Pickleball Rules For Doubles

Pickleball Rules For Doubles

While a game of pickleball is always a great time, it’s even better when you have a partner. While many of the rules of pickleball are the same for both singles and doubles play, some different rules only apply when you play as a team.

Pickleball Serving Rules for Doubles

One of the most noticeable differences between singles and doubles pickleball is the serving sequence. In singles pickleball, teams just take turns serving. With doubles, a specific serving sequence needs to be followed. 

Pickleball doubles serving rules are in place to ensure everyone has a chance to serve and that the game is played fairly. 

Pickleball Serving Rules for Doubles 

The first order of business is to decide who will serve first. You can decide by any means you like which team serves first. Some flip a coin or use similar means. Other teams that play together regularly just take turns. For whichever team serves first, it’s the player that’s positioned in the right service court that will serve first. 

The rules of serving require that the serve be made from behind the service line on the serving side of the court. Failing to serve the ball from behind the correct service court line is considered a service fault. When the ball is hit, it must be hit with an underhand motion, with contact between the paddle and the ball happening below the waistline of the server. 

When the server serves the ball, it must land deep in the receiving team’s service court that is diagonal from where the player who is serving is standing. The ball is not allowed to touch the ground in the non-volley zone, which is an area that extends seven feet on both sides of the court. It’s acceptable for the ball to touch the net, but if it lands in the non-volley zone, it’s considered a fault against the serving team. 

If the serving team wins the rally, the same server will continue with their service turn until the team makes a fault. At this point, the player loses the serve, which is then passed on to the next player in the serving sequence. 

Order of the Serve in Pickleball Doubles 

Order of the Serve in Pickleball Doubles 

In singles pickleball, the serving rules are simple and to the point. The serve is given to the receiving team every time a fault occurs at the hands of the serving team. Since there are four players in pickleball doubles, the rules are a bit more complex. 

The first serve of the game always begins with the server standing on the right-side service court, immediately behind the service line. Each player in a doubles game plays from either the right or left side of the court, so it’s the player to the right that makes the starting serve, with the server’s partner positioned in the service court to their left. 

The proper sequence of serving in pickleball is that a server continues to serve the ball until their team makes a fault. At this point, the serve is then passed onto the next player, which in doubles would be the server’s partner. That player then serves until a fault is made by the serving team. 

It’s at this point that the serve is passed onto the opposite team, where the same serving sequence is followed – the server on the right side of the court serves first and then is passed onto the server’s team member before being passed back to the first team again. 

It’s also important to note that the players on the serving team switch sides each time the ball is served. For example, when a player serves from the right side of the court, they will then alternate sides with their partner and serve next from the left side of the court. 

This exchange of the serve continues each time the receiving team loses the ball when playing doubles. The only exception to these pickleball rules is when the ball is served for the very first time during a new game. This is when a service rule called the First Server Exception comes into play. 

The First Server Exception

The First Server Exception
Photo Credit: pickleballhelp.com

The First Server Exception is a pickleball rule that is in place to lessen the advantage that comes with being the first server in a new pickleball game. During the first serve of a new game, when the first server loses their service turn, the serve passes to the player on the right of the receiving team rather than the second player on the serving team. 

Once the receiving team has the serve, the serving sequence then returns to normal, with both the first and second server on that team having a chance to serve the ball before returning it back to the other team.

The First Server Exception rule applies only to the first serve of a new pickleball match.

Double Bounce Rule 

Double Bounce Rule 
Photo Credit: pickleballguide.net

Another important rule of pickleball, which doesn’t only apply to doubles play, is the double bounce rule. This is another pickleball rule that exists to create more fair gameplay by mitigating the advantage of being the serving team. 

The double bounce rule states that when a ball is served, it must bounce once on the receiving team’s side of the court (outside of the non-volley zone) that is diagonal to the serving player before being hit. Once a player on the receiving team hits the ball, the serving team must also let it bounce on the playing surface once before hitting it. After the ball has bounced twice (once on each side of the court), the ball can then be volleyed back and forth between the teams. 

