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World Pickleball Federation Official Rules

World Pickleball Federation Official Rules

World Pickleball Federation (WPF)

Official Tournament Rulebook


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The World Pickleball Federation (WPF) was organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on an international level. The WPF is chartered to promote pickleball for the enjoyment of its members, to encourage sponsors to contribute goods, services, advertisements and financial support so that this sport can grow to its potential.

The purpose of the rulebook is to provide pickleball players with the rules necessary for organized league and tournament play

These rules will not be changed without good cause. Comments and opinions are always welcome. If you have any questions in regards to the rules, please contact:

World Pickleball Federation (WPF)
PO Box 1522
Mukilteo, Wa. 98275
United States of America

Web Site: www.worldpickleball.com



Table Of Contents

Section Description

Section 1—The Game. 3

Section 2—Court and Equipment 3

Section 3—Definitions. 5

Section 4—Service Rules. 6

Section 5—Service Sequence Rules. 8

Section 6—Line Call Rules. 10

Section 7—Fault Rules. 10

Section 8—Dead Ball Rules. 11

Section 9—Non-volley Zone Rules. 11

Section 10—Scoring - Game - Match Rules. 12

Section 11—Time-out Rules. 12

Section 12—Other Rules. 13

Section 13—Recommended Tournament Format 14

Section 14 --Tournament Management and Officiating. 16

Section 15 --Tournament Division Categories. 20

Section 16—Pickleball Playing Tips. 21

Section 17—Game Variations. 23

Section 18—Code of Ethics for Line-Calling. 23



Section 1—The Game

Pickleball is a simple paddle game, played using a special perforated, slow-moving ball over a tennis-type net, on a badminton-sized court.

The ball is served underhand, without bouncing it off the court, and is served diagonally to the opponent’s service zone.

Points are scored by the serving side only and occur when the opponent faults (fails to return ball, hits ball out of bounds, etc.). The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until the server faults.

The first side scoring eleven (11) points and leading by at least a two (2) point margin wins. For example, if both sides are tied at ten (10) points, then play continues until one side wins by 2 points.

Unique Pickleball Features

· Serve Position: The server can have one foot inside the baseline, as long as the other foot is outside at the moment of serve.

· Double Bounce Rule: Following the serve, each side must make at least one groundstroke prior to volleying the ball (hitting it before it has bounced).

· Non-volley Zone: A player cannot volley a ball while standing within the non-volley zone.

Section 2—Court and Equipment

2.A. Court Specifications: The 20-foot x 44-foot court is standard for Singles and Doubles. It includes a non-volley line that is between 6 ½ feet to 7 feet from the net, running across the 20-foot width. A service centerline connects the baseline to the non-volley line.

2.B. Net Specifications:

2.B.1. The net may be of any netted material.

2.B.2. Size: 21 feet long x 2½ feet wide.

2.B.3. Mesh size: 1-inch minimum; 2½ inch maximum.

2.B.4. Location and Height: Suspended over court centerline. Net height shall be 36 inches at sideline and 34 inches at center.

2.B.5. Net Posts: Standard net suspension posts shall be 12 inches from sideline. Supplemental posts may be used to control 36-inch net height. Such posts must not exceed 36 inches in length unless set back 12 inches from the sideline.


World Pickleball Federation Official Rules


Figure 1—Court Specifications

2.C. Pickleball Specifications:

Figure 1

2.C.l. Construction: Durable plastic material molded with a smooth surface and free of texturing.

2.C.2. Size Features: Ball shall be 2-7/8 inches in diameter and contain twenty-six (26) to fifty-six (56) 3/8-inch diameter or smaller holes.

2.C.3. Weight: 21 to 23 grams or about .8 ounces.

2.C.4. Spacing of holes and overall design of the ball must conform to the basic light-weight and straight-flight characteristics required for pickleball.

2.C.5. Color: Any that gives good visibility.

2.C.5. Official tournament pickleballs: COSOM or DURABALL

2.D. Pickleball Paddle Specifications:

2.D.l. Materials: Any material is acceptable.

2.D.2. Surface: Paddle playing surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, or any objects/features that allow a player to impart abnormal spin on the ball.

2.D.3. Size: The combined length and width shall not exceed 24 inches. The standard paddle measures 8 inches wide by 15½ inches long, including a 7-inch handle. The magnum paddle measures 8 inches wide by 15½ inches long but has a 5-inch handle. This allows the magnum to have a longer face or larger sweet spot. Thickness is not restricted.

2.D.4. Weight: There is no restriction on paddle weight.

2.E. Players’ Clothing: Clothing and shoes may be of any color. Shoes must have soles that do not mark or damage the court’s playing surface. All clothing that contains writing or pictures must be in good taste. The Tournament Director has the authority to enforce clothing changes, if considered in bad taste, or, if necessary, expel a player from the tournament. All players shall be required to wear shirts.

