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Pickleball Line Rules: A Beginner’s Guide

Pickleball line rules are straightforward—if the ball is touching the line, it’s in. If it’s not touching the line, it’s out. If the ball cannot clearly be called “out,” it is considered “in.” Pickleball has a unique culture that emphasizes erring on the side of generosity toward your opponent when it comes to line calling.

How Line Rules Work in Pickleball


  • In-Bounds: The serve must reach the diagonally opposite service box to be valid. It is considered “in” if it touches any part of the lines defining this area.
  • Out-of-Bounds: The serve is deemed “out-of-bounds” if it lands completely outside these lines.

General Play:

  • In-Bounds: During play, a ball landing within the court boundaries, including on any boundary lines, is “in-bounds.”
  • Out-of-Bounds: A ball landing outside these lines is “out-of-bounds.”

Making Calls:

  • Authority: Only active players, along with appointed line judges and referees, have the authority to make line calls. Spectators are not permitted to influence these decisions.

Determining Line Calls in Pickleball

In pickleball, line calls are predominantly the responsibility of the players on the court. The unwritten rule is that the player closest to the ball, typically on whose side the ball lands, should make the call. In situations where the ball’s position is ambiguous, the standard practice is to favor your opponent by assuming the ball was “in.”

Casual Games:

  • Points are seldom replayed due to disputes over line calls. Players might opt to replay a point if there’s disagreement in a friendly match, but it is generally encouraged to lean towards generosity and avoid contesting the call.

Tournament Play:

  • Line judges and a referee are usually present. Line judges make the “in” or “out” calls, while the referee ensures the game adheres to pickleball’s rules. Players typically are tasked with making calls only on the serve’s centerline.
  • Players have the option to challenge a line judge’s decision, appealing to the referee who has the authority to overrule and possibly call for a point replay.

When to Make a Line Call in Pickleball


  • It’s important to wait until the ball has hit the court before making a line call. Calling it before it’s hit the court is considered bad etiquette.


  • A ball is deemed “out” if it falls into the non-volley zone or lands beyond the boundaries of the intended service court.

General Play:

  • A ball is only considered “out” when it completely crosses the exterior lines of the pickleball court.


  • Promptness in making line calls is crucial; decisions should be made before the ball is considered dead. A delayed call implies the ball remains in play.

How to Make a Line Call in Pickleball


  • Players should only call a ball “out” when they have absolute certainty. It is necessary to correctly signal a line call using both their voice and their hands so that other players know the ball is out of play.

Hand Signals for Line Call:

  • In: Hold your hand flat with your palm facing downwards toward the court.
  • Out: Point upwards or in the direction of the ball with your index finger.

Resolving Disputes Over Pickleball Line Calls

Line call disputes shouldn’t happen much on the pickleball court since the etiquette dictates making calls in favor of your opponent. Here are guidelines for resolving disagreements:

Without Referee or Line Judge:

  • The responsibility to call a ball “out” falls on the players on the side where the ball is suspected to have gone out. If there’s any uncertainty, players should give the benefit of the doubt to their opponents and consider the ball “in.”

With a Referee (No Line Judge):

  • Players can request the referee’s judgment on a disputed call.

With Both Referee and Line Judge:

  • Players can appeal a line judge’s decision to the referee, who has the authority to review and potentially overturn the call.

Disagreement Within a Team:

  • If teammates disagree on a call, with one deeming the ball “out” and the other “in,” the default ruling is that the ball is “in.”

These protocols aim to maintain the integrity of the game and ensure that disputes are resolved fairly and respectfully.

Can You Step on the Line in Pickleball?

Stepping on the line during play is generally allowed with a few specific exceptions:


  • The server must keep both feet behind the baseline until after striking the ball. Stepping on or over the baseline before hitting the serve is a fault.

Non-Volley Zone (The Kitchen):

  • Players are not allowed to step on or over the non-volley line while volleying the ball (hitting it out of the air before it bounces). A player may step into the non-volley zone (the kitchen) after a volley has been completed, as long as the action does not occur during the volley.
  • Players can step in the kitchen to play a ball that has bounced; this rule specifically restricts volleying from within or stepping into the zone during a volley.

Aside from these situations, stepping on the court lines during general play is permissible and does not constitute a fault.

What do you think?

Written by Pickle Pete

Pete is a semi-professional pickleball player known for his powerful serves and strategic play. Growing up in Austin, Texas, Pete was introduced to the sport at a young age and quickly developed a passion for the game. His athleticism and dedication to training have made him a formidable opponent on the court.

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