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"Mastering Pickleball Scoring: A Complete Guide"


Pickleball scoring may initially appear complex, but once you grasp the basics, it becomes straightforward and intuitive. Whether you're playing singles or doubles, the scoring method remains consistent. This guide will walk you through the essential components of pickleball scoring, including how points are scored, what it takes to win a game, and some specific rules that influence the scoring dynamics.

Basic Scoring Rules

  1. Scoring Method In pickleball, points are scored using a point-a-rally scoring system, also known as "side-out scoring." Only the serving team has the opportunity to score. If the serving team wins the rally, they earn a point. If the receiving team wins, no points are scored, and they gain the serve (side-out).

  2. Game Length A standard pickleball game is played to 11 points, and a team must win by at least 2 points. More competitive matches, such as those in tournaments, may extend to 15 or 21 points, but the "win by 2" rule always applies.

How to Serve and Score Points

  1. Service Sequence The game begins with a player serving from the right-hand side (even court). The serve must be underhand, with the paddle contacting the ball below the waist. The ball must be hit in the air without bouncing on the court first and land diagonally across the court.

  2. Serving and Scoring Following the serve, the ball must bounce once on each side (the two-bounce rule) before players are permitted to volley the ball. Players can choose to volley or play the ball off the bounce thereafter, continuing until a fault occurs or the rally ends.

  3. Scoring Points Scoring is exclusive to the serving team. If the server wins the point, they switch sides and continue serving from the opposite court side, alternating with each scored point. The serve shifts to the opposing team or partner in doubles upon committing a fault, such as a ball out of bounds or a net serve.

Additional Rules Impacting Scoring

  1. Double Bounce Rule At the start of each new serve, the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before players can begin volleying, promoting a fair start to each rally.

  2. Non-Volley Zone (The Kitchen) This zone extends 7 feet from the net on both sides. Players are not allowed to volley within this zone; doing so results in a fault, leading to a loss of the serve or point.

  3. Faults Faults can occur from hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to clear the net, volleying from the non-volley zone, or improper serving. A fault by the serving team results in a loss of serve to the opponent.

Summary of Pickleball Scoring

  • Serve from the right side when your score is even and from the left when it is odd.

  • Only the serving team can score points.

  • Games are typically played to 11 points but must be won by at least 2 points.


Understanding the scoring system in pickleball not only enhances your ability to play effectively but also improves your experience as a spectator. With these rules in mind, you can better strategize your serves and manage your positioning, especially concerning the non-volley zone, thereby enjoying a more competitive and engaging game.

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