The Official Rules for Line Calls in Pickleball: Ensuring Fair Play and Accuracy


Have you ever found yourself in a pickle on the pickleball court? You hit what you believe is a winning shot, only to have your opponent call the ball out. Or perhaps you lobbed the ball over your competition’s head, and from your side of the net, it looked like it was in.

And let’s not forget those moments when you hit the ball down the line, absolutely certain it was in, but your opponent disagrees. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Well, fear not, my fellow pickleball enthusiasts, because today we’re going straight to the source to uncover the truth about line calls and put an end to the confusion.

Now, before we dive into the official rules, let’s establish one thing: calling the ball in or out is a judgment call. There’s no way around it unless you invest in a line calling device like the ones offered by In Out Tennis, which rely on software to make the call. But for us humans, we have to rely on our own judgment.

According to the USA Pickleball website, the key is to pay close attention to the part of the ball that is touching the ground. If that part of the ball is out, even if the rest of the ball appears to be covering the line from our viewpoint, it is considered out. Yes, it may seem counterintuitive, but the ball is not actually touching the ground where it appears to be covering the line.

Now, you might be thinking, “Well, that’s all well and good, but it’s still challenging to make the right call.” And you’re absolutely right. That’s why USA Pickleball provides further clarification. If you see a gap between the ball and the line, then it is out.

On the other hand, if there is no visible gap between the ball and the line, and you cannot definitively determine if it is out, then the ball is considered in. This additional guideline helps eliminate some of the ambiguity and gives players a clearer understanding of whether the ball is in or out.

Despite these explanations, it’s no wonder that line calls can still be a point of contention. Between the intricacies of the rules and the fact that our view of the court may be limited depending on our position, it’s natural to question the accuracy of line calls. However, in the context of a tournament, particularly a USA-sanctioned event, there is a solution. In such cases, there should be a referee present.

I had the opportunity to speak with Don Stanley, the head referee for the Professional Pickleball Association, and he shared some insights. If you believe your opponent has made a poor line call, you have the right to appeal to the referee. The referee, being impartial, has the authority to overrule the call if they are 100% certain that the ball was either in or out. While it still ultimately comes down to their judgment, having an impartial party make the decision adds a layer of fairness to the game.

So, my pickleball comrades, armed with this knowledge, we can approach line calls with a greater sense of understanding and fairness. Remember, it’s a judgment call, and sometimes there will be disagreements. But by following the guidelines provided by USA Pickleball and, when necessary, seeking the intervention of a referee, we can strive for a more accurate and harmonious playing experience. Let’s embrace the spirit of fair play and continue to enjoy the wonderful game of pickleball together!

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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