Playing Doubles - Pickleball Rules

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the US, and anytime is a good time to pick up a paddle and start playing. There are more than 4.2 million players in the world as of December 2021. Pickleball is a less-strenuous recreational sport that’s ideal for people of all ages.

In a recent US Open for pickleball, people across different age categories were crowned as champions—from 19 years all the way to 75. Although it can be played in a singles format, playing doubles—with two players on each side—is just as fun. When you play doubles, the rules are a bit different.

It Takes 2 to Tango

Here are the rules of pickleball for doubles games:

  • Players have only one attempt to serve.
  • All serves should be done underhand, with paddle contact with the ball made below the waist.
  • To start the game, the previous serving team is given a service turn. All members will have a service turn for the entire period of the match before a side out and handing the ball to their opponents.
  • The person serving will continue to change positions in the court in which he or she serves until he or she loses a point.
  • There is no changing of sides for the receiving side in a pickleball game.
  • No player is allowed in the non-volley zone or kitchen unless the ball bounces on his or her side of the court.
  • There is no rally scoring in a pickleball game. Only a serving team has the right to score.
  • All games are to 11 points, and a team must win by 2. Matches are played in “best of three” sets.

Rotating Sides

This is a weird but important rule of pickleball doubles: Players are supposed to swap sides with their teammate when serving after having won a point. Upon winning the rally, the serving team must change positions with their teammate. The swapping of positions only happens to the team that’s serving, not the receiving side.

Score Calling

This is another major difference between pickleball doubles and singles. As opposed to singles scores, doubles scores are usually called in three numbers: the server’s score, the receiver’s score, and the server number. Each player on the team must serve during his or her service turn, except at the beginning of the game, when only the first server begins. 

Colored Wristbands

The first server in tournament play should wear a wristband that identifies him or her as the first server. Keeping track of server sides is important.

Staying Out of the Kitchen

A player is not allowed to enter or make contact with the non-volley zone, which is better known as the kitchen. This implies that nothing (not even your shoes, keys, hat, jewelry, etc.) can fall into this area without causing a fault.

Players should stay out of the kitchen when taking a ball out of the air. Once the ball bounces, you are free to enter the non-volley zone. To hit a subsequent ball, a player must reestablish themself within the field of play before addressing another ball. You are allowed to jump across this area and proceed with your shot as long as you don’t make contact with the non-volley zone. The rule applies to both players on both sides of the court.

Equipment and What to Wear

Pickleball players wear just about anything that’s comfortable and appropriate for the climate and physical activity. These include sweatpants, athletic shorts, T-shirts, comfortable shoes, and many other options. Outfits for players may vary depending on your preference.

Some of the common trends include comfort-fit leggings, women’s dresses, techfit capris, men’s dryfit T-shirts, club 3-stripes polos, and more. You will also need equipment, including a pickleball (which looks a lot like a wiffle ball), a pickleball paddle, and a pair of athletic shoes. 

If you are new to pickleball and don’t know the rules of the game, it’s easy to learn—especially if you’ve played tennis. Many of the rules are similar to those of tennis or badminton, but there are also clear differences between pickleball, tennis, and badminton.

In the end, doubles pickleball is faster and more exciting than singles because the ball has such a short distance to travel between players.