How to Play Pickleball: Everything You Need to Know

by Mark Uy, Content Head, Pickleheads.com on March 29, 2023

How to Play Pickleball: Everything You Need to Know

If you're one of the millions of Americans living in a private community and have heard about a new activity called pickleball, you may be wondering how to play. With virtual clinics and video tutorials, it's never been easier to learn the sport.

But if you want to learn more about the game before getting out on the court, you've come to the right place. Below, we'll examine the history of pickleball, what equipment you need, the basic rules to follow, and even some strategy tips.

Ready? Let's dive in!

What is Pickleball?

For the last three years, pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in America. Over 36 million people played last year, and celebrities like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and LeBron James have all invested heavily in the professional scene.

The game is a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It can be played both indoors and outdoors with up to four players. The court is smaller than a regular tennis court, but the rules are similar—players use paddles to hit a plastic ball over a net.

A much lower-impact sport than tennis, it has become a popular recreational activity for people of all ages. Courts are popping up nationwide in parks, country clubs, and gated communities.

Gorgeous settings in top communities with pickleball like Cumberland Harbour, Esperanza, and Savannah Lakes Village are equipped with pickleball courts, allowing residents and guests to enjoy the game with family and friends.

Equipment Needed to Play Pickleball

While some facilities will provide you with paddles and balls, purchasing your own set is best. This way, you can be sure that the equipment is in good condition and up to par with what the pros use.

When buying a paddle, look for one made from graphite or composite materials. These have more control over the ball than a wooden paddle would offer and are durable enough to endure regular use.

There are different pickleball balls for indoor and outdoor play. The outdoor ball is heavier and more durable, while the indoor one is lighter and smaller. An easy way to check is the hole count – indoor will have 26, while outdoor balls usually have 40.

The court you play on should have a pickleball-specific net, as its measurements differ from a regular tennis net.

Finally, make sure you have shoes that provide good traction and support for lateral movement – pickleball can involve a lot of quick turns!

Rules of Pickleball

The game's primary goal is to hit the ball over the net and into your opponent's court. The first player or team to score 11 points wins, provided they have a two-point advantage.

When serving, you must stay behind the baseline until after you've hit the ball. If you hit it out of bounds, into the net, or into an area designated as the “Non-Volley Zone,” the serve moves to the next player. If the ball goes over the net and lands in the designated area – between the baseline and the sideline, but over the “Non-Volley Zone” – it is live.

Pickleball includes a “double bounce rule,” meaning it must bounce at least once on each side of the net before a volley can happen. That ensures the receiving team has a chance to get into a rally.

Once a successful rally has begun, the point will only end when:

  • The ball bounces twice on one side
  • The ball is hit out of bounds
  • A volley is committed in the “no volley” zone (also known as the Kitchen)
  • The ball is hit into the net

A team can only score a point on their services, and both partners serve before it moves to the other team. A pickleball score is read out with three numbers, such as "5-3-2," meaning that the serving team (team A) has 5 points, the receiving team (team B) has 3 points, and it is currently on the second server from team A.

How to Play Pickleball

Once you start playing pickleball, you'll quickly find it easy to learn but challenging to master. The basic shots that everyone will need include:

  • The dink: A dink is a light shot, usually hit just over the net, making opponents scramble forward.
  • The volley: A volley is a shot hit before the ball bounces, keeping your opponents on their toes and forcing them to react quickly.
  • The lob: A lob is a high, arching shot that forces your opponents to move back. It’s great for taking control of the court and setting up an easy winner.
  • The smash: A smash is a powerful shot hit downward, usually at the end of a rally to win a point.

These are just the basics – as you become more advanced in pickleball, you can develop your unique style to help you gain an edge over your opponents.

New players often sequence their shots – hitting a lob, then a dink, then a volley – so it’s harder for the other team to get into position. But there are lots of other ways to take control of the court and force your opponent to make mistakes.

Conclusion

Everyone can enjoy pickleball, regardless of age or experience. Find pickleball courts near you, grab some paddles, and get started! With a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be mastering the game in no time and joining in on the fun of America’s fastest-growing sport.