Here is a step-by-step guide giving the basics and scoring rules (in an elaborated form) to help you learn how to score in pickleball.
In recreational pickleball games, there are more arguments about the scoring than the line calls. That’s because the pickleball score is naturally confusing and complex. If you wonder how to score in pickleball, you need to learn all the basics and regulations. Once you have everything clear in your mind, you never lose track.
If you want to learn how to score in pickleball, this guide is going to be a big help for you. I’ve composed this step-by-step guide giving the basics and scoring rules (in an elaborate form) to help you learn how to score in pickleball.
Like all other racquet games, the goal in pickleball is to win the rally. You might be wondering what a rally is. Rally is hitting the ball back and forth in a sequence after the service and before a fault. The game begins by tossing a coin and the winning team gets the right to serve.
The first serve is hit from the right side of the court. It can be a traditional serve, a drop serve, or a bounce serve. The server announces the score loudly at the start of the game. The simple rule to win a pickleball game is to score 11 points with a lead of 2. To reach the score of 11 with a lead of two, you must win 2 out of three games.
- Pickleball is an 11-point game. The team that scores 11 points with a margin of two wins the game. For instance 12-10, or 11-9.
- In pickleball, you can only score a point when you serve. If you’re on the receiving side you cannot win a point. However, you can make the serving team do fault and win the right to serve.
- The first serve always starts from the right side of the court.
- The server can hit a traditional serve or a droop serve or a bounce serve. However, the server must serve underhand diagonally and the ball should land beyond the non-volley zone.
- If not it will be a serving fault.
- In case of serving a fault, the serve is dropped and passed to other players in the team.
- If the serving team wins the rally with the first serve, the first server swipes its position with his/her partner and comes to the left side of the court.
- From there he/she again serves underhand and diagonally.
- When the first server loses the rally the second player on the team gets the chance to serve.
- When the second player also loses the rally the serve chance is lost and the second team wins the right to serve.
- Receiving team is now the serving team.
- The player positioned on the right side serves first and is the player number 1 to serve. The player on the left serves as the 2nd server.
- However, this number applies only one time. In other serving turns the serving side is decided by summing up the total score of the team.
- If the serving team’s score is odd, the player on the left side of the court will be the first server.
- If the score is even, the serve will be served from the right side and the player standing on the right side of the court will be the first serve. The game progresses in the same pattern.
Related: serving rules in pickleball
How A Point Is Scored In Pickleball?
Unlike all other racquet games, only the serving team can win a point in pickleball. Receiving team cannot win the point but only the serving team so that they can put some numbers on the scoreboard. Here is how you can win a point in pickleball:
- A rally begins with a legal serve.
- In pickleball, volley serves and drop serves are allowed.
- Serve must be made underhand, and paddle contact with the ball must be made below the waistline of the server.
- While serving, either of the server’s feet should not touch the baseline. The server must keep one foot behind the baseline.
- Serve is hit diagonally across the court and must land within the confined zone or volley zone in the opponent’s court.
- If the serving fault is committed, the service chance is lost and the other player of the team gets the chance to serve. On serving faults, the opponent does not get a point.
- If the server hits the ball and the ball hits the top of the net but still makes it to the opponent’s court, it is called let serve. In the case of let serve, the server gets another chance.
- The receiving team must let the ball bounce before smashing it back into the opponent’s court.
- In order to save a point, the receiving team must hit the ball in a way that it lands in the volley zone.
- The serving team wins a point:
- If the receiving team misses the ball, the opposing team hits the ball in the non-volley zone.
- The opposing team hit the ball out of bounds.
If the serving team misses the ball or it hits beyond the volley zone, it is considered a fault, and the serving chance is lost. In a serve hit, only those who are served can return the ball. If the other player hits the ball, it’s a fault and the serving team wins the point.
Double Bounce Rule
In order to extend the rallies and eliminate the advantage of serving first, the double bounce rule is introduced. When the first team serves, the opponents must let the ball bounce before hitting. Similarly, the serving team must let the ball bounce before hitting. Once the ball has bounced once in both courts, both teams can hit the ball before bouncing.
In addition to playing volleys, both teams are allowed to hit the ball off the bounce which is called a groundstroke. However, to play a volley (hitting the ball without letting it bounce) the player’s feet must be behind the non-volley zone line. If the player steps in while hitting the ball it is a fault.
Keeping Score In The Pickleball
Doubles Pickleball Scoring
Keeping the score in pickleball is pretty confusing especially if you are new to the game. It follows a pretty complex pattern that you can learn but can’t master until you play the game and practice it. Here is an example of how the score is announced in pickleball. As per game rules server must announce the current score loudly in a particular pattern.
The first server of the serving team announces the score 5-3-1. It means our score is five, your score is three and I’m the first server on my team. If the serving team wins the rally the first server moves to the left side of the court and again serves. Now he/she announces the score 6-3-1. It means our team has six points, your team has three points and I’m the first server of my team.
