are playing and return the favor when you are not. It speeds up game time resulting in less wait time.
- BCPA Rules for Waiting:
- When 5 or less waiting - One paddle pile, Winners stay on.
- When 6 or more waiting - Winners/Losers paddle piles, next 4 players play.
- When 9 or more waiting - Play to 9 points
- If using Winners/Losers paddle stacks and there are less than four paddles in the stack that is up next, then take the paddles needed off the top of the other stack. Do not wait for the players who just finished to place their paddles at the bottom to give you four players.
- The players next in line to play on the next available court are called the “on deck” players. They should be aware they are on deck and ready to play when the next game ends.
- When players come in late, they are to place their paddles at the bottom of a stack. No exceptions.
- If four players want to play together, they can do so by tying or using a rubber band to group their paddles together at the position of the lowest of the four
- When a game is over the players who want to play again shall place their paddles at the bottom of a stack.
- Any player may move their paddle down in the stack but never up in the stack.
- Hydrate. This means “drink water”. This means YOU. Especially on those hot days. Drink BEFORE you are thirsty. Otherwise it’s too late.
- If a ball comes onto your court from another court, STOP PLAY AT ONCE. Same if you hear “Ball on the Court!” yelled.
- Stretch before and AFTER playing. We know, we know, everyone says that, we all say we do it, but we don’t. So be a trend-setter and do it.
- If you are returning a dead ball to another player please do not bend over and swat it back rolling on the ground. Be courteous and pick it up and toss/bounce it or gently hit it so they don’t have to run after it. Please be courteous to those of us that have trouble bending over to pick up balls.
- For those that are so inclined, please do not dive for balls.
- If someone falls and hurts themselves roll them off the court so play can continue* or hold your hand up and call time and tend to the person that needs help. Especially in the summer, the court gets hot and someone who has hurt the foot/ankle may not be able to get up but is getting burned by the court. Just be aware.
The Burke Centre Pickleball Club WELCOMES new players. If a new player shows up unannounced without an existing member, please introduce them to the players and let them know if they are new and if they have previously played Pickleball. If a new player is accompanied by an existing member please make sure they are introduced and welcomed by the players. We all want new players to feel welcomed and want them to continue coming out to play.
If a new player has never played before and there is a court available, then someone should take them to the available court and explain some of the basic rules and practice hitting it back and forth. Once you think they are ready put them in the queue to play a game and announce that we have a beginner, so the other players will play an easy game that is meant to help the new player. Explain the rules and strategy as the game progresses.