A Beginner's Guide on How to Play Pickleball

a person holding a ping pong paddle over a net

Camera Icon Aleksander Saks / Unsplash

Pickleball is a fun and fast-paced sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is suitable for players of all ages and skill levels, making it a popular choice for recreational activities and competitive play. If you're new to pickleball and eager to learn how to play, this beginner's guide will walk you through the basics and get you started on your pickleball journey.

Setting up the Court

To play pickleball, you'll need a court with specific dimensions. A pickleball court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, similar to a doubles badminton court. It is divided into two halves by a net, which is hung at a height of 36 inches at the center. Each side of the court has a non-volley zone, also known as the "kitchen," which extends 7 feet from the net.


Pickleball requires specific equipment to get started:

  1. Pickleball Paddle: A paddle is used to hit the pickleball. It is smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a table tennis paddle. Choose a paddle that suits your grip, weight, and playing style.

  2. Pickleball: The ball used in pickleball is similar to a wiffle ball, with holes on its surface. Pickleballs are available in indoor and outdoor varieties. Beginners often start with outdoor balls as they are more forgiving and easier to control.

Gameplay Basics

Pickleball can be played as singles (one player on each side) or doubles (two players on each side). The objective is to hit the pickleball over the net and into the opponent's court, aiming to prevent them from returning it successfully. Here are some key rules and techniques:

  1. Serving: The serve is performed diagonally, starting from the right-hand service court. The server must keep one foot behind the baseline and make an underhand serve, hitting the ball below the waist level. The ball must clear the non-volley zone on the opposite side.

  2. Volleys: Volleys are shots hit in the air before the ball bounces. To perform a volley, step into the non-volley zone and hit the ball without letting it bounce. Remember, volleys can only be executed outside the non-volley zone.

  3. Double Bounce Rule: The double bounce rule is a fundamental rule in pickleball. After the serve, each team must let the ball bounce once on their side before hitting it in the air. Once both teams have returned the ball, it can be volleyed or allowed to bounce before being hit.

  4. Scoring: Points are only awarded to the serving team. Games are typically played to 11 points, and you must win by at least two points. When the serving team commits a fault, the opposing team gains the serve and has the opportunity to score.

Strategies and Tips

To improve your pickleball skills and strategy, consider the following tips:

  • Stay out of the Non-Volley Zone: Avoid stepping into the non-volley zone unless necessary. This will give you more time to react to your opponent's shots.

  • Practice Dinking: Dinking involves hitting soft shots close to the net. Mastering this technique will allow you to control the pace of the game and force your opponent into making errors.

  • Positioning: Maintain good court positioning by moving efficiently and communicating with your partner in doubles play. Aim to cover the court effectively, anticipating your opponent's shots.