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How do you play pickleball?

Last updated on February 24, 2020

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What IS Pickleball?

A few months ago, I would be the one asking that question.  I’m not sure I had ever heard anything about “pickleball” before my husband and I moved to Bella Vista, Arkansas in July of 2016.  My husband retired in June of 2016 and we already had purchased our retirement home here in Bella Vista.  Once we closed on the sale of our home in White Hall, Arkansas, we packed up and moved here.  My husband, Mel, lost no time starting to go to exercise at the recreational centers here and scheduling classes several times a week.  I think he heard about pickleball at one of the classes or we learned on Facebook or at the library.  I can’t remember exactly how it can up, but we learned a group played Mon-Wed-Friday mornings at Metfield.  So we decided to check it out.  There was a good group there playing the morning we went to watch.  Mel decided it looked like fun and when we got home he asked me to find a pickleball racket online and order it for him.  So I did.  A few days later, he was up bright and early to join the pickleball players with his new paddle.

That first time, he was just learning some of the rules and how to play the doubles that the group played.  He loved it and found it to be great exercise.  It looked fun to me also.  If I wasn’t in this wheelchair, I would be out there playing.  But I go ever so often and take pics of the group playing to post on facebook.  The group seems to get bigger and bigger and one reason is that my husband invites most people we meet to come to try it out.  Several have and love it too.

I digress, back to What is Pickleball?

According to my research, there are in excess of15,000 indoor and outdoor courts in the United States; and at least one location in all 50 states. Also, there are more than 2.5 million pickleball participants in the United States. I’ve since found that pickleball is kind of a big thing here in northwest Arkansas and watching the men and women play here in Bella Vista, I can understand why.  Its great exercise and very competitive, but not so hard that older people like those in retirement communities can’t participate and love it.

Describe the game.

If you have played tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, you can relate to pickleball.

It can be played both indoors or outdoors on a court that is about the size of a badminton court and uses a net like a tennis court. It is played with a paddle (more like a racketball paddle than a tennis one – it is hard and with a plastic ball with holes that is somewhat like a whiffle ball). Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles.  Here in Bella Vista, all play doubles so more people can participate and less grueling physically than singles.

The History

The sport began on Bainbridge Island in 1965.  This is near Seattle, Washington.

The story goes…..Once there were 3 dads, Mr. Joel Pritchard, Mr. Bill Bell and Mr. Barney Mccallum. They invented the game as something for their bored children to do during the summer.  According to Mr. Barney McCallum, Pritchards’ had a dog, Pickles, who loved to chase the ball. So the game got to be called “pickleball”.

Since then, the game has gone from handmade equipment and very simple rules into a sport that is enjoyed all throughout the U.S. and Canada and is making inroads into Europe and Asia even. An industry has grown up around furnishing the equipment for the game during this period too.

The court is sized 20×44 feet and both doubles and singles are played on that court. The net divides the court and is 36″ tall at the sides and 34″ in the middle. Lined like a tennis court with left and right service areas, there is a 7′ area beside each side of the net that is a non-volley area and is called “the kitchen”.  Many former tennis and badminton courts have been converted to pickleball courts and new “specifically designed” pickleball courts are being created.

Equipment needed beside the court and net are paddles and balls.

  • Pickleball paddles are shorter and smaller than tennis rackets and yet bigger than a ping pong paddle.  They can be made of wood and of lightweight composite materials, including aluminum and graphite.
  • The balls are somewhat like a whiffle ball, with holes and there are different ones to play indoor and outdoor.  The balls are to be one single color to meet International standards.
  • Clothing is comfortable shorts, pants, sweatpants, and Tee shirts that wick sweat, tennis outfits and shoes that are “court use” for stopping and turning.  Hats and caps and sunglasses help with sun glare when playing outside. Many players use headbands and wristbands to catch sweat — OH YES, YOU WILL SWEAT!


  • Played  as doubles or singles
  • Same court area is used for both doubles and singles
  • Serve is made underhand
  • Paddle must contact the ball below the waist of the server
  • At least one foot must be behind the baseline until the ball is struck
  • Serves are diagonal and must land in the opposite court’s diagonal backcourt
  • If the ball touches the net on the serve (called a “let”), the serve is replayed.
  • Both players on the double team which is serving will get to serve and score points until a fault is committed (except first service sequence of each new game).
  • When there is a side out, the first serve is from the right/even court.
  • If a point is made, the server will switch sides on his/her court and then initiate the next serve from the left/odd side of the court
  • As play continues and points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is made and the first server loses his/her serve.
  • When that first serve loses the serve, the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game).
  • That 2nd server continues to serve until his team faults and loses the serve. Then the opposing team begins to serve.
  • When the serve moves across the net (side out) the first serve is from the right/even court and both players will get to serve and score points until their team faults.
  • Note: At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the opposing team.
  • Points can only be scored by the serving team
  • Games are played to 11 points and must be won by 2 points.
  • If it is a tournament, games are to 15 or 21, win by 2.
  • When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right/even court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left/odd court when serving or receiving.
  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may then volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.
  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net. It is prohibited to volley within the non-volley zone. This is to prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.
  • It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone at other times than when volleying a ball.
  • This non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”
  •  A ball contacting any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.” If a serve contacts the non-volley zone line it is short and a fault.Any action that stops play because of a rule violation is a fault
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.
  • Any fair method can be used to determine which player or team has the first choice of side, service, or receive.

