Health  |  Things to Do

How to Play Pickleball

Plus, lingo you should know before your first game.

Photograph by Evy Mages

1. Each round starts with an underhand serve, hit from outside the boundary on one side of the court. As in tennis, you serve the ball diagonally across the court.

2. Once it’s served, the ball needs to bounce once on each side. After that, it’s fair game to hit it out of the air or let it bounce once.

3. Players can’t hit the ball out of the air while standing in the non-volley zone, or “kitchen,” an area on each side of the net. Serves can’t fall in this zone, either.

4. Players score points when the other team messes up—i.e., commits a “fault,” such as hitting the ball out of bounds. Only the serving team can score a point.

5. Traditionally, the team that reaches 11 points first, by a lead of 2 or more, wins. Tournament games may go to a higher score; casual players sometimes play to a lower score so more people have a turn.

Know Your Pickleball Lingo

Dillball: A “live” ball that has bounced once inbounds during a rally.

Dink: A soft hit that lands just over the net in your opponents’ kitchen (see below).

Kitchen: The non-volley zone around the net.

Pickled: When one team scores zero points in a game, they’ve been “pickled.”

Volley llama: An illegal move in which a player hits a volley shot from the non-­volley zone.

This article appears in the August 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

Kayla Benjamin
Assistant Editor