Pickleball Kitchen Rules: Understanding the Non-Volley Zone

Pickleball Kitchen Rules: Understanding the Non-Volley Zone

Whether you are participating in a pickleball tournament, playing for the first time or exploring your options for learning a new sport, understanding the rules of pickleball is essential for all players, new and experienced. As the fastest-growing sport in America, pickleball has successfully made its way into the hearts of competitive players across the nation. By combining elements from tennis, pingpong and badminton, pickleball participants can quickly pick up the game's rules and have fun creating new memories. 

Before picking up your racket, take some time to learn the game's rules so you and your team can understand how to follow pickleball guidelines correctly. 

graphic showing a girl playing pickleball with an explanation of the "kitchen"

What Is the Kitchen in Pickleball? 

The kitchen on a pickleball court is an area on either side of the net. The kitchen stretches to the length of both sidelines and ends about seven feet away from the net. The cut-off for this section as it extends to the middle of each team's court is called the kitchen line. Behind the kitchen are the right service court and the left service court. The technical pickleball term for this area is the non-volley zone. 

The non-volley zone can sometimes act as a no man's land for players in certain situations. You can only step foot inside the kitchen once the ball has bounced inside the non-volley zone. Then, you can step inside the zone to receive and send it back over the net to the opposing team. However, pickleball rules specify that stepping foot in the non-volley zone when the ball has not touched the ground results in a fault. This set of guidelines is known as the kitchen rule. 

What Is a Volley? 

There are a few ways that a player can return the ball to the opposing team on the other side of the net. The most common practice is through a volley. A volley means that each player receives and hits the ball back over the net before it hits the ground on their side. The other players can repeat this receive for a faster game. 

Because a volley means that the ball does not bounce on the ground first before hitting it, it would be against pickleball rules to volley while inside the kitchen. 

Pickleball Kitchen Rules Explained

Pickleball is an easy-to-learn sport for many players to dive into. This fast-paced game is excellent for players of all ages. Take some time to review the rules before playing a real pickleball game with friends. 

1. Volleying

The kitchen or non-volley zone is a tricky spot for many pickleball players. You cannot volley in this space unless the ball has already bounced in bounds once. You should always volley from the left or right service court. It is important to remember that entering the non-volley zone before the ball has touched the ground counts as a fault, and the other team will get the chance to serve. 

If the other team hits the ball close to the net, you should let it bounce on your side of the court before receiving it. Any hit that makes you move forward into the kitchen would not count as a volley. However, you could still gain a point by letting it bounce first, hitting it back over the net and retrying a volley during the next receive. 

Another rule to remember is that you must establish both feet outside the non-volley zone before starting a volley. If you were standing in the kitchen and jumping in the air to receive the ball before it hit the ground, landing outside the non-volley zone, this move counts as a fault. You can only start a volley when both feet are in the back half of the court in the left or right service courts. 

2. Ground Strokes 

Ground strokes are hits made after the ball has already bounced once on your side of the court. This move is the opposite of a volley. Let the ball drop in the kitchen, the left service court or the right service court rather than hitting it as soon as it crosses over the net. You can choose to receive the ball with a forward or backhand stroke to return the ball to the opposing team's court. 

Ground stokes allow you to enter the kitchen since the ball has already touched the ground once. You can receive the ball inside the non-volley zone after its first bounce. It is important to quickly move back to your designated left or right service court in case the other team hits it over your head after you have been in the kitchen. 

Pickleball requires quick movements based on these decisions, so make sure you can make your way back to your space before the opposing team sends the ball back to your side of the court. 

3. Toeing the Line 

When a player serves the ball to the other team, they stay in their designated left or right service side of the court. They cannot step on the kitchen line or enter the non-volley zone when serving. Your momentum when receiving the ball, from the hit to establishing your stance after sending the ball over the net, must remain outside the non-volley zone to count as an acceptable hit. 

As long as you stay within your respective service courts during a volley, you can play longer rounds when you volley from the outside corners of the court. 

4. Serving 

The kitchen also plays an important role when serving. Each serve has to exceed the seven-foot kitchen line on the opposite side of the court to count as an inbounds serve. Players must hit the ball underhand to the opposite corner of the court when they serve. 

For example, a player standing in the left service court needs to serve to the other team's left service court. The same goes for each serve made in the right service courts. After the initial serve, you can hit to either service court or the kitchen to continue the game. 

Master the Kitchen Rules With Rhino Pickleball Equipment and Accessories

Now that you have learned more about the sport's rules, are you ready to dive into the world of pickleball? Look no further than Rhino Pickleball. We offer quality pickleball products, including paddles, balls, nets and cones that make each tournament memorable for every player. Your one-stop shop for all pickleball equipment and accessories is only a click away. 

Whether you play recreationally or professionally, our selection of pickleball essentials can fit your preferences and style so you can get back to playing with friends, family or fellow competitors. 

Browse our pickleball products today or contact us with any questions.