The Non-Volley Zone in Pickleball Doubles

The Non-Volley Zone in Pickleball Doubles
Photo Credit: burkepickleball.net

The non-volley zone, also referred to as the “kitchen,” is an area of the pickleball ball court that extends seven feet on both sides of the net. This area is key to both singles and doubles pickleball matches. The non-volley zone marks an area of the court where the ball cannot be volleyed by either side. 

Any shot made within the boundaries of the non-volley zone must only happen after the ball bounces once. Making a shot without the ball contacting the court surface in a bounce is considered a fault. Players must be standing in their service courts if they want to volley the ball. 

For reference, volleying the ball means hitting it while it’s in the air before letting the ball bounce off the court. Hitting the ball after the ball bounces off the court is called a ground shot. 

This might seem simple enough, but it also counts as a fault if any part of the player’s body or any object that they have on their person makes contact with the kitchen or the non-volley zone line. 

It’s not uncommon for a player’s momentum to carry them forward after hitting the ball. If this forward motion happens to land even the tip of your foot in the kitchen or at the line, you’ve committed a fault, even if the shot itself was made from outside the kitchen. It’s also a fault if pickleball paddles are dropped in the kitchen or if your hat, keys, or anything else you have on you falls into the non-volley zone during or immediately after volleying the ball. 

These kitchen rules are exactly the same for both singles and doubles pickleball. However, the one advantage that you have while playing doubles is your partner can grab you and pull you back if they see that your momentum might carry you across the kitchen line. 

Pickleball Scoring Doubles

Pickleball Scoring Doubles 

Scoring doubles in pickleball is very much the same as scoring in singles, except that the additional player on each team changes things just a bit. 

The first rule of scoring in pickleball is that only the serving team can score points. The serving team’s score rises by one point each time the receiving team commits a fault. The receiver’s score remains unaffected, meaning they neither gain nor lose a point until they have possession of the serve. 

Players on the serving team alternate sides with each other each time a point is scored. Players on the receiving team do not switch sides each time the serving team scores a point.

In pickleball, the score must be called out before the serve. The players have ten seconds to call the score, and once the score is called, they then have ten seconds to serve the ball. 

The score is called in a very specific sequence of three numbers. The first number represents the server’s score. The second number represents the receiving team’s score, and the final number represents the server’s number –either one or two. 

At the beginning of a new pickleball match, the entire score is called 0-0-2. This means that both the serving and receiving teams’ scores are zero. The reason that the player number is called two instead of one is because of the first server exception. Since the serve is passed to the receiving team after the first server loses the ball on an initial serve, they are considered player two, indicating that the ball will next be passed to the other team. Otherwise, the player would be considered player one. 

There’s a simple way to keep track of pickleball scoring. When a team’s score is even, the team member that served first will be on the right side of the court (even court). When the score is odd, the player that served first will be on the left side of the court (odd court). 

This not only helps you to remember if your score is odd or even in case you forget but also helps to ensure the correct server position. 

A pickleball game ends when one team reaches a score of eleven points, and they have at least a two-point advantage over the other team. 


Can you hit the ball twice in doubles pickleball?

Technically, yes, you can hit the ball twice, but only if it’s unintentional. In other words, you can’t hit the ball once with the intention of letting it bounce again before hitting it with a stronger stroke. 

What is the starting score of a doubles pickleball game?

The starting score of a new pickleball game is always 0-0-2. This means that the score is even, with both teams having a score of zero. The number two represents the server number of the serving team. This number is a two instead of a one because once they lose the serve, it’s automatically passed to the opposing team according to the first serve exception rule. 

Which player servers first in doubles pickleball?

It doesn’t matter which team serves first, but the rule is that the first server begins on the right side of their team’s court. 

Which side should a lefty play in doubles pickleball?

Since players on the serving team are required to alternate sides, each player will be positioned on both the right and left courts during a game. A lefty on the receiving team may prefer to position themselves on the right-hand court, also called the deuce court. 

Grab Your Friends For a Fun Game of Doubles Pickleball

Whether you play alone or with doubles, pickleball is always fun. There are minor differences between singles and doubles, but following those rules becomes second nature once you play a few doubles matches. Grab your friends and your paddles, and head to the court! 

2 thoughts on “Pickleball Rules For Doubles”

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your question. The only rule about where to stand during the serve pertains only to the player serving. They must stand behind the baseline, but their partner isn’t required to.

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