Pickleball Line Call Rules Guide: Is The Ball ‘In’ or ‘Out’?

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Like in other ball sports, there will always be instances in pickleball where it's hard to decide whether the ball is 'in' or 'out.' But while it could be easier if there's a line judge, not all pickleball matches have one.

Ideally, the player closest to the spot where the ball landed has the best view. Unfortunately, some players might not be honest. To avoid disputes, here is a comprehensive guide regarding line call rules in pickleball.

What are the Lines in a Pickleball Court?

A pickleball court has four different lines - the non-volley zone line (also known as the kitchen line), the baseline, the sideline, and the centerline. The NVZ line is located 7 feet (2.13 meters) from the net and parallel to the net. It marks the front boundary of the non-volley. The baselines are also parallel to the net and considered the rear boundary lines of the court. Therefore, they mark the end of the playing area of a pickleball court.

On the other hand, the sidelines are the boundary lines on the sides of the court. Unlike the NVZ lines and baselines, they are perpendicular to the net. They also mark the outer edges of the playing area. Meanwhile, the centerlines are the lines that separate the left (odd) and right (even) service courts on each side. If you are unfamiliar with pickleball courts, read our Pickleball Court Guide.

What are the Pickleball Line Call Rules?

Section 6 of the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook explains the pickleball line rules. Below are the summary details:

  • The server should serve the ball diagonally to the opposite side of the court. It means that if the server is on the right side, the ball that lands on the left side of the opposing player or team is 'in.' For more details, you can read our Pickleball Serve Rules Guide.
  • The served ball should not land in the non-volley zone or NVZ line. Otherwise, the ball is "out."
  • Except for the served ball, any ball in play that lands anywhere in the court, including the lines, is considered 'in.'
  • A line call is an "out" call after the ball bounces. The play shall stop, and the scenario is considered "dead ball."
  • The ball is 'in' if there's no gap between the ball and the boundary line. The ball is 'out' if there's even a tiny gap.

Who Makes the Line Calls in Pickleball?

As part of the Code of Ethics in pickleball, players are responsible for the line calling on their respective courts, especially if there's no referee or line judge. However, this excludes the short serves, service foot faults, and all non-volley zone faults if there's a referee. In doubles, either player can make the call on their side of the court. Yet, the player who makes the call should always be sure of the call and honest.

Pickleball Line Calls Code of Ethics

As mentioned above, pickleball players have different responsibilities from referees and line judges regarding line calls. Pickleball officials are expected to be impartial when it comes to decision-making. On the other hand, players should consider the elements of the code of ethics when taking responsibility for the line call.

  • If there are line judges, players can only make a line call in the centerline.
  • If the referee or player cannot make the call, the ball is considered "in."
  • A player should make a line call only after the ball has landed. If that player is unsure about the call, they can ask the opponent or referee for their opinion.
  • Anyone who will call the ball 'out' should also use hand signals, even if the ball is obviously "out."
  • A player should call 'out' only if they can clearly see the space between the line and the space where the ball has landed.
  • If you're unsure whether the ball is 'in' or 'out,' call it 'in.'
  • Any ball that cannot be called 'out' is considered 'in.' Always give the opponent the benefit of the doubt.
  • Line calls should be prompt. It means that players should not wait until the end of a point or after a shot before making a line call.
  • If an 'out' call is not prompt, the ball is presumed to be 'in.'
  • If the opponent or referee can make a line call with absolute certainty, that call will stand, regardless of whether the call is 'in' or 'out.'
  • If there's no clear line call, the first player on that side who made the line call will be followed.
  • A player can appeal to the referee on an opponent's line call for a final decision.
  • A player could not claim a replay when the ball was not clearly seen, whether it's 'in' or 'out' or if there is uncertainty.
  • Once the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make another line call for that rally.
  • Referees and players should refrain from consulting with spectators regarding line calls.
  • In doubles, if the players on the same side have opposing line calls, the ball is considered 'in' unless a referee clearly sees that the ball is 'out.'
  • If there's an appeal and the referee overrules any 'out' call, the player or team that made the 'out' call commits a fault. The only exception is when there are line judges who are responsible for the baseline and sideline calls.
  • After the completion of a rally, a player or team can overrule a line call as long as it is to their disadvantage.

When is a "Call" Not a Line Call?

According to Section 6.C.10, if a player in doubles shouts to their partner, "out," "no," or "bounce it" while the ball is still in the air, it is not a line call. Instead, this "call" is considered part of team communication. Hence, players can tell their teammates that the ball may be 'out.' Again, a call is a line call only after the ball has bounced.

How to Handle Disputes Over Pickleball Line Calls

Regarding line call disputes in pickleball, the golden rule is never to question your opponents' line calls. If there's a referee, you may appeal to any line call before the next serve. If there's a line judge who you think made a wrong line call, you can also appeal to the referee before the next serve. If a player on the side of the pickleball court where the pickleball landed did not make a line call, the ball is considered 'in.'

Final Thoughts

As we all know, there will be times when there's a fine line for determining if a ball is actually 'in' or 'out.' But as a general rule, the ball is considered 'in' if it touches any part of the boundary line. If it doesn't, the ball is 'out.' Therefore, you should only make a call when you are in the position to see where the ball landed exactly. Ultimately, making line calls can also reflect a player's character.

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