If the serving team makes a fault, the rally is lost and the serve is passed to the second player on the team. The second server on the team announces the score this way: 6-3-2 i.e our score is six, your score is three and I’m the second server on the team.
When the serving team makes the second fault and or loses a rally, it is called a side-out and the receiving team wins the right to serve.
Now the receiving team is the serving team and the player on the right side of the court is the first server. Before serving, the 1st server announces the score. 3-6-1 i.e. our team has three points, your team has six points and I’m the first server. If they win a point the score becomes 4-6-1.
When they make their first fault and lose the rally the serve is lost and the second server gets the chance. He/she announces the score 4-6-2 i.e. our team has four points, your team has six points and I’m the second server. Pickleball scoring rules progress the same way until a team reaches a score of 11 with a margin of two points. So pickleball score consists of three numbers:
- The 1st number is the serving team’s score.
- 2nd number is the receiving team’s’s score
- 3rd number is the number of servers of a particular team in a particular serving turn.
If the rule is simple then why is scoring pickleball a complex phenomenon? Have you ever wondered? In addition to scoring rules, we must talk about when and how the score should be announced. Most of the players announce the score so fast and jumbled that no one can understand it.
I’ve seen players announcing the score while facing the back fence and don’t serve right after the announcement. After 100 seconds or more, they serve without announcing the score again. Is it fair? Some people say to score so lightly so that the opponents standing at 50 feet can’t hear their words. So the server must announce the score loudly and clearly just before hitting a serve.
If you are playing in a noisy area, the receiver may signal that they have heard the score. This is key to fair play and avoiding nasty arguments.
It might seem pretty simple but when you are on the court you focus more on the game and less on the scorekeeping. It can be a little confusing to remember the score and announce it correctly every time you get to serve. So here is a pro tip that will help you not lose track. Remember this phrase: Me-You-Who.
What’s My score?
What is your Score?
Who am I? Am I the first server or the second?
What Is the First Serve Exception Rule?
In pickleball doubles, the first-serve exception rule is introduced to eliminate the advantage of winning the first chance to serve.
The team that wins the toss and gets the chance to serve first, has only one serve chance. A player on the right side serves and if they make a fault or lose a rally the serve is lost. Instead of passing the serve to the other player of the team, the second team gets the chance to serve.
In simple words, the first team to serve gets only one chance in their first turn. In their remaining turns, each team gets two chances.
Singles Pickleball Scoring
Singles pickleball scoring is the same as double scoring except for there is only one server on each side of the court. So there are only two numbers in the score like 2-1. 2 is the score of the server and 1 is the score of the receiver. First, the serve is always served from the right side of the court.
In the remaining turns, if your score is even and you win the right to serve you will serve from the right side of the court. If your score is odd you serve from the left side of the court. The player winning the toss serves first. First, serve is always served from the right side of the court and the server announces the score 0-0.
The Pickleball score is announced in three numbers like 1-1-2, or 2-3-1. The first number is the score of serving teams. The second number is the score of the receiving team. The third number indicates the number of servers of the serving team in a particular serving turn.
Yes, you have to say the score is loudly serving in pickleball. According to pickleball rules, the server must call out the current score loudly in the following sequence: The score or server’s team, the score of the receiving team, and then the server number (1st or 2nd) in his/her team.
Here are the five basic rules in pickleball:
- Only the serving team can win the point.
- Serve cannot land in the no-volley zone.
- Each team needs to reach a score of 11 with a margin of 2 points to win the game. The game ends at either 11 or 15 points.
- There must be one bounce on each side of the court.
- The first serve is always served from the right side of the court.
Pickleball is an 11-points game. Any team to score the 11 points first with a lead of two wins the game. As a general rule of them, you must win 2 out of three games to get a clean win.
When you hit the net on a serve and the ball returns to the server's court it's a serving fault and the serve is lost. However, a serving fault doesn't lead to a point loss in pickleball. If you get the ball and hit the top of the net and land in the opponent's court, it's a let serve and you keep the serve.
Here are the four common faults in pickleball:
- If you hit the ball in the nets in a serve or return.
- If you smash a volley from the no-volley zone.
- If you volley the ball before a bounce has occurred in each court.
- If a ball bounces twice before you hit it.
I’m hopeful that this guide is going to be a big help to understand scoring for pickleball. Whether you want to play games at a recreational level or a pro level, it’s crucial to have a clear picture of gaming rules in mind. Learning the scoring rules in pickleball will definitely help you improve your game.
Oliver Parker is a recognized authority in the world of pickleball, renowned for his in-depth knowledge of paddles and shoes. With years of expertise on and off the court, he provides invaluable guidance for players of all levels. As a seasoned player, Oliver has not only honed his skills on the court but also conducted rigorous testing of equipment, providing readers with meticulously researched reviews and recommendations.