Section 3—Definitions

3.A. Carry—Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but tends to be carried along on the face of the paddle during its forward motion.

3.B. Cross-court—The court diagonally opposite your court.

3.C Dead Ball—A dead ball is declared after a fault. See fault.

3.D. Dink Shot—A soft shot that is intended to arc over the net and land within the non-volley zone.

3.E. Double Bounce—A ball that bounces more than once on one side before it is returned.

3.F. Double Hit—One side hitting the ball twice before it is returned over net. Double hits may occur by one player or could involve both players on a team.

3.G. Drop Shot—A groundstroke shot that falls short of the opponent’s position.

3.H. Drop Shot Volley—A volley shot that is designed to “kill” the speed of the ball and return it short, near the net, to an opponent positioned at or near the baseline. This shot is especially effective when initiated close to the non-volley line.

3.I. Fault—A fault is any action that stops play or a rules violation.

3.J. Groundstroke—Hitting the ball after one bounce.

3.K. Half Volley—A groundstroke shot where the paddle contacts the ball immediately after it bounces from the court and before the ball rises to its potential height.

3.L. Hindrance—Any element or occurrence that can affect play. For example, a stray ball that enters the court or people disrupting play by walking across the court.

3.M. Lob—A shot that returns the ball as high and deep as possible, forcing the opposing side back to the baseline.

3.N. Non-Volley Zone—The section of court, adjacent to the net, in which you cannot volley the ball. It includes all the lines bordering the zone.

3.O. One Hand Out—A term used to describe the condition when a serving team loses the first of its two allocated serves.

3.P. Overhead Slam/Smash—A hard, overhand shot usually resulting from an opponent’s lob or high return or a high bounce.

3.Q. Passing Shot—A volley or groundstroke shot that is aimed at a distance from the player and is designed to prevent return of the ball, e.g., a line drive close to the sideline.

3.R. Rally—Continuous play that occurs after the serve and before a fault.

3.S. Replays—Any rallies that are replayed for any reason without the awarding of a point or a side out

3.T. Side Out—Declared after one side loses its service and other side is awarded service.

3.U. Technical Foul—The referee is empowered to add one point to a player’s score or a team’s score when, in the referee’s judgment, the opponent is being overly and deliberately abusive.

3.V. Volley—Hitting the ball in the air during a rally before the ball has a chance to bounce on the court.

Section 4—Service Rules

4.A. The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made at or below waist level.

4.B. The server must keep at least one foot behind the baseline during serve. The server may serve with one foot inside the serving court baseline, as long as the other foot remains on the floor and outside, and not touching the baseline, at the time the ball is struck. The serve must be made from within the confines of the serving court centerline and sideline. These confines lie behind the serving court baseline and between imaginary lines extended from the sideline and court centerline.

4.C. The serve must be made without bouncing the ball off the court before hitting it.

4.D. The serve must be made to the crosscourt (diagonally opposite court) service court.

4.E. The service must clear the net and the non-volley line and land into the opponent’s service court. Serves may land on any service court line except the non-volley zone lines.

4.F. A serve striking the net and landing within the opponent’s service court is called a “let” and justifies another serve.

4.G. The Receiver: There is no restriction on the receiver’s (i.e., the player returning the serve) position. The receiver typically stands behind the baseline but, if desired, may stand inside the service court.

4.H. Double Bounce Rule: The serve and the service return MUST be allowed to bounce before striking the ball. That is, each side must play a groundstroke on their first shot following the serve. After the initial groundstrokes have been made, play may now include volleys.

4.I. Readiness: Serves shall not be made until the receiving side is ready and the referee has called the score. The referee shall call the score after both the server and the receiver have returned to their respective positions, shortly after the previous point has ended.

4.J. After one warning has been issued by the referee, further delays on the part of the server or the receiver exceeding ten (10) seconds shall result in an “out” or a point awarded against the offender.

4.J.l. This “ten second rule” is applicable to both server and receiver, each of whom is allowed up to ten (10) seconds after the score is called to serve or be ready to receive. It is the server’s responsibility to look and be certain that the receiver is ready to receive service. If the receiver is not ready, he must signal by raising his paddle above his head or completely turning his back to the server or raising the non-paddle hand above his head (these are the only acceptable signals).

4.J.2. If the server serves the ball while the receiver is signaling “not ready,” the ball will be re-served with no penalty and the server shall be “warned” by the referee to check the receiver. If the server continues to serve without checking the receiver, the referee may call a technical foul for delay of game and award a point to the receiver’s score.

4.J.3. After the score is called, if the server looks at the receiver and the receiver is not signaling “not ready,” the server may then serve. If the receiver attempts to signal “not ready” after the serve is made, then the serve stands—whether or not the ball is returned.

