Pickleball Rules for Doubles — A Simple Guide
While you might expect to play singles for pickleball, in reality predominantly, you’re much more likely to play doubles. This is because a wide age demographic plays pickleball, and it’s very difficult to cover the entire court. Even as a fit 25-year-old, I find it tough!
Therefore it’s pretty damn important to learn the pickleball rules for doubles. So without any further ado, here is how to play doubles in pickleball.
Pickleball Rules for Doubles
Doubles pickleball rules are identical to singles rules except for the additional pickleball serving rules for doubles. This means that:
- You only score points when your team is serving.
- You must serve underarm and strike the ball below waist height.
- No second serves unless the prior serve is a let.
- When serving, at least one foot should be behind the baseline. Only when the ball is struck may you step on the baseline.
- Each team must allow the ball to bounce once before the first two strikes of each rally (double bounce rule).
- You must not allow the ball to bounce twice on your side of the court.
- You are not allowed to volley the ball in the non-volley zone.
Doubles Serving Sequence
Pickleball doubles serving rules are relatively straightforward. Just note that you only swap positions with your partner when your team is serving, not when you are receiving.
- Play begins with one player serving from the right side of the court diagonally to the opposing side outside of the non-volley zone.
- If the serving team successfully wins the rally, the server moves to the left side and serves diagonally as before.
- After each successful point on the serve, the server switches between the left and ride sides of the court. If the score is even, they will always be on the right side.
- The receiving team stays as they are and never switches sides.
- This sequence of play continues until the serving team loses a rally, at which point the serve switches to the original server’s partner.
- The exception to this rule is at the start of the game. As serving gives you an advantage, the team who serves first only has one player serve before it switches to the other team.
- When the second player on a team who is serving loses the rally, the serve is awarded to the opposing team. The player on the right serves first.
Scoring in Pickleball Doubles
Pickleball scoring for doubles is quite different from any other sport. Without an explanation, you might find yourself very confused. Fortunately, it’s simple to understand.
Unlike most sports which you call two figures, for pickleball doubles scoring, you call it three. For example, 6-4-1 is one possible score.
Where does this third figure come from, you ask? It’s the server! We use this to signify whether player 1 or player 2 in a team is serving. This figure is added at the end of the other two.
So, for 6-4-1, this would mean the team serving is 6-4 up, and the first player in that team is serving.
As you would expect, the first two figures are the score, with the serving team’s score reading first. Below is an example:
6-4-1: The team serving is 6-4 up, and the first player in that team is serving.
Common mistakes beginners make ignore a key pickleball doubles rule and
switching service with their partner. They do this because they mistakenly think they need to change positions due to their assigned service number. However, this is wrong! This service number only applies to one round of serving — you might have a different number the next round.
This happens if you and your partner collectively win an odd number of points on your last serving round. Say, for example, you begin serving as player 1 and win 2 points. Your partner then serves and wins 1 point giving you 3 points in total. This means you’ve switched from the right to the left, back to the right, and once more to the left. As such, you’ll be player 2 in the next serving round.
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Pickleball Strategy Doubles
Want to learn how to play pickleball doubles effectively? Then take note of these top 10 pointers to get you started. In time, you’ll develop your own pickleball doubles strategy.
1. Get to the Non-Volley Zone ASAP After Receiving a Serve
Just outside of the volley zone is the golden position of pickleball. Therefore, your primary strategy should be to get there as quickly as possible.
2. Serve Deep
Knowing that your opponent wants to run to the edge of the non-volley zone after playing a serve, you should do everything you can to stop them. This means you should serve as deep as possible.
3. Don’t Stand Too Close When Receiving Serves
If you’re standing inside the baseline, you’re practically asking your opponent to hit you with a deep serve and trust me. You won’t like that. If you’re inside the baseline, you are not giving yourself enough space and time to make a return effectively. So do yourself a favor and stand 2 or 3 feet behind the baseline.
4. Try and Return Serves Deep Too!
Again, pickleball is often won or lost around the non-volley zone, so try and stop your opponents from getting there. The good thing about the return of serve is that your opponents have to wait for the ball to bounce before striking it due to the double bounce rule. Therefore you should try and make it land as close to the baseline as you can safely achieve.
5. Try and Stop Your Opponents from Advancing Forward
I feel like a bit of a broken record here. Non-volley zone. Won or lost. You get the deal. Stop them advancing at all costs! Apply the pressure and work those angles!
6. Aim for Your Opponent’s feet
Finding a spot where you can hit the ball to prevent your opponents from reaching it can be tough, but another position that is almost always on the cards works well. I’m, of course, talking about their feet! Balls that land here are awkward to return, and more often than not, they come back a little high. There’s the opportunity for a winner you were waiting for!
7. Use Drop Shots
While striking the ball so it lands deep is highly effective, the same can be said for drop shots when used in the right situations. Not only do they enable you to advance to the non-volley zone, but they can also catch your opponents off-guard. Drop shots are best used when you’re opponents are deep in the court.
8. Move Cohesively With Your Partner
Unlike tennis, where you have one player positioned deep, and one positioned close, in doubles pickleball, you move in unison. This ensures that you cover all angles of the court.
9. Call Middle Balls
As with doubles in most racket sports, balls landing down the middle of your side can be a nightmare. Most players could be better at communicating. So sometimes they’ll strike balls that they probably shouldn’t go for, and at other times they’ll leave the ball for their partner when they should have played it.
Don’t fall victim to this avoidable flaw. Call the ball early so that you and your partner can coordinate who will strike it.
10. Exercise Patience!
We aren’t playing badminton or table tennis here. This is pickleball doubles. As a slower game with less potential to hit winners, you shouldn’t smash every ball that comes your way. Instead, bide your time, work synergistically with your partner, and the opportunities will come.
Now you know the rules of pickleball doubles, you need the right equipment to get started! All you really require is a quality pickleball paddle and some pickleball balls. If you’re unsure what brand or model to go for we recommend you check out our guides — they should save you a lot of time!
If you’re not interested in giving that a read, you might want to go straight ahead and have a look at the niupipo pickleball paddle bundle. It’s one of our favorite sets, and you can check if there’s a sale by clicking the link below.
You will also need access to a court for pickleball doubles. While they are becoming increasingly common in the US, you might not have one near you. If this is the case, you can always create a temporary court yourself.
Badminton courts are a great start. They are the same overall size as pickleball courts, and the markings for what will be the kitchen are only 0.5 ft shorter. If you’re happy with this all you need is a pickleball net, and you’re ready to play!
Alternatively, you can mark out a court outside with chalk or temporary line marking paint if you want a more precise court or simply prefer to play outdoors.
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So there you have it. Pickleball rules for doubles aren’t all that hard to understand. If you frequently play doubles for sports like tennis or badminton, you should feel right at home playing pickleball after a short while.
Our final words of wisdom to remember are that serving receivers never switch places. You only do so when you are serving!
Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.