Welcome back for another quirky pickleball rule explanation!
This installment sees us tackling the rules regarding lines and whether the ball is in or out if it touches the line in pickleball.
As usual, pickleball has a couple of rules related to lines that may seem strange at first. On some shots hitting the line is considered ‘in’, but on others it’s considered ‘out’.
Ready? Let’s dive into pickleball lines, the official pickleball rule book on lines, and line calling etiquette!
What happens if the ball hits the line in pickleball?
During a rally any ball that touches the line is considered ‘in’ if it hits any line, including the service line, sidelines or the non-volley line (the ‘Kitchen’ line) on the opposition's half of the court. However, these rules do not apply to serves. When a ball is served, it is considered ‘out’ if it hits any part of the kitchen line in the opposition’s half of the court but “in” if it touches any other line (service line, center line or sideline).
This is because the official rulebook stipulates that all serves must land beyond the non-volley or ‘Kitchen’ area and line in order to be valid.
To look into this a bit more, let's refer to the specific rules according to USA Pickleball.
Pickleball Line Rules - Official Pickleball Rules for Out of Bounds & Lines
Here is the USA Pickleball official rule book wording for balls touching the lines:
What if Most of the Ball Touches Outside the Line and a Small Part of the Pickleball Touches the Line?
If any part of the pickleball touches the line (other than serves touching the non-volley line), the ball is considered good and in play. It is important to note that because of the hard material pickleballs are made of, the balls do not compress much when hitting the ground. This means the surface area of the ball in contact with the ground is quite small (about the size of a dime).
Sometimes, balls appearing to land on the line will not actually be touching it. The curve of the ball from the point of contact with the ground up may overlap with the outermost edge of the line, but the point of contact will still be outside of the line.
Here's a graph by USA Pickleball showing a ball that is close but technically out since no part of the ball is touching the line:
Is the Kitchen Line In or Out in Pickleball?
For all non-serve shots hit in a rally, the kitchen line is in. For all serves, the kitchen line is out.
Pickleball Line Rules on Serve
As mentioned above, the official rule regarding line calls on serves is as follows:
- A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in (6.A.).
It’s important to note the ball must clear the kitchen line. If the ball makes contact with the kitchen line it is considered out, which results in a fault.
How to Call Lines in Pickleball - Etiquette
The USA Pickleball rule book contains a code of ethics for line calling. Here's a summary of key points to help guide how to call lines on the court:
Finally, it is in the spirit of sportsmanship that line call rules be applied fairly both to you and your opponent. If you have the best view to see if a ball landed in or not, you should always try to tell the truth!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - What Happens if the Ball Hits the Line in Pickleball?
Who calls the ball out in pickleball?
In most cases, the player(s) on the receiving half of the court are responsible for calling the ball out. If the receivers do not see the ball, they can ask their opponent if they saw the ball in or out. If the opponent saw it in then the ball should be considered in.
A pickleball landing on a line is considered in - true or false?
False! Not all shots landing on a line will be considered in. Served balls landing on the Non-volley Line are considered out, and therefore faults. Any other ball touching the line at any point during a rally is considered in and the rally should continue.
What if a pickleball serve hits the net?
If a pickleball serve hits the net it is a legal, live shot as long as it meets all criteria for a proper serve, namely that it 1) lands in the correct service box and 2) lands beyond the kitchen and kitchen line.
We wrote more about this and the history of "let" serves in pickleball in our blog post "can a pickleball serve hit the net?".
What if I hit an out ball in pickleball?
If you hit an out ball after it bounces out, you win the rally as long as you make the call quickly (within 1-2 seconds). If you hit a ball out of the air and then realize it was going out, the ball is live and the rally continues. Try this post on hitting out balls in pickleball for more details!