Section 5—Service Sequence Rules

5.A. Singles (two players):

5.A.l. At the start of each game, the server begins the serve on the right side and alternates from right to left to right, etc., as long as the server holds serve.

5.A.2. The server must serve to the crosscourt (court diagonally opposite) service court.

5.A.3. The server’s score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…) when serving from the right side and odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9…) when serving from the left side (only in singles play).

5.B. Doubles (four players):

5.B.1. The service always starts in the right-hand court and alternates from right to left to right, etc., as long as server holds serve.

5.B.2. The server must serve to the crosscourt (court diagonally opposite) service court.

5.B.3. The team serving the initial serve of each game is allowed only one fault before passing service to the opposing team. After that, each team member must serve and fault before passing service to the opposing team.

5.B.4. The serving team will rotate positions after scoring a point. After the first server faults, the second serve is performed from whatever side the second server is playing. The service will continue to rotate positions as long as the server continues to win points.

5.B.5. If the wrong team member accidentally serves the ball, the serve stands. If the serving team wins the point, the players rotate positions, and the next service is then given back to the correct server. The referee shall give a technical warning. Another occurrence will result in a technical foul and a point awarded to the receiving team.

5.B.6. The receiving team does not alternate positions. The receiving team cannot switch positions until after the return of serve.

5.B.7. The team’s points will be even when the game’s starting server is on the right-hand side. The team’s points will be odd when the game’s starting server is on the left-hand side.

5.C. Service/Side Selection and Rotation:

5.C.1. A coin flip will determine first choice of service or side. If the coin flip winner chooses to serve or receive, the loser picks starting side. If the coin flip winner chooses side, the loser chooses to serve or receive.

5.C.2. Sides and initial service will be switched upon completion of each game.

5.C.3. Sides will be switched in a third game (if the match is 2 out of 3 games) after the first team reaches a score of six (6) points. Serve remains with the player or team holding serve.


Section 6—Line Call Rules

6.A. Served balls that clear the non-volley line and land on any service court line are good.

6.B. Balls in play (except on serve—see 6.A.) that land on any court line are good.

6.C. A ball contacting an part of the baseline or sideline is considered in bounds.

Section 7—Fault Rules

A fault is any action that stops play or a violation of the rules. A fault will be declared for the following:

7.A. Hitting the ball into the net on the service or any return.

7.B. Hitting the ball out of bounds.

7.C. Failure to hit ball before it bounces twice on player’s court.

7.D. Violation of a service rule (See Section 4).

7.E. A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net when the ball is in play.

7.F. If the ball, while in play, strikes a player or a player’s clothing. The exception to this rule is if the ball strikes the player’s paddle hand—then it is considered in play. If the ball strikes a player standing out of bounds, that player loses the rally. If, in doubles, the serve strikes the opposing player positioned at the net not receiving the serve, then it is a point for the serving team. This rule also includes all balls that appear to be hit out of bounds. In tournament play, if you catch the ball or try to stop it from heading out of bounds, then you lose the rally.

7.G. If the ball, while in play, strikes the roof, walls, or other objects that are not part of the court.

7.H. Violation of non-volley zone rules (see Section 9).

7.I. Violation of the other rules (see Section 12).


Section 8—Dead Ball Rules

8.A. A ball is declared dead after any action that stops play.

8.B. A ball is not declared dead until it has bounced twice or has violated one of the fault rules (see Section 7).

8.C. A hindrance (ball on court, etc.), called by the referee, will result in a dead ball and a replay.

Section 9—Non-volley Zone Rules

9.A. The non-volley zone is formed by the non-volley line that is parallel to the net and stretches across the court and the two (2) sidelines extending from the net to the intersection of the non-volley line.

9.B. A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player or any article of clothing (e.g., jewelry, tissues, hair clip, etc.) or any part of the paddle enters into the non-volley zone or touches any non-volley zone line. For example, a fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, one of your feet touches a non-volley zone line.

9.C. A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player’s momentum causes the player or any article of the player’s clothing or any part of the player’s paddle to enter into the non-volley zone or touch any non-volley zone line before the ball is declared dead. Examples:

9.C.1. You volley the ball and your momentum carries you into the non-volley zone after your opponent returns the ball. It is a fault because the ball was in play.

9.C.2. You volley the ball and you lose your balance and touch the non-volley line with either your hand or your paddle. Your opponent returns your shot. It is a fault because the ball was still in play.

9.C.3. You volley the ball and your momentum carries you into the non-volley zone after your return strikes your opponent’s body. There is no violation of the non-volley zone rules because once the ball strikes the player it is declared a dead ball.

9.C.4. You volley the ball and your momentum carries you into the non-volley zone after the ball strikes your opponent’s paddle and is headed out of bounds. The ball is in play until it bounces out of bounds. Since you fell into the non-volley zone before the ball bounced out of bounds, it is a fault.

