Pickleball Scoring For Dummies – 6 Ways To Score

pickleball paddles and balls laid down on a court

Pickleball is a fun sport no matter your age. As more and more folks begin to find this wonderful game, many questions arise about the right way to play. There are many rules for pickleball but one of the most important is how pickleball scoring works. In this article, we’ll explain all of the ways you can score in the game of pickleball.

6 Ways Pickleball Scoring Happens

Pickleball scoring functions similar to tennis. Unlike other sports, you don’t score by doing something yourself. Instead, you have to try to force your opponent to make a mistake, which pickleball players call a fault. There are 6 ways to fault in pickleball scoring.

Hitting The Ball Twice

If you hit the ball twice in a volley before returning it back to your opponent, you have faulted. In some net sports such as volleyball, it’s common to hit the ball once, twice or even three times before sending it back to your opponent’s side of the court. However, in pickleball, you can only hit the ball once.

Both Teammates Hitting The Ball

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles. Therefore, pickleball scoring has some additional rules for doubles. In a game of doubles, only one teammate can hit the ball before returning it to your opponent’s team. If both players on the same team hit the ball in one session, you have faulted. Unlike other sports, the idea of passing the ball to a teammate is not allowed.

Hitting The Ball Into The Net

This rule of pickleball scoring is rather obvious. If a player hits the ball into the net, they have faulted. The height of a pickleball net is lower than a tennis or badminton net, but it can still be difficult to avoid in an intense game of pickleball. Most of the time when the pickleball hits the net it falls onto the court anyway. However, just in case you wanted to confirm, this is a form of a fault.

Hitting Out Of Bounds

Much like hitting the ball into the net, hitting the ball outside of the pickleball court results in a fault. On a pickleball court, there are very specific lines marking the in bounds and out of bounds areas. It’s a common tactic to try to hit the pickleball near the out of bounds line as it forces your opponent to move franticly but if your aim is off, you may hit the ball out of bounds and cost yourself a point.

Don’t Return Ball Over Net

If at any point you do not hit the ball back to your opponent’s side of the court, you’ve faulted. Failure to return the pickleball can manifest in several ways. The most common ways are that you swing and miss or under-hit the pickleball. These rules may sound simple, but avoiding a fault can be extremely hard.

Ball Hits Your Side Twice

Lastly, if you allow the pickleball to hit your side twice in a row before returning the volley, you’ve faulted. It’s best practice to let the pickleball bounce on your side once. However, when a pickleball is lightly returned by your opponent, it can be difficult to prevent it from bouncing two or more times. This rule is very similar to tennis or table tennis.

player demonstrating how pickleball scoring works on an outdoor pickleball court

Pickleball Scoring Theories

Each pickleball player will subscribe to a different theory on how to score and win most often. One theory is that if you practice returning volleys successfully and wait for your opponent to fault, you will be successful. Whereas other players choose to take matters into their own hands by strategically placing their returns and potentially hitting the pickleball with a great amount of velocity. The best theory likely falls in between where you should have some strategy on how to return the ball but ultimately your top skill would be avoiding a fault yourself.

Pickleball Scoring Summary

As you can see, pickleball is a game of manipulating your opponent to make mistakes. Unlike some sports where there is offense and defense, pickleball is a continuous back-and-forth game until one player faults. There’s no time limits or restrictions. Therefore, volleys can take anywhere from 3 seconds to 3 minutes. This is a big reason why the sport of pickleball is so exciting. We hope you’ve gathered some insight into pickleball scoring and possibly have resolved an argument with another player now. If you want to explore more about the game, we recommend this beginner video on how to play pickleball.