What Is the Non-Volley Zone in Pickleball?

What is the non volley zone in pickleball?

The non-volley zone and the rules that go along with it are a key part of the game of pickleball. The non-volley zone, commonly referred to as the kitchen, determines where a player can volley the ball on the pickleball court. The basic rules of the non-volley zone are fairly simple, but the ways the kitchen affects pickleball gameplay are much more complex. 

What Is the Pickleball Kitchen

The pickleball kitchen is another name for the non-volley zone on a pickleball court. It’s an area that extends 7 feet on both sides of the pickleball net, creating a 14x20ft area in the center of the court, Here, volleying the ball is completely off-limits. 

What Is the Pickleball Kitchen

If you’re new to the world of pickleball or racquet sports in general, a volley is when the ball is hit back and forth between the two teams without making contact with the ground. Hitting a ball from the air is not allowed within the kitchen line on either team’s court. To play the ball in the non-volley zone, a player must wait until the ball bounces once off the court surface before hitting it back into play. 

There’s no real known reason why the non-volley zone is also called the kitchen, although we’re certain it has nothing to do with baking cookies. The theory is that the kitchen in pickleball is a nod to the kitchen in shuffleboard, although the kitchen rules for each game are completely different. 

Purpose of the Non-Volley Zone

Purpose of the Non-Volley Zone 
Photo Credit: pickleballguide.net

The main purpose of the non-volley court area is to make gameplay a bit more challenging and fair to both teams and to extend rallies. The existence of the non-volley line prevents pickleball players from executing smashes right at the net. This also prevents a volley advantage because both teams have to be a similar distance from the net and, as a result, have to be more strategic about their gameplay. 

Pickleball Kitchen Rules

Pickleball Kitchen Rules 
Photo Credit: pickleballmax.com

The basic rule of the kitchen is that any pickleball player cannot volley the ball while making contact with the non-volley zone. This includes all associated lines, like the non-volley zone line that separates the kitchen from the service court. The kitchen line and all other lines on the pickleball court are all marked to measure 2-inches. 

These details about the non-volley zone line are important because no part of your body, including your foot, can come in contact with the non-volley zone line or the area of the kitchen while volleying the ball. Breaking this golden rule of pickleball will result in a fault. 

So, these are the basics of the non-volley line, but after this, things start to become mildly more complex. 

It isn’t just volleying the ball with any part of your foot touching the kitchen or non-volley zone line. It’s also a rule violation if anything on your person happens to touch the kitchen line or non-volley zone. 

If you’re wearing a visor and it falls into the kitchen, even if you’re standing outside the zone when volleying the ball, it still counts as a fault. If you happen to drop your paddle into the kitchen, if your keys fall out of your pocket, or if your bracelet falls off and lands into the non-volley zone either while volleying the ball or immediately after, it’s considered a fault. 

Did you catch the part about “immediately after”? According to the non-volley zone rules, no part of the player or anything on their person may touch the non-volley zone immediately following a volley. 

This rule seems basic enough, but one area where pickleball players find themselves getting into trouble with kitchen violations is momentum. 

When pickleball players hit a volley, it’s common for the player’s momentum to carry them forward a bit. If a player happens to be standing too close to the kitchen line when this happens, it’s considered a rule violation if the momentum of the shot carries them forward to the point that their foot touches the kitchen line or non-volley zone. 

If you happen to be playing doubles, it is acceptable for your partner to grab you, holding you in place or pulling you back, so that the momentum of your shot doesn’t propel you into the non-volley zone. 

There are some adventurous moves that more skilled players attempt to make, such as standing up against or even in the non-volley zone and then jumping backward out of the kitchen to volley a shot. This can be done, but it’s definitely not a move for amateur players and isn’t even a move that’s commonly used by professionals.

The reason this pickleball move is so advanced is that it isn’t good enough to simply be in the air above the non-volley zone when volleying in the ball. Instead, if a player jumps backward, both of their feet must touch the court outside of the kitchen before volleying the ball. This is called reestablishing your footing. It takes a super-fast, super-confident player to master this type of shot without committing a kitchen rule violation. 

Serving and the Non-Volley Zone

Serving and the Non-Volley Zone 
Photo Credit: suarezpe.blogspot.com

The rules of the non-volley zone are important to observe when starting a new pickleball game. The first serve of a new game is very important because there are very specific rules that players must follow with this first serve. 

The first service sequence of any game starts with something called the double bounce rule. This means that when the serving team hits the ball, it must bounce once in the opponent’s opposite diagonal court, outside of the non-volley zone. The opposing team must then hit the ball back, where the ball must bounce once more before either team can hit a volley. 

The reason the double bounce rule is one of the most important pickleball rules is that it eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies so that a pickleball game isn’t over before it even begins. 

It’s important to note that during the first serving sequence, pickleball rules state that the ball cannot touch the non-volley zone but instead must land in the service court of the opposing team that is diagonal to where the server is standing. A ball in motion after a serve can hit the net, but it cannot land in the kitchen or on the non-volley zone line. Although, it is fine if the served ball lands on any of the other court lines

Following the non-volley zone serving rules is important because it can affect the serving team’s score. The way serving and scoring work in pickleball is that only the serving team can earn a point, so if they lose the serve to the opposing team, they also lose the ability to earn points in the game until the serve is returned to them. 

Serving is a bit complex in pickleball, at least if you’re playing doubles. When playing doubles, the server continues serving until a fault is committed. If the receiving team commits a fault, the same server serves the ball, except the server switches sides with their partner each time. 

If the serving team commits a fault, the service passes on to the next partner of the serving team. The same service rules apply, and the server continues switching sides with their partner until that server loses due to a team fault. It’s then that the serve is passed on to the other team. 

When serving the ball, the server gets only one serve attempt, and only one partner can serve at a time. The proper serving sequence of the pickleball rules must always be followed.     

Is Standing In the Non-Volley Zone Allowed?

Is Standing In the Non-Volley Zone Allowed?

While you can’t volley a ball from the non-volley zone, there are no rules that say a player can’t stand in the kitchen – except when serving, when at least one foot must be behind the service line of the court, which is far from the non-volley zone. 

It’s definitely not a good idea to stand in the non-volley zone during the first serve of a game when you’re on the receiving team. The ball can’t land in the kitchen off the serve, and it has to bounce once in the service court. Standing in the kitchen at this point is useless from a strategic perspective. 

In most cases, hanging out in the non-volley zone just isn’t smart strategically. By doing this, you’re pretty much putting all your money on the fact that the opposite team is going to hit the ball so that it bounces in the kitchen, and you’re limiting yourself on moves to play. 


When can you step into the non-volley zone in pickleball?

You can step into the non-volley zone at any time other than when you’re volleying in the ball. There are no rules against standing in the non-volley zone, but just remember you can only make a ground stroke while standing within the kitchen lines. 

Can you hit a ball in the non-volley zone in pickleball?

You can hit a ground stroke while in the non-volley zone. A ground-stroke is when you let the ball bounce once before you allow the paddle contact with the ball. 

What does the non-volley zone mean?

The non-volley zone is an area of the pickleball court that’s the same size on both sides of the net. Pickleball rules don’t allow a player to hit a volley within the zone. This means that you can’t hit the ball in the non-volley zone without the ball contacting the court and bouncing before you follow through with the shot. 

Bottom Line

The non-volley zone is critical to pickleball gameplay. The more you understand the pickleball kitchen rules, the more they become easier to follow when you play. Pickleball is a great, fun game that almost anyone can play. We’re here to help you learn more about the rules, along with everything else in the world of pickleball. 

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