9.D. A fault will be declared if a player violates the intent of the non-volley zone rule. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing outside the non-volley zone is prohibited. If you are inside the non-volley zone for any reason, you cannot volley the return until your feet are legally positioned (i.e., on the floor) outside the non-volley zone

9.E. A player may step on the non-volley line or enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball. There is no violation if your partner returns the ball while you are standing in the non-volley zone.

Section 10—Scoring - Game - Match Rules

10.A. Scoring: Only the serving team can score points.

10.B. Points are scored by legally serving a ball that is not touched by the opponent (an ace) or by winning the rally (faulting by the opponent).

10.C. Game: The first side scoring eleven (11) points and leading by at least a two- (2) point margin wins. If both sides are tied at ten (10) points, then play continues until one side wins by two (2) points. Tournament Director can change the format to allow for number of players or time restraints.

10.D. Match: Best two (2) of three (3) games. Tournament Director can change the format to allow for number of players or time restraints.

Section 11—Time-out Rules

11.A. Normal Time-outs: A player or team is entitled to two (2) time-outs per game. Each time-out period shall last only thirty (30) seconds; then play must be resumed or another time-out called by either side. Time-outs may never be called once the ball is in play or the server has started his serving motion.

11.B. Injury Time-outs: If a player is injured during a match, that player may call an injury time-out. The referee must agree that an injury did take place and that the player is not just stalling to rest or recuperate. If the referee agrees, then that player will be allowed no more than fifteen (15) minutes of rest during the —injury time-out.“ If the player cannot resume play after the fifteen (15) minute “injury time-out” period is up, the match shall be awarded to the opponents.

11.C. Equipment Time-outs: Players are expected to keep all clothing and equipment in good, playable condition and are expected to use regular time-outs and time between games for adjustments and replacement of equipment. If a player or team is out of time-outs and the referee determines that an equipment change or adjustment is necessary for fair and safe continuation of the match, the referee may award an equipment time-out not to exceed two (2) minutes.

11.D. Between Games Time-out: Between games time-outs shall not exceed two (2) minutes between all games of a match.

11.E. Postponed Games: Any game postponed by referees shall be resumed with the same score as when postponed.

Section 12—Other Rules

12.A. Hand Hitting the Ball: Balls hit by the paddle hand below the wrist, while holding the paddle, are legal. It is a fault if the ball hits the arm or other parts of body.

12.B. Carry and Double Hits: Balls hit during one continuous, single-direction stroke are legal, even though the ball may be unintentionally hit twice or “carried.”

12.C. Switching Hands: Paddle may be switched from hand to hand at any time. Two-handed shots are also legal.

12.D. Return Attempts: A completely missed return shot does not, by itself, constitute a dead ball. The ball remains in play (until the ball bounces twice) to return on a second attempt.

12.E. Broken or Cracked Ball: Play continues until end of the rally. If, in the judgment of the referee, the broken or cracked ball affected the outcome of the rally, the referee will call for a replay.

12.F. Injury During Game: Rally continues to its conclusion.

12.G. Player Equipment Problem: A rally will not be stopped or affected because of player losing or breaking a paddle, clothing problems, etc.

12.H. Distractions: A player may not yell, stamp his feet, or otherwise try to distract the opponent when the opponent is about to play the ball. A technical foul may be called against the offending player and a point awarded for unsportsmanlike conduct. In Doubles, team communication shall not be considered a distraction.

12.I. The Net Posts: The net posts are positioned out of bounds. If a ball strikes the net post, it is fault and is declared a dead ball.

12.J. The Net:

12.J.1. The net and the wires or strings holding up the net are positioned (mostly) on the court. Therefore, if the ball strikes the top of the net or strikes the top net wire or string and lands in play, then it remains in play. For example, if you hit the ball and it strikes the net wire but lands on your opponent’s court, then it remains in play.

12.J.2. Hitting the ball between the top and bottom net wires is not a valid return and, therefore, a fault is declared.

12.K. Shots Around The Net Post: If the ball is hit at an angle where it bounces within the court and is headed out past the sidelines, you may return the ball around the net post. The ball does not have to travel back over the net. In addition, there is no restriction as to the height of the return. For example, you may return the ball around the net post below the height of the net. Any player returning the ball around the net post must also respect the non-volley zone lines.

Section 13—Recommended Tournament Format

13.A. Tournament Formats: There are five (5) tournament formats that may be used. The particular format is typically the choice of the Tournament Sponsor or the Tournament Director.

13.A.1. Single Elimination: All players are guaranteed at least one (1) game. The loser is out of the tournament.

13.A.2. Double Elimination: All players are guaranteed at least two (2) games. A loss will either put the loser into a consolation bracket for third place or put the loser into a loser bracket, where the winner of the loser bracket will play for the championship (the loser must win twice).

