The non-volley line, also called the kitchen line, is one of the most important parts of a pickleball court. But what exactly is the non-volley line, and what rules apply to it? Keep reading this beginner’s guide to learn all about the non-volley line in pickleball.
What is the Non-Volley Line?
The non-volley line is the line on each side of the net that runs parallel to it. This line marks the front of the non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen”.
Here’s a quick rundown of the non-volley line:
- It is 7 feet from the net on each side of the court
- It stretches from sideline to sideline, enclosing the non-volley zone
- The non-volley zone formed by the line is commonly called the “kitchen
- Stepping on or into the non-volley zone while volleying results in a fault
The non-volley line helps define an important part of the court where volleying is prohibited. It sets the pickleball kitchen apart from the rest of the court.
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What is the Non-Volley Zone or “Kitchen”?
The non-volley zone, or “kitchen”, is the 7 foot area on both sides of the net bounded by the non-volley lines.
Some key things about the kitchen:
- It extends from sideline to sideline
- It is directly adjacent to the net
- It measures 7 feet deep from the non-volley line to the net
- Entering this zone while volleying results in a fault
The kitchen gets its name from the “cooking” term because it’s where you can get prepared to make a shot. Just don’t enter it too soon! The kitchen plays a major strategic role in pickleball.
The Non-Volley Zone is a No Volleying Zone
The defining trait of the non-volley zone or kitchen is that volleying is prohibited within it.
- Players may not hit a volley shot while any part of their body is touching the non-volley zone. This includes a player’s paddle, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Volleying is defined as hitting a ball out of the air without letting it bounce first.
- Any volley shots hit while contacting the non-volley zone will be called as a fault.
This volleying prohibition is the reason the non-volley line and kitchen exist. They prevent players from approaching the net too soon to unfairly volley.
Non-Volley Line Rules in Pickleball
The non-volley line establishes some important rules and restrictions for gameplay. Here are the key regulations:
Players Cannot Enter the Kitchen to Volley
- If a player or anything they are wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone while volleying, it is a fault.
- The act of volleying includes the swing motion, follow-through, and any momentum carrying a player into the zone. All are grounds for a fault.
- Players may enter the kitchen at any time except when in the act of volleying.
- To legally volley again, both feet must exit the non-volley zone and make contact with the court surface.
The Serve Cannot Land in the Non-Volley Zone
- On a serve, the ball cannot land within the non-volley zone or on the non-volley line.
- If the serve lands in the kitchen, it is a fault and results in loss of serve.
The Return Serve Must Let Bounce Before Volleying
- On a return of serve, the ball must bounce before a player can legally volley the ball.
- If the return is volleyed before a bounce, it is a fault if the player or paddle touch the non-volley zone.
Ball in Motion Overrides Kitchen Restrictions
- If the ball bounces into the kitchen, a player may enter the non-volley zone to retrieve or volley the ball.
- The ball bouncing removes temporary the restrictions of the non-volley zone.
Paddle Over Non-Volley Line is Not a Fault
- A player’s paddle may cross over the non-volley line without fault as long as the player’s body or clothing do not touch the line or enter the kitchen.
These rules enforce the special restrictions of the kitchen while still allowing for volleys and plays of balls that bounce into the non-volley zone.
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Non-Volley Line Strategies & Placement
The non-volley line may seem restrictive, but it can be used strategically:
Control the Net
- Move close to the non-volley line to take control of the net. Just don’t cross over it!
- You’ll be in position to hit aggressive volleys and angles.
Draw Players In
- Hit shots close to the non-volley line to draw opponents forward and close to the kitchen.
- When they approach, pass them with a well-placed groundstroke.
Move Opponents Out of Position
- Hit balls deep in the backcourt to pull opponents back.
- Then follow up with a short ball that they must scramble back up to reach near the non-volley zone.
Fake Out Your Opponent
- Fake moving into the kitchen by stepping close to the non-volley line before bouncing.
- Then make your groundstroke or volley to catch them off guard.
With practice and experience, you can leverage the non-volley zone strategically. Just avoid touching that line when volleying!
Why the Non-Volley Line & Kitchen Exist
The non-volley line might seem unusual at first. So why is this volley restriction in place?
Prevent a Short-Court Game
- The kitchen prevents pickleball from becoming a match of rapid close-range volleys.
- It expands gameplay to the whole court, not just near the net.
Maintain Serve Advantage
- No volleying zone maintains the serve advantage that should go to the serving team.
- Requires the return of serve team to play from backcourt first.
- Forces use of groundstrokes rather than just volleys during a point.
- Groundstrokes add strategy, rallies, and athleticism.
Provide Fair Play at Net
- Kitchen provides equity for who can play and control the net.
- No player can camp there the whole match volleying everything.
- The non-volley zone presents strategic choices when approaching and covering the net.
- It also creates offensive and defensive volley positioning tactics.
The kitchen ultimately improves the long-term playability and fairness of the sport. It helps balance out strengths between teams during competitive play.
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The Non-Volley Line in Summary
The non-volley line defines an important area of the court called the kitchen where volleying is not allowed. Here’s a quick summary of everything you need to know:
- What: Line parallel to net, 7 feet from net on sides
- Marks: Front of the non-volley “kitchen” zone
- Rules: No volleys when body touches zone
- Purpose: Prevent net camping, add strategy
- Use: Move opponent out of position near zone
Now you know what the non-volley line is, why it exists, and how to leverage it strategically. Understanding this unique court marker will serve you well in mastering pickleball as a beginner!
Key Takeaways on the Non-Volley Line
- The non-volley line runs parallel to the net and marks the front of the “kitchen” non-volley zone.
- Stepping on or into the non-volley zone while volleying results in a fault.
- The kitchen exists to prevent short-court volleying matches.
- Strategically draw opponents close to the non-volley zone then play groundstrokes or angles.
- Master the non-volley line rules to improve your pickleball game!