When you see a ball going out of bounds in pickleball, there are a few rules and points of etiquette to consider before yelling “OUT!”.
In this article we’ll cover all of the bases on out balls in pickleball, including:
- the official pickleball rules on balls going out of bounds,
- what happens if you hit an out ball, and
- the unofficial etiquette to keep in mind before saying “Out!”,
We also touch on what is considered an out ball around the court lines, what to do if you and your partner disagree on a call, and the best way to call “out” when your opponent misses a shot.
Ready? Let’s pickle :)
What if You Hit an Out Ball in Pickleball?
There are two scenarios when you can hit an out ball in pickleball. The first is when you hit a ball AFTER it lands out of bounds on your side of the court. In this situation your opponent has committed a fault and it is your point. The second scenario is when the ball touches your body or racket BEFORE it lands out of bounds. Since the ball never actually landed out of bounds, the ball is considered “live”. If the ball touches your body it is a fault and your opponent wins the point. If the ball touches your paddle then the rally should continue.
If you touch or hit a ball that was clearly going out, the fact that it was going out of bounds does not matter. Because it never actually touched out of bounds pickleball rules assume the ball is live and in play.
Although this rule may seem strange, it removes all doubt from situations where a player may think a ball is going out, touches or catches it to stop it, but the opposing player believes the ball was going in.
So, when in doubt, let the ball bounce rather than assume it is going out!
Can You Hit a Ball That Is Out of Bounds in Pickleball and Then Call it Out?
Yes. If you hit a ball after it has landed out of bounds, you can still call it out and be awarded the point or a sideout. Touching the pickleball after it has touched out of bounds is allowed, as long as you strike or touch the ball AFTER it has landed out of bounds (i.e. touched the court in the out of bounds area).
It’s important to call the ball out promptly (as you hit it or within a second after) and clearly before your opponent strikes the ball that you just hit back to them.
Ideally, call the ball out immediately after it hits the ground or simultaneously as you strike it. The key is to call it out before your opponent hits it again.
If you fail to call the ball out, the ball stays live and the rally continues. You will not be able to call the ball out at the end of the rally.
What if you Hit or Touch an Out Ball Before It Bounces?
If you hit a ball mid-air with your racket or body before it touches the ground out of bounds, the ball is kept live and the rally will continue. The ball cannot be called out in this situation because it never actually landed out of bounds. If your opponent hits the ball to your side of the court - and the ball is definitely going out of bounds - the best option is to avoid touching the ball.
Therefore, if your opponent hits the ball to your side of the court and you are sure it is going out of bounds, try not to touch the ball with any part of your body or racket until after the ball has hit the ground.
When Can You Call a Ball Out in Pickleball?
Out calls should be made as quickly as possible after the ball lands out of bounds.
As previously mentioned, it’s okay to hit the ball after it has landed out, but try to call the out before or as you hit the ball (or at least before your opponent strikes the ball again!).
Out of etiquette, don’t call the ball out while it is in mid-air or before it has hit the ground out of bounds.
How to Call Out Balls in Pickleball
To call a ball out in pickleball, say “Out” loudly and clearly so that all players are aware of the out ball as soon as possible. Hand signals, usually the index finger held up and pointed toward the sky, are also acceptable for calling out balls. The key is to clearly and quickly call the ball out to avoid any confusion on the court.
Here are a few additional rules of etiquette to use when calling balls out in pickleball:
Official Pickleball Rules for Out Calls
USA Pickleball suggests that you should be able to see a gap between the ball and the boundary line for the ball to be considered out of bounds.
If you do not see a gap, and cannot determine whether or not the ball is out of bounds, consider the ball in. If a ball lands on the boundary line, it is considered in.
Remember: the area of the ball that is actually in contact with the ground is what matters.
When looking down at the ball it may appear as though the ball is covering part of the line, but if the ball’s surface area is not actually touching the boundary line, then it is out.
Is The Line In or Out in Pickleball?
Any part of the line is "in" in pickleball, so if any part of the ball touches any part of the line the ball is considered in.
The exception is on a serve - the kitchen line is out on serves, so if any part of the ball touches any part of the kitchen line the ball is considered out.
Frequently Asked Questions - What if you Hit an Out Ball in Pickleball?
Who calls the ball out in pickleball?
Any player can call the ball out in pickleball. In most cases, the player or players on the side of the court where the ball hits the ground out of bounds will call the ball out. If you are playing doubles, any player on any team can call the ball out.
Even the player that hit the out ball can call it out (and this demonstrates good sportsmanship!).
What happens if the ball hits the line in pickleball?
If the ball touches any part of the boundary line in pickleball, it is considered in. This rule can trip people up because even if most of the ball is in the out-of-bounds area, it is considered in if any part is in contact with the boundary line.
Serving is an exception to this rule. If the serve touches the kitchen line, it is considered out.
Remember: all serves must land beyond the kitchen line!
Can you hit a ball that is out of bounds in pickleball?
Yes, you can hit a ball that has gone out of bounds in pickleball.
If a ball touches the ground out of bounds and bounces, you can then hit that ball back to your opponent and still call the ball out.
Make sure you call the ball out BEFORE your opponent strikes the ball again. If you fail to do so, the ball will stay live and the rally will continue.