13.A.3. Drop Flight: All players start at the Open level. A loss in the first round will drop you into the A level. A first round loss in the A level will drop you into the B level. If you win a first round match in any level then you stay at that level. There is typically a consolation bracket for the second-round losers of each level.

13.A.4. Round Robin: All players will play each other. The player winning the most matches is declared the winner.

13.A.5. Point Award: Similar to a Round Robin, but one (1) point is awarded for each win. No points are awarded for a loss. In addition, a player or team winning the match by winning the first two (2) games receives an additional point.

13.B. Draws:

13.B.l. If possible, all draws shall be made at least two (2) days before the tournament commences. The seeding method of drawing shall be approved by the WPF.

13.B.2. The Tournament Director shall chair the Draw and Seeding Committee, which shall include at least one player representative. No other persons shall participate in the draw or seeding except by invitation of the Tournament Director.

13.C. Notice of Matches: It is the responsibility of each player to check the posted schedules to determine the time and place of each match. If any change is made in the schedule after posting, the Tournament Director or his designated representative shall notify the players of the change.

13.D. Forfeited Matches: A forfeit is a loss by default. It usually occurs because a player or team did not show up on time, because of player injury, or for misconduct. A player or team forfeiting a match for any reason shall lose the match as if that player or team lost the first two (2) games of that match. Therefore, the other player or team wins the match as if that player or team won the first two (2) games of that match. The winning player or team shall receive the appropriate point score or advance to the next level.

13.E. Consolation Matches: In all WPF sanctioned tournaments, each entrant shall be entitled to participate in a minimum of two scheduled matches per event entered. This means that losers of their first match shall have the opportunity to compete in the event’s consolation bracket. The consolation matches may be modified at the discretion of the Tournament Director (e.g., one game to 15 points), but this modification must be established either verbally or in writing to all players before the tournament begins or on the tournament application. If a first match is scheduled with an opponent who, for any reason, must “forfeit,” then that scheduled match is considered a “win.” The Tournament Director is not at fault if a player or team wins their first match by forfeit and then loses a second match and, thus, only plays one match. This is known as “luck of the draw,” and the person who falls into this category will not go into consolation play.

13.F. Scheduling Matches:

13.F.1. Preliminary Matches: If one or more contestants are entered in both Singles and Doubles, they may be required to play both Singles and Doubles on the same day or night with little rest between matches. This is a risk assumed on entering both Singles and Doubles events. If possible, the schedule should provide at least one-hour rest period between matches.

13.F.2. Final Matches: When one or more players have reached the finals in both Singles and Doubles, it is recommended that the Doubles match be played on the day preceding the Singles. This would ensure more rest between the final matches. If both final matches must be played on the same day or night, the following procedure is recommended:

13.F.2.a. The Doubles match should be played first.

13.F.2.b. A rest period of not less than one (1) hour should be allowed between the finals in Doubles and Singles, when possible.

13.G. Game: The side first scoring eleven (11) points and leading by at least a two- (2) point margin wins the game. If both sides are tied at ten (10) points, then play continues until one side wins by two (2) points.

13.H. Match: The first side winning two (2) games wins the match. In the event that each participant or team wins a game, then the match shall be decided by a third game to 11 points. This is known as playing the best two (2) out of three (3) games to win a match. During the third game, when the first player or team reaches six (6) points, the players will change sides of the court and the game will continue to its conclusion.

13.I. Doubles Play: A Doubles team shall consist of two (2) players that meet the classification requirements to participate in a particular division of play. The ability level of the higher-ranked player determines a team’s ability level (or division or classification). Under no circumstances can a partner change be made during the course of a tournament.

13.J. Court Changes: In WPF-sanctioned tournaments, the Tournament Director and/or the international WPF official in attendance may decide on a change of courts after the completion of any tournament game if such a change will accommodate better spectator or playing conditions.

13.K. Tournament Conduct: In WPF-sanctioned tournaments, the referee is empowered to call technical fouls and to forfeit a match if an individual player’s behavior is detrimental to the tournament. In addition, the Tournament Director has the authority to expel any player for misconduct, no matter how many technical fouls have been received. If any player or team receives three (3) technical fouls, that player shall be automatically expelled from the tournament.

13.L. Eligibility: Any WPF member in good standing, who has not been classified as a professional, may compete in any WPF event or tournament. In addition, any player who rejoins the WPF or who pays for membership before the tournament begins is eligible.

13.M. Professional: A professional shall be defined as any player (male, female or junior) who has accepted pickleball prize money in excess of $3950.00 during any one calendar year.

Section 14 --Tournament Management and Officiating

14.A. Tournament Director: A Tournament Director shall manage all tournaments. It is the Tournament Director’s responsibility to designate the officials and their areas of responsibility.

