The Ultimate Guide to Pickleball Scoring: Understanding the Ins and Outs


The sport of Pickleball, despite its straightforward gameplay and accessible rules, carries a unique scoring system that can seem complicated to beginners. Mastering Pickleball scoring is essential to becoming a competent player and getting the most out of the game. This comprehensive guide aims to break down the elements of scoring in Pickleball, making it simple, understandable, and easily applicable in your next game.

I. The Basic Structure of Pickleball Scoring

Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, but regardless of the format, the scoring system remains consistent. A standard Pickleball game is played to 11, 15, or 21 points, with the requirement that the winning team must lead by at least 2 points.

Unlike many racquet sports, in Pickleball, only the serving team can score points. This characteristic adds a strategic layer to the game, making each serve an opportunity to get ahead on the scoreboard.

II. Understanding the Serve in Pickleball Scoring

Each game of Pickleball begins with a serve. The player on the right side of the court serves first. The serve is always made diagonally, from the right-hand square of one side to the opposite square on the other side. The server must keep both feet behind the baseline during the serve. If the serve is faulted, a point is not lost; instead, service shifts to the opponent.

In doubles, each player serves before the ball is handed over to the other team, with one exception – at the beginning of the game, only one partner on the starting team gets to serve before the ball is handed to the opponents.

III. The Sequence of Scoring

A unique aspect of Pickleball scoring is the sequence in which the score is called. The score in Pickleball is a sequence of three numbers, for example, 3-4-2. The first number represents the serving team’s score, the second number is the receiving team’s score, and the third number indicates if the server is the first (1) or second (2) server in doubles play. In singles, the third number is omitted.

IV. How to Earn Points

As mentioned earlier, points in Pickleball can only be scored by the serving team. A team can score a point when they win a rally – that is, when the opposing team fails to return the ball legally, hits the ball out of bounds, or commits a fault such as a service fault or a non-volley zone fault.

V. The Double-Bounce Rule Impact on Scoring

The Double-Bounce Rule, or Two-Bounce Rule, is a fundamental part of Pickleball. It states that the ball must bounce once on each side before volleys (hitting the ball before it bounces) are allowed. This rule applies to the serve and the serve return, and failure to adhere to this rule results in a point for the serving team.

VI. The Impact of Faults on Scoring

In Pickleball, a number of actions can result in faults, which in turn can affect scoring. Faults occur when a serve does not land within the confines of the serving court, a ball is hit out of bounds, a ball does not clear the net, or a volley is made from the non-volley zone (or kitchen). In all these instances, the result is a point for the serving team or a loss of serve if the serving team commits the fault.

VII. Tips for Keeping Score

Keeping score in Pickleball can be challenging, especially for beginners. A useful tip is to announce the score loudly and clearly before each serve, reducing confusion and disagreements. Another method is using scorekeepers or physical markers to track the score and server sequence.

VIII. Conclusion

Though it might seem daunting at first, understanding the scoring system in Pickleball is a critical part of mastering the game. It brings depth and strategy to the sport, elevating it from a simple paddle-and-ball game to a richly layered competitive experience. With practice, keeping track of the score will become second nature, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the game even more as your understanding of its intricacies grows.

Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned player brushing up on the rules, remember that the aim of the game is not just to win, but also to have fun. So, grab your paddle, call your score, and let the game begin!

Kyle Buckland

With years of experience on the pickleball court, I've dedicated myself to helping others discover and excel in this thrilling game. Through this platform, I'm committed to sharing the strategies, techniques, and community spirit that make pickleball a game for all.

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