Pickleball Faults You Must Avoid to Win Games (Complete List)

Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Dive into the thrilling world of pickleball, where USA Pickleball governs a set of rules that add a spicy twist to the game. Commit a fault, and you'll face the consequences in the form of penalties – it's all part of the game!

Whether you're a curious newbie, eager to unravel the secrets of pickleball, or a seasoned pro seeking to polish your skills, there will be moments when you crave the lowdown on playing the game like a boss.

Most pickleball faults are in Section 7 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook, while others are in some sections. This post will delve into the details of these faults, providing you with invaluable tips to keep you on the straight and narrow.

What is a Fault in Pickleball?

In pickleball, a fault is a player's action that violates the sport's official rules. A fault results in a dead ball, meaning the game automatically stops, and the serving team will lose the rally. Therefore, a player can only commit a fault during a live ball.

If a player in singles commits a fault, a side-out is called, and the receiving team serves. For doubles, the second server serves if the first server commits a fault. But at every start of the game, only the “second” server serves. 

If the receiving team commits a fault, the serving team wins the rally and earns a point. Hence, only the serving team earns a point, while the receiving team doesn’t. For more details about scoring, check out our Pickleball Scoring Rules Guide

Common Pickleball Faults

Pickleball faults are categorized based on the area where they are committed. This includes the non-volley zone, service areas, the court lines, and the net. To help you avoid them, let’s start with the most common ones.

Kitchen Faults

In pickleball, the kitchen is the slang term for the non-volley zone (NVZ). As the name suggests, no player should volley (hitting the ball without bouncing) inside this area. Otherwise, that player commits a fault. In wheelchair pickleball, the rear wheels of the wheelchair should not touch the non-volley zone during a volley.

Additionally, players' momentum should not cause them to land inside the kitchen while volleying. It includes any object that touches that player. It is also a fault, even if the ball becomes dead before that player makes contact with the non-volley zone. For complete details, we have a separate post about Kitchen Rules.

Violation of the 2-Bounce and Double Bounce Rules

In pickleball, the two-bounce rule means that the receiver should let the ball bounce during a serve before returning it. Afterward, the server must also let the ball bounce before returning it. Both players can now volley the ball on the third and succeeding returns unless they are in the no-volley zone. Violating this 2-bounce rule results in a fault. 

On the other hand, the double-bounce rule is when a player should not allow the ball to bounce twice before hitting it. Otherwise, that player commits a fault. Note that this rule applies to both the serving and receiving teams. For a complete comparison between the two rules, read our Pickleball 2-Bounce vs Double-Bounce Rules Guide.

Service Faults

Since 2024, there have been only two legal serves—the volley and the drop serve. To do the volley serve correctly, you should swing your arm in an upward arc. Once the paddle touches the ball, your paddle head should be below your wrist. For the drop serve, you should release the ball naturally, let it bounce before hitting it, and follow the 10-second rule. For more information, read our Pickleball Serving Rules Guide.

A spin serve (also called pre-spun serve) is considered a fault in pickleball. It means the serving team can no longer spin the ball intentionally before hitting it. It includes spinning the ball using fingers. But just to clarify, letting the ball spin while it touches the paddle face is allowed. Therefore, doing a topspin, a side spin, or a backspin is legal and is not considered a fault.

Meanwhile, players in wheelchairs commit a fault if the rear wheels are not on the playing surface behind the baseline while serving. At the same time, those wheels should not also touch the court, inside the baseline, or outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or the centerline. For complete details, read our Wheelchair Pickleball Rules Guide.

Foot Faults

Foot faults in pickleball include stepping over the service line while serving. You can hover one of your feet over the court while serving. However, your other foot should touch the serve ground behind the baseline. Otherwise, you are committing a fault. In addition, any player who is volleying should not step on the kitchen line. Interestingly, this kitchen foot fault is very common to beginners.

Line Faults

A typical line fault in pickleball is when a served ball lands on the NVZ line or inside the NVZ. A ball that lands outside the baseline or sideline is considered a fault and is called “out of bounce.” On the other hand, a ball that touches the centerline is not considered a fault. This line on each side of the net bisects the area between the non-volley line and the baseline.

Other Faults to Avoid in Pickleball

  • If a player stops a rally to correct a player’s position, but the position is actually correct. If the position is wrong, the rally is replayed.
  • If the served ball touches any permanent object before it bounces off the ground, including the fence, the bench, and even the referee, the last player to hit the ball commits a fault.
  • If the served ball touches anything that touches the server or their partner before it crosses the net
  • If a player hits a live ball before it entirely crosses the plane of the net
  • If the served ball hits the net and lands inside the non-volley zone or outside the service court
  • If a player is hit by the ball while changing hands on the paddle or attempting a two-handed stroke, provided that the player’s hand is above the wrist and holding the paddle.
  • If a player contacts the net post during a live ball
  • If a player hits a ball and it travels between the net and the net post
  • If a player contacts the net post during a live ball
  • If a player hits the ball that touches the center base or the horizontal bar before going over the net
  • If a served ball hits the center base, the horizontal bar or gets caught between the net and horizontal bar after going over the net
  • If a player goes around the net post and crosses the net’s imaginary extension line but does not make contact with the ball.
  • If the receiving team stops the ball before it touches the ground, it includes catching a live ball, thinking it is out of bounce.
  • If anyone from the serving or receiving team calls a time-out after the serve has occurred.
  • If the server makes the serve while the score is being called. However, it is not a fault if a server serves before the referee calls the score.
  • If a player allows the ball to bounce twice on the same side of the pickleball court before hitting it. This fault is not applicable in wheelchair pickleball games.
  • If a player hits the ball twice consecutively or commits a double-hit fault
  • If a player carries or catches the ball on the paddle while making a serve or any kind of shot
  • If a player hits the ball twice but not continuously or in different directions, intentional or not (See our 2024 Pickleball Rules Changes and Updates)
  • If a second player strikes the ball after a teammate hits it
  • If a player distracts an opponent when the opposing team is about to play
  • If a player calls something a hindrance, but the referee determines it invalid
  • If, during a play, an additional ball a player was carrying falls on the playing surface

Related Post: Pickleball Net Rules Guide: Common Faults and the ATP Rule

Who Can Call a Fault?

Generally, only a pickleball referee has the authority to call a fault. But for matches without a referee, a player can call some faults on the opponent. Section 13.D.1.c states, “Players may call non-volley zone and service foot faults on the opponent’s end of the court. If there is any disagreement among players about the called foot fault, a replay shall occur.” 

However, rule 13.D.1 states that “if a player believes an opponent has committed any type of fault other than a service or non-volley zone foot fault as noted in Section 7 – Fault Rules, they may mention the specific fault to the opponent(s) but they have no authority to enforce the fault. The final decision on fault resolution belongs to the player that allegedly committed the fault.

But whether a play is officiated or not, all players should practice good sportsmanship. It means that once you commit a fault, admit the error and stop the game. On the other hand, you can appeal a judgment call to the referee, but the referee always has the final decision. If there are line judges, they are responsible for calling out-of-bounce calls and service foot faults.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball is a very straightforward sport, but even the most seasoned players can't escape the occasional fault. Nonetheless, there are four ways to minimize committing faults. 

First, become the maestro of pickleball rules. Second, watch pickleball games and tutorials. Third, practice continuously to fine-tune your playing skills. And fourth, embrace your faults as stepping stones to greatness, learning and evolving with each play.

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