14.B. Rules Briefing: Before all tournaments, all officials and players shall be briefed or supplied current rules on court hindrances, regulations, or modifications the Tournament Director wishes to impose at this tournament. This briefing should be reduced to writing when possible. The current WPF tournament rules will apply and be made available. Any modification the Tournament Director wishes to impose must be stated on the entry form or in writing and be made available to all players at registration for that event.

14.C. Officials: The officials shall consist of a referee/scorekeeper so designated by the Tournament Director, committee, or those persons agreed to by both participants in Singles or both teams in Doubles. Officials may also include, at the discretion of the Tournament Director, a scorekeeper and lines people, when necessary. Every WPF-sanctioned match must have a referee/scorekeeper. Although any tournament player may volunteer to referee a match, the Tournament Director typically assigns the referee/scorekeeper from the losers of a prior match.

14.D. Referees’ Duties: Before each match begins:

14.D.l. Check on preparation of court with respect to cleanliness, lighting, height of the net, court markings, and hazards.

14.D.2. Check on availability and suitability of necessary materials for the match, such as balls, score cards, pencils, location of clock, and towels, when provided.

14.D.3. Check to ensure that planned support is available (e.g., lines people, scorekeeper, extra balls, etc.).

14.D.4. Meet with players at courtside to:

14.D.4.a. Inspect paddles for irregularities.

14.D.4.b. Instruct players on the need to wait for referee to call out score before serving.

14.D.4.c. Point out court hindrances or other approved rule modifications.

14.D.4.d. Instruct players on line-calling duties of referee, lines people, and players.

14.D.4.e. Flip coin to determine initial service and side.

14.D.5. Re-check net height during the match if net is disturbed.

14.E. Scorekeeping: The referee/scorekeeper must call out the score after each point is played and has been marked down on the official scorecard. Calling out the score should indicate to each side that play is ready to resume.

14.F. Line Calls: Accepted hand signals are: line faults—outstretched arm pointing in direction of out-of-bounds ball path; fair ball—arms extended parallel to court with palms down.

14.F.1. Officiating Options:

14.F.l.a. Players call all lines (generally used in non-tournament play).

14.F.1.b. The referee calls non-volley zone infractions. Players make their own calls on other lines on their side of court (method generally used in tournaments). Referee should overrule a missed call by the players.

14.F.1.c. The referee calls non-volley zone infractions. Lines people are used to make calls for sidelines and baselines (generally restricted to tournament championship events).

14.F.2. Linespeople:

14.F.2.a. Linespeople will be assigned to final matches, if requested by the players or referee. The referee, according to availability and suitability, will select Linespeople. The Tournament Director will make the final selection in the event of player objections.

14.F.2.b. Linespeople will call all line faults within their jurisdiction and will signify fault by calling “wide” or “long.”

14.G. Referee’s Officiating Duties: The referee is responsible for all decisions related to procedural and judgment calls during the match. Spectators are not part of the game and, therefore, cannot be consulted on judgment calls. The referee’s call will stand.

14.H. Match Forfeiture: A referee may impose a forfeit when:

14.H.1. A player refuses to abide by the referee’s decision or engages in unsportsmanlike conduct.

14.H.2. A player fails to comply with the tournament or host facility’s rules while on the premises, or for failure to referee, or improper conduct on the premises between matches, or for abuse of hospitality, locker room, or other rules and procedures.

14.H.3. A player fails to report to play ten (10) minutes after the match has been called to play. (The Tournament Director may permit a longer delay if circumstances warrant such a decision.)

14.H.4. A player receiving two (2) technical fouls in a match shall automatically forfeit that match. In addition, the Tournament Director has the authority to expel any player from the tournament for misconduct.

14.I. Appeals: Appeals to the referee regarding judgment calls (line calls, double bounce, etc.) will be decided by the referee. The referee may consult players or linespeople, if used, to decide outcome of appeal.

14.I.1. A player may appeal a procedural or judgment call to the referee. The referee will consider procedural appeals and will provide a decision after explaining the ruling.

14.I.2. A referee’s decision will either be points awarded, a service loss, or a replay.

14.I.3. Players wishing to signify an appeal during a rally may do so by raising their non-paddle hands to inform the referee that an appeal will be made regarding a previous possible violation. Play will continue until the rally is over and appeal can then be made.

14.I.4. Replays: After reviewing an appeal, the referee may determine that no decision on the appeal can be made and direct a replay.

14.J. Rules Interpretations: If a player feels that the referee has interpreted the rules incorrectly, that player may request that the referee or the Tournament Director show them the applicable rule in the rulebook.

14.K. Protest: Any referee’s decision involving an interpretation of the rules may, on protest, be decided by the Tournament Director.

14.L. Removal of a Referee: A referee may be removed when both players in Singles or both teams in Doubles agree that the referee assigned to officiate their match is doing a poor job, or at the discretion of the Tournament Director. In the event that a referee removal is requested by only one player or team and not agreed to by the other player or team, then the Tournament Director may accept or reject the request. If a referee is removed, the Tournament Director will appoint the new referee.

