The official rules for pickleball, called the Official Rulebook, are established by the USA Pickleball Association (which was founded in 1984 to promote the growth of the sport and set the rules to govern how the game is played).
Each year, the USA Pickleball Rules Committee reviews suggested rule changes from players across the United States, and a lengthy review and voting process then determines whether a recommendation makes it into the Rulebook for the coming year.
In this article, we’ll outline the 6 pickleball rules changes for 2023 and provide background on why these new rules went into effect.
Pickleball Rules Changes for 2023
Pickleball Spin Serve 2023 Rule Change
No more spin serve! The most significant change to pickleball for 2023 is that spin serves are now considered illegal.
The spin serve, made popular with Zane Navartil’s chainsaw serve, remained a controversial topic on the court in 2022. You can see why from this short video:
But spin serves are no more in 2023.
According to the official wording in the Rulebook, “manipulating the ball to add spin during the release is not allowed”. This means the ball can not be intentionally rotated when it is tossed or released by the server.
The rule does allow “some natural rotation” of the ball on release, but the server must not manipulate or spin before striking the ball to serve. This new rule applies to both the volley serve and the drop serve.
In tournament matches, the referee can call a replay (if he/she is uncertain but thinks there is an issue) or a fault (if the ref is certain certain requirements for a legal serve were not met).
2023 Pickleball Rules Changes: Apparel
Typically, bright colors and pickleball have always gone together. Most players aren’t afraid to wear a bright green or highlighter yellow outfit on the court!
However, these bright colors can make it hard to see the ball, and so dress codes for tournaments are now enforced.
Could you track a yellow pickleball playing against this shirt?
For the 2023 rule change, inappropriate apparel may now include clothing that approximates the color of the tournament ball.
Section 1 of the official rule gives tournament directors the ability to require an apparel change if a player wears clothing close in color to the tournament ball.
This rule mitigates a potentially unfair advantage held by any players in bright colors similar to the color of the ball, as specific colors can camouflage the ball and provide competitive advantages.
Since the ball color is known for sanctioned tournaments ahead of time, players have plenty of time to plan accordingly.
2023 Pickleball Rules Changes: Replay or Fault on the Serve
Related to the spin serve rule change above, tournament referees can now call for a replay or a fault on serves if serves don’t meet the requirements for a legal serve.
If a referee is not certain the required elements for a legal serve were met, he or she can immediately stop the game and order a replay.
If the referee determines a violation of a legal serve was made, he or she can immediately call a fault on the server (which will result in a side-out).
This new rule has come into action to persuade all players to adjust their serve to clearly meet all requirements for a legal serve.
2023 Pickleball Rules Changes: Player Asks “Am I Good?”
Pickleball scoring can be confusing, so in tournaments players have been allowed to ask referees if they are the correct server or if they are in the correct position before serving or returning.
The Official Rulebook has simplified this process for 2023 - players can now simply ask “Am I Good”, and the referee will answer booth questions and confirm if the player is the correct server and if they are in the correct position.
2023 Pickleball Rules Changes: Wrong Score Called
During a game of pickleball one of the most common errors is calling the wrong score.
Starting in 2023, a referee or player can stop the rally BEFORE the return of serve is hit to correct the score.
After the return of serve is hit, it is a fault to stop the rally and correct the score (even if the score was called incorrectly before the point!).
And it is a fault to stop and ask for a score correction at any time if the score was called correctly to begin with!
2023 Pickleball Rules Changes: Equipment Timeout
Previously, players were required to use their regular timeouts for equipment adjustments or changes deemed necessary for fair and safe continuation of the game (e.g., an issue with a show or paddle).
For 2023, players are not required to use a regular time-out for equipment adjustments or changes that are necessary for the game to continue safely. The referee can now call an equipment time-out that allows the player to handle the equipment issue.
Pickleball Rules Changes for 2023: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are there pickleball rules changes every year?
A: Each year the USAPA reviews proposed rules changes from players and others in the pickleball community. It is possible there will be a year where no changes are ratified by the USAPA Rules Committee, but for the most part there are rules changes every year (especially now that the sport is growing and evolving so much!).
Q: Where can you find the official 2023 USA Pickleball Rulebook?
A: The entire rulebook, including the changes highlighted above, can be viewed here.