The Bella Vista Online Mall has a Shop entirely for Pickleball, you can check it out to see some of the products available for Pickleball play.


Pickleball Resources:



I love to get questions and comments.  Please leave yours below – Shirley


  1. I love your article and found it very informative. I, too, had never heard of Pickleball until recently. I’m still looking to play – it looks like so much fun. Now that Arizona is getting cooler weather I’ll have a better opportunity to play. I once tried playing tennis and it wasn’t pretty, so hopefully, I’ll be better at getting the hang of pickleball. I’ll be sure to check out your facebook page. Thank you, Debbie

    • adminadmin

      Debbie, I think Pickleball is a very fun sport and the way its played here in Bella Vista, allows for 4 players to play at a time. They have 3 courts so that a lot of players working out at once. They played coed, so both men and women play and have fun and exercise together. The number of players has increased here this year, especially as our temperatures are dropping and the fall weather approahes. Its just right for outdoor sports right now. I hope you do get a chance to lay and enjoy the sport. Thanks for your visit to my site and your comment. -shirley

  2. Hello , I didn’t know about Pickleball but now i know .

    Good information

    Good luck in your business

    • Hi Stefan, thanks for visiting my site and your comment. You have a wonderful day. – Shirley

  3. Hi Shirley!

    It is a great post. I am playing tennis since I was 7, and still playing. I have never played pickleball, tried paddle tennis, and I know that there is also a platform tennis game existing.

    Your observation of pickleball is very informative and I will save it for my reference.

    I have tried to simulate paddle tennis with the friend of mine on the beach at home. Such sports as pickleball, paddle tennis, platform tennis are not that popular as tennis in my country. There are courts here and there, as equipment as well. It is becoming more popular in a couple of last years. Tennis is very traditional and big sport in Croatia, where I come from.

    So, my friend and I wanted to try “kind of paddle tennis” and we just took two smaller wooden racquets (similar to table tennis racquets), bought smaller rubber balls and played on the sand beach. It was a great fun.

    I can imagine pickleball is also a great fun.

    Thanks for sharing this post.
    Very well done! Wish you a lot of fun with the game.

    • Thank you Igor for visiting my online mall site and your kind comment on my pickleball post. Tennis is very big around here also. They have a good tennis facility and host tennis tourneys during the year. Thanks again for your comment. – Shirley

  4. I never heard of that kind of sport. Here, in Croatia(Europe) it’s not so well-known yet, but I’ve been investigating a little on the internet and recently (late last year) was introduced in Zagreb by Professor Pavletić, an oncologist from the US National Institute of Health and vice president of the Association of Croatian-American Experts who lives and works in Washington.
    Thank you for the information 🙂

    • That’s very interesting Neil. Thanks for visiting my website and your comment. You have a great day. – shirley

  5. I hope you get out of that wheelchair so you can play some pickleball!

    I found myself laughing out loud at how pickleball got its name. To think – a little dog named Pickles chasing balls!

    I had never heard of pickleball – thanks for the laughs – and something to look for when shopping for retirement homes for my husband and me!

    • Yeah, funny about the dog, but then I remembered when I was young, we had a dog named “pickles” also. Maybe it is more common than I realize. Thanks for the visit and the comment. – Shirley

  6. I honestly haven’t heard of pickleball before, but it certainly does sound interesting. My husband enjoys playing ping pong, so maybe I’ll ask him if he’s heard of it. I wouldn’t mind trying something new this summer!

    • Miranda, I had never heard of it before either. But it looks like a bunch of fun. I’m determined to get out of this wheelchair so I can play games like this again. My husband played again this morning at the Metfield courts here in Bella Vista and he said they had 17 players there, enough for 4 teams to rotate through the 3 courts. When i first saw the paddles, they reminded me of racketball paddles but played kinda like tennis on a court similar to a tennis court. But the paddles were short and you hit the ball like you would a tennis racket, not with the “flip” of a racketball racket. I bet your husband would enjoy it. – Shirley

  7. Me and my girlfriend have never heard of pickle ball until we were selecting out interests for our neighborhood community notifier, here in New Jersey, USA.

    Are there really 15,000 locations!?

    • My research found articles that said there were 15k locations in the U.S. Lots of them in retirement communities like where I live here in Bella Vista, Arkansas. – Shirley

  8. TomTom


    Great article.

    I must admit I have never heard of pickleball but I have definitely heard of ping pong, badminton and tennis. I used to play a lot of tennis in my younger days and I love watching the big events.

    Is this a game that you think could catch on then?


    • Thanks tom for reading my article and your comment. Yes, its definitely a growing sport here in the U.S. and Canada and catching on in Europe and Asian. It looks like lots of fun and my husband loves it. – Shirley

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