14.M. Technical Fouls: The referee is empowered to call technical fouls. When a technical foul is called, one (1) point shall be added to the score of the abusing player’s opponents. If, after the technical foul is called and play is not immediately continued, or the player continues to be abusive, then the referee is empowered to forfeit the match in favor of the abusing player’s opponents. If a player or a team receives two (2) technical fouls in a match, then that match shall automatically result in forfeiture. In addition, the Tournament Director has the authority to expel from the tournament any player or team for misconduct. If any player or team receives three (3) technical fouls, then that player or team shall be automatically expelled from the tournament. If a player has been expelled from a tournament, any prizes and ranking points gained from the tournament shall not be forfeited.

Actions that may result in technical fouls are:

14.M.1. Profanity: The use of bad or demeaning language. Profanity is an automatic technical foul. The referee shall call a technical foul whenever it occurs.

14.M.2. Excessive arguing.

14.M.3. Threats of any nature to any player or the referee.

14.M.4. Purposely breaking the ball or striking of the ball between rallies.

14.M.5. Throwing the paddle. If this action results in the striking or injury of any player or spectator or damage to the court or facility, an automatic technical foul shall be awarded to the opponent.

14.M.6. Delay of game, either in the form of taking too much time during time-outs and between games, excessive questioning of the referee on the rules, or excessive or unnecessary appeals.

14.M.7. Any other actions that are considered unsportsmanlike behavior.

14.N. Technical Warning: If a player’s behavior is not severe enough to warrant a technical foul, a technical warning may be issued. In most situations, the referee should give a technical warning before imposing a technical foul. Points shall not be awarded for a technical warning.

14.O. Effect of Technical Fouls and Technical Warnings: A technical warning shall not result in a loss of rally or point awarded and shall be accompanied by a brief explanation of the reason for the warning. If a referee issues a technical foul, one point shall be added to the non-offender’s score. A called technical foul or warning shall have no effect on service change or side out.

Section 15 --Tournament Division Categories

15.A. Event Categories:

Men—Singles and Doubles

Women—Singles and Doubles


Event categories may vary, depending upon the number of entries, their age, and gender. In addition, the tournament sponsor may dictate the event categories.

15.B. Ability Level and Age Divisions:

Open (Highest), A (Advanced), B (Intermediate), C (Novice), 12 & U (12 Years and Under), 18 & U (18 Years and Under), 19+ (19 Years and Over), 35+ (35 Years and Over), 45+ (45 Years and Over), 55+ (55 Years and Over), 65+ (65 Years and Over)

Ability levels may vary, depending upon the number of entries and their respective age levels. In addition, the tournament sponsor may dictate the event categories and ability levels.

15.C. Special Events:


Family Fun

15.D. Guidelines for Moving Between Ability Level Divisions (Open, A, B, C):

15.D.l. Moving Down—A player may move down to a lower division at any time unless he has current tournament points (in the past 12 months) in the higher division.

15.D.2. Moving Up—A player may move up to a higher division at any time. If a player wins an A-, B-, or C-division event, then that player must move up to a higher division in the next tournament entered. If, in the next tournament, this player does not win tournament points, then a move back down to the lower division is acceptable.

15.D.3. Women Playing in Men’s Events—Women may play in men’s events at their normal level or down one division. For example, a woman A player may enter into men’s A or B events. The guidelines for moving up or down also apply.

Section 16—Pickleball Playing Tips

16.A. Playing the game develops Pickleball playing skills. However, a much higher competitive level can be realized if the player capitalizes on the various strategies available. The following strategies and tips are offered to promote continuous improvement to the pickleball player’s game:

16.A.l. Learn to control placement of the serve. Deep serves to the baseline and serves to the player’s backhand are potent weapons that can result in points or weak returns.

16.A.2. Capture the net—the first side to secure the net position (just behind non-volley line) is in the best position to win the rally. Non-receiving member of the receiving team should be positioned close to the non-volley line at the start of the serve.

16.A.3. The serving side should remain one to two feet behind the baseline after the serve so that deep service returns can be hit without having to run backward.

16.A.4. Selective hard line drives or passing-type shots are especially effective when:

16.A.4.a. Opponent is weak or is a weak volley player.

16.A.4.b. Opponent leaves an area of the court unprotected.

16.A.4.c. Opposing team includes a left-hander who is positioned at the net with partner to his right. A passing shot down the middle will go to both players’ backhands.

16.A.4.d. A passing shot is directed at player running towards the net, forcing the player to return the shot while off balance.

16.A.4.e. A passing shot is directed between the players, causing some confusion as to which player should return shot.

