Every time I introduce someone new to pickleball, I will undoubtedly get asked for clarification around the pickleball kitchen rules. For a beginner, the rules around the kitchen area on a pickleball court can take some getting used to. They're not overly complicated but if you're a new player, there are 3 that need to be learned right away.
Stick around and I'll cover the 3 basic rules in pickleball involving the kitchen area as well as explain some lesser known ones. I'll even give you one bonus rule that even some regular players don't know about. It's a good one to impress your friends with.
The 3 Pickleball Kitchen Rules that every beginner must know are as follows:
1. You cannot hit a volley while standing in the kitchen area
2. The ball must clear the kitchen line during a serve
3. No part of your body including clothing can fall into the kitchen if your momentum carries you toward the kitchen line.
Rule #1 - No Volleys While In The Kitchen
The most common rule involving the kitchen area in pickleball is the fact that you cannot hit a volley stroke when standing in the kitchen. The kitchen area enforces the "no-volley zone" rule and only allows ground strokes.
For clarification purposes, a volley in pickleball is a ball hit on the fly out of the air that hasn't bounced. A ground stroke is a shot where the ball has bounced first then you hit it back over the net.
For more details on what constitutes a volley in pickleball and what doesn't; click here.
So, if you're in the kitchen and want to hit the ball, you MUST wait until it bounces first.
This rule was put into place because one of the game's founding fathers was a tall man, over 6'2" and would play at the net and smash everything.
So, in order to push him back, the kitchen line was lengthened from 6.5 feet to 7 feet and the rule of "ground strokes only" was created.
Fun Fact: Pickleball is the only mainstream racket sport that has a line enforcing a specific type of shot.
Overall, this is one of the rules that most beginners have the hardest time with. Why? Because new players, especially tennis converts, have a tendency to run up to the net and put away a point aggressively.
It's almost too easy not to.
So, if you're a new player, this may take a few games or even a few days worth of playing to adjust to. Don't get down on yourself, it's normal.
Rule #2 - The Ball Must Go Beyond The Kitchen Line During A Serve
This is another one that can be confusing because it goes against the common racket sport rule of "on the line is in." Let me explain.
During a game of pickleball, if the ball hits the centerline, the sideline or the baseline - the ball is in. However, during a serve and only during a serve, if the ball does not completely land beyond the kitchen line and hits part of the line, the serve is considered no good.
In pickleball, their is no "let" so the serve is void and lost to either your opponent or if you're playing doubles, the serve goes to your partner.
This rule can be confusing for beginners because hitting the ball on any other line during a game of pickleball and the ball is considered in. This is common in other racket sports like tennis too.
Heck, even after the serve, hitting the kitchen line is totally fine.
The aspect of this pickleball kitchen rule that had me confused when I first started was whether the center line had to be cleared too. I kept confusing the rule and bringing the center line into the equation too.
But the center line doesn't matter. If the serve is deep, beyond the no-volley zone line but hits the center line, its still good.
The easiest way to remember this rule is that it goes hand in hand with a fundamental pickleball serving strategy. And that is, during a serve it is best to aim for the baseline or your opponents feet, and hit it DEEP!
If you're serve is deep, you never have to worry about the kitchen line.
For more tips on serving and other strategies, I put together this helpful pickleball strategy guide complete with illustrations.
Rule #3 - Momentum Cannot Carry You Into The Kitchen
Of all the pickleball kitchen rules, this one is probably the one that requires the most self regulation. Meaning, the right thing to do is to govern this yourself if you've notice you've hit the ball on the fly then stepped into the kitchen area.
Foot faults happen all the time at the no-volley zone line. I see it a lot with beginners, and did it a ton myself when first learning the game.
It usually goes something like this. You or your teammate hit a shot, then you go charging to net. The other team lobs a high shot, ripe for the picking and you go charging into hit the volley and smash it back...
You then hit a great forehand smash return down the sideline to win the point but one of your feet has stepped over the no-volley zone line. That's a foot fault and the point doesn't count. It actually goes to the other team.
There a few unique things to remember about this rule. Firstly, this only applies to volley shots. If the ball is hit at you beyond the kitchen and you let it bounce, then run up and hit it back but slide over the kitchen line as little - that is okay because you let the ball bounce.
