Basic Pickleball Scoring Rules

Popular racket sport pickleball incorporates aspects of table tennis, badminton, and tennis. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball on a court that is smaller than a tennis court. 

As with any sport, understanding the scoring system is essential to enjoy and participate in pickleball effectively. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of pickleball scoring, explaining the rules, terms, and strategies associated with it.

 1. Understanding the Basics

 1.1 The Objective of Pickleball

Pickleball’s main goal is to earn points by hitting the ball over the net and into the opposing team’s court in a fashion that prevents them from successfully returning it. A successful shot results in winning a rally and earning a point.

 1.2 The Court and Equipment

On a pickleball court that is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long for doubles play, pickleball is commonly played. A net separates the court’s two halves.

Players use a solid paddle made of materials like wood, composite, or graphite to hit a plastic ball with precision.

2. Scoring in Pickleball

2.1 Serving and Receiving

The game starts with a serveIn an effort to strike the ball diagonally across the net and onto the opposing team’s service court, the serving team stands behind the baseline and swings the ball. 

Pickleball Scoring

Before returning the ball, it must bounce once by the receiving team. Both teams take turns serving until a fault or side out occurs.

2.2 Rally Scoring

Pickleball uses rally scoring, so every serve has the potential to result in a point for either team. In traditional scoring, only the serving team had the opportunity to earn points.

 2.3 Points and Side Out

Points are given when the other team commits an error, such as sending the ball out of bounds, into the net, or failing to clear the non-volley zone (the area close to the net). 

When the serving team commits a fault, a side out occurs, and the opposing team gets the opportunity to serve.

2.4 Faults and Let Serves

Faults occur when the ball is not served correctly or when the rules of play are violated. The serve is deemed a “let” and may be retaken without incurring any penalties if it hits the net but lands in the appropriate service court.

3. Strategies for Scoring

 3.1 Serving Strategies

Strategic serving plays a crucial role in scoring points. Players can aim for specific areas on the opponent’s court, such as the sidelines or deep corners, to make it challenging for them to return the serve effectively.

 3.2 Return of Serve

Returning the serve requires precision and quick reflexes. Players should aim to keep the ball low over the net and away from their opponents’ paddle, making it difficult for them to control the return shot.

 3.3 Placement and Shot Selection

During rallies, players should focus on shot placement and selection. Hitting the ball to the open areas of the court can force opponents into defensive positions and create opportunities for winners.

 4. Advanced Scoring Techniques

 4.1 Dinking

A delicate dink over the net is required to place the ball in the non-volley zone.This technique is often used to engage opponents in the kitchen (non-volley zone) and set up more aggressive shots.

 4.2 Lobbing

Lobbing involves hitting high shots that go over opponents’ heads and land deep in their court. This technique can be effective when opponents are positioned close to the net.

 4.3 Third-Shot Drop

When the serving team members are at a disadvantage, the third-shot drop is a tactical shot that is used. It entails firing a shot at a slight angle that lands in the kitchen of the opponent, causing them to fire upward shots.

 5. Winning the Game

 5.1 Game Scoring

 Typically, pickleball matches last 11 or 15 points. However, players must win by a margin of at least two points. If the score reaches 10-10 (or 14-14), a team must win by two clear points to secure victory.

 5.2 Determining the Winner

Most games are played as best-of-three sets. The ultimate winner is the tean that wins two out of three games.

 6. Conclusion

For the game of pickleball to be enjoyed and played to its fullest potential, understanding the scoring system is essential. By following the rules and implementing strategic techniques, players can enhance their chances of scoring points and ultimately winning matches.


While there are some similarities, pickleball scoring differs from tennis scoring. In pickleball, points can be scored by either team on every serve, known as rally scoring. This is different from tennis, where only the serving team can score points.

If the ball hits the net during a serve but lands in the correct service court, it is considered a “let” and can be retaken without penalty. However, if the ball hits the net and does not land in the correct service court, it is considered a fault, and the serving team does not score a point.

If the ball goes out of bounds during play, it is considered a fault, and the opposing team scores a point. It’s important to aim for accuracy and keep the ball within the boundaries of the court.

Yes, there are specific rules for serving in pickleball. The server must stand behind the baseline and hit the ball diagonally across the net into the opponent’s service court. Additionally, the server must keep both feet behind the baseline until the ball is struck.

In a typical pickleball match, players compete in a best-of-three-game format. The team that wins two out of three games is declared the overall winner of the match.

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