16.A.5. Doubles Dink Shot—This is initiated by the serving team after the service return, allowing the serving team to come to the net zone and neutralize the initial advantage of the receiving team. Dink shots from the baseline are slow, higher arc shots that land just beyond the net in the non-volley zone. This shot forces the receiving team to wait for the ball to bounce and also reduces their chance for a hard or deep return.

16.A.6. Dink Shots at the Net—The key to successful dinking at the net is to create sufficient arc to the ball so that it easily clears the net but lands close to the net on other side.

16.A.7. Drop Shots—Drop shots are especially effective when made at the non-volley line, and the opponent is at the baseline or is playing deep. A short drop shot from this position can often prevent a return or may cause a poor return.

16.A.8. Lob Shots—A high, deep lob will drive the other side to the baseline and may force a poor return or a fault. Lobs are often used defensively to return balls that have been hit deep to your baseline or off-balance position.

16.A.9. Overhead Slam/Smash—Slams should be directed to any opponent close to the net, as that player has less time to react. Use the overhead smash against an opponent’s lobs and high returns.

16.A.10. Serving Position—The server should serve from the position that does not leave the backhand side unduly unprotected. Singles service should be made near the court center. Doubles service (for a right-hander) should be made from the middle of the left-hand court when on the left side and from the court center when serving from the right-hand side (reverse positions for left-hander).

16.A.11. Game Plan—The pre-game strategy should establish:

16.A.11.a. Type of shots to use on each opponent.

16.A.11.b. What are your opponent’s weaknesses?

16.A.11.c. Which player should cover centerline returns?

16.A.11.d. Which player should cover lobs?

16.A.11.e. Voice signals.


Section 17—Game Variations

17.A. The regulation game is used for all tournament and normal play. The following game variations provide additional concepts that can be used in practice sessions and to further enjoy pickleball:

17.A.I. Serve Handicapping: Allow weaker side additional serves to compensate for skill differential.

17.A.2. Point Handicapping: Spot points to the weaker player at the start of a game to compensate for skill differential.

17.A.3. Half Court-Strong Side: Player with higher skill plays to opponent’s half court that ball is served to or from. Lesser-skilled player plays to whole court.

17.A.4. Half Court-Both Sides: Both players play the entire game on one side of the court. This play is good practice for dink shots, volleys, and lob shots.

17.A.5. Dink-A-Dink: Both players play a half court game at the non-volley line. Non-volley line must be respected and is treated as a baseline. (Fault if ball is hit beyond line). This play is good practice for dinking.

17.A.6. Dink Game: Both players play a half-court game. Game starts at the non-volley line, with dink shots from each player. After that, players may dink, lob, or use passing shots to any area within the half court. This play is good practice for improving play at the non-volley line.

17.A.7. Australian Doubles/Cutthroat: Play between three players. Serving player plays against other two players and gets two (2) “serves” before having to move to the opposite (receiving) side. Players rotate clockwise to assume new serving and receiving positions. Server continues to score points until two faults are made. Game ends when any player scores eleven (11) points and wins by two (2) points or more.

17.A.8. Rally scoring: A Point is scored on every serve instead of only by the serving player or team.

Section 18—Code of Ethics for Line-Calling

18.A. Pickleball, like tennis, is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line-calling responsibilities when performed by players.

The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or lines people. The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind. The player, when assigned line-calling duties, operates under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.

The basic elements are:

18.B. Players will call the lines on their side of the court (except those being called by a referee or lines people).

18.C. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made by you.

18.D. Spectators should not be consulted on any line calls. Spectators may be prejudiced, unqualified, or not in position to see the call, and therefore cannot participate.

18.E. All participants should strive for accuracy in making line calls.

18.F. No player should question another player’s call unless asked. A player should ask the opponent’s opinion if the opponent was in a better position to see the call. An opponent’s opinion, if requested, should be accepted. The opinion of a player looking down the line is more likely to be accurate than one looking across the line.

18.G. Don’t call a ball “out” when you are looking across the line unless you can clearly see the space between the line and the ball as it hits. The player’s depth of field judgment, based on the laws of parallax, prevent accurate judgment in these cases.

18.H. All “let” or “out” calls must be made “instantly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed good and still in play. “Instantly” is defined as calling “let” or “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before it has gone out of play.

18.I. Any ball that cannot be called “out” is presumed to be “in.” The player cannot claim a “let” (replay) because the ball was not seen. The opponent’s opinion can be requested and, if the opponent says the ball was “in”, the ball must be declared “in.”

18.J. Players should not request a “let” (replay) because they were not sure the ball was “out” or “in.” In this case, benefit of the doubt goes to the opponent.

18.K. In doubles play, if one player calls the ball “out” and the partner calls it “in,” then doubt exists, and the ball must be declared “in.”

18.L. Line calls should be signaled promptly by hand or voice, regardless of how obvious they may seem.



World Pickleball Federation Official Rules


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