The rule only applies to volley shots you hit out of the air.
Secondly, even if your feet don't cross the line but another part of your body does (like your hand reaching down and touching the court beyond the kitchen line) or an item of clothing your wearing drops down and touches anywhere in the no-volley zone - it's a fault. Yes, you read that right.
That means that even though your feet stay beyond the kitchen line but your hat falls off into the kitchen area or your car keys or phone go flying out of your pocket and land in the kitchen area - it's a fault.
I've had my sunglasses resting on top of head and fall off during a volley into the kitchen and that counted as a kitchen line fault.
This rule makes is perfectly clear that no part of your body or clothing, even your paddle come make contact with the no-volley zone line or area within it. Your partner can't even cross the line despite you hitting the ball.
So, even if you're toeing the line and put your paddle down in the kitchen area of the court to keep your balance - thats a kitchen area fault and the point is lost.
What is "toeing the line"? It's a phrase in pickleball that has to do with your feet placement when playing at the kitchen line. Getting as close with the toes of your court shoes without going over the kitchen line is "toeing the line."
Other Pickleball Kitchen Rules And Questions:
Here are some other commonly asked questions regarding the kitchen rules in pickleball.
Who Can Call A Kitchen Violation In Pickleball?
During official tournament play, an official or referee will call a kitchen violation. For casual recreational play, any player on the court can call a kitchen violation. If there is a dispute, the team or player who called the kitchen violation gets priority on making the call.
Which means being the first to call the kitchen line fault gives you an advantage.
Is The Kitchen Line In Or Out?
During a serve in pickleball, the kitchen line is out. This means when serving, the ball must land beyond this point. If it hits the kitchen line, it is out. However, the ball is allowed to hit the center line or sideline and is still in.
After the serve is executed, the ball can land on the kitchen line and is considered in like all the other lines on the court.
What Is Another Name For The Kitchen Line In Pickleball?
The other name for the kitchen line in pickleball is the "no-volley zone line". In fact, the official name is the no-volley zone line. The "kitchen line" is actually a pickleball slang term used to designate the same area on the court.
Like the official name implies, the no-volley zone and it's "line" enforces ground stokes only - hence the name "no-volley zone".
So, whether you call it the no-volley zone line or the kitchen line, it's all them same.
Bonus Kitchen Rule Most People Don't Realize
Okay, so I promised to share a rule that would impress your friends. Did you know that the rules for the kitchen area actually allow a player to stand in the kitchen as long as they want?
Yep, that's correct. There is no rule saying you have to stand at the kitchen line and play from there. You can step into the kitchen area and camp out all you want.
There is no rule saying a player cannot step foot in there.
But, here's the catch. You can't do anything. Simply being in there isn't a rule fraction. That's what most people don't know. But remember, you cannot hit the ball while in the kitchen area until the ball has bounced in the kitchen first.
So standing in the kitchen area and waiting does you no good. In fact, it makes you a target for an easy point for the other team.
If you're in the kitchen and the ball hasn't bounced, the opposing team can use that against you and fire a hard hit shot at you. Remember, you can't hit the ball until it bounces in the kitchen. So you're stuck. Your useless in way.
I've had it happen only to get beaned in the chest with ball and lose the point.
So, despite the wackiness of the rule, that is why you see everyone lined up at the kitchen line and playing from there. And that's also why people step into the kitchen to hit their dink shot, then step back out of it and return behind the kitchen line.
Play at the kitchen line. Not in it.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules - Conclusion
To wrap it all up here, the rules around the kitchen area on a pickleball court dictate some of the most important aspects to the game. In fact, the kitchen line is one of the things that makes pickleball so unique compared to other paddle sports.
If you're a beginner pickleball player and trying to learn the rules of the kitchen keep these three things in mind:
1. You should only enter the kitchen area after the ball has bounced in the kitchen.
2. The serve must land beyond the kitchen line so serve it deep!
3. When hitting a volley shot on the court, your momentum cannot carry you into the kitchen area or it's a fault.
Those are the basics behind proper kitchen technique and strategy in pickleball. If you're a new player, focus on those three rules and you'll get the hang of it in no time.
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