The satisfied/exact answer for readers is: In pickleball, any ball that touches the ground completely outside the boundary lines of the court is considered out of bounds and results in a loss of point or service turnover.
- What Defines the Pickleball Court Boundaries?
- What Constitutes a Ball "Out of Bounds"?
- Serving Rules About Out of Bounds
- During Play Out of Bounds Rules
- Who Determines If a Ball is In or Out?
- What Happens When the Ball is Ruled Out of Bounds?
- Tips to Avoid Hitting Out of Bounds
- What is The Rationale Behind The Out of Bounds Rule?
- Interesting Points About "Out" Calls in Pickleball
- Common Out of Bounds Mistakes to Avoid
- How Do Out of Bounds Differ Between Pickleball and Tennis?
- Conclusion: Significance of "Out of Bounds" in Pickleball
What Defines the Pickleball Court Boundaries?
The pickleball court is a rectangle measuring 20 feet (6.1 m) wide and 44 feet (13.4 m) long for both singles and doubles play. The court is divided into right and left service courts by a non-volley zone line (NVZ). The NVZ is 7 feet (2.1 m) wide.
The court has baselines at each end, and sidelines along the length. These lines define the pickleball court boundaries. The boundaries also include imaginary extensions of the baselines and sidelines to the fence or walls enclosing the court.
There are baselines at both ends of the pickleball court, parallel to the net. The baselines are the back boundaries of the court.
The sidelines run the length of the pickleball court from baseline to baseline. The sidelines mark the right and left boundaries of the court.
The Non-Volley Zone Line
The non-volley zone (NVZ) line runs parallel to the net, dividing the court into 2 service courts – right and left. The NVZ line is part of the court boundaries.
Though not physically marked on the court, the baselines and sidelines extend imaginarily to the fence or walls enclosing the court. If a ball touches outside these imaginary extensions, it is considered out of bounds.
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What Constitutes a Ball “Out of Bounds”?
According to the official pickleball rules, a ball is considered out of bounds if:
- It lands outside the court boundary lines when served.
- It touches the ground completely outside the court boundary lines during play.
- It touches any permanent object outside the court boundary lines (fence, wall, lights, etc).
The key criteria is – if the ball touches the ground fully outside the marked court boundaries or imaginary extensions, it is declared out.
Serving Rules About Out of Bounds
There are specific rules about out of bounds that apply when serving the ball:
- If the served ball lands outside the baseline of the proper service court, it is out.
- If the served ball lands outside the sideline of the proper service court, it is out.
Non-Volley Zone Fault
- If the served ball lands in the non-volley zone (including the line), it is a fault.
- If the serve lands in the wrong service court, it is out.
On an out of bounds serve, the server loses the point.
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During Play Out of Bounds Rules
When the ball is in play, it must stay within the court boundaries. If it fully touches the ground outside the court lines, it is declared out:
- If the ball is hit and lands past the baseline, it is out.
- If the ball lands outside the sidelines, it is out.
- If the ball hits a sideline but lands outside, it is out.
Non-Volley Zone Faults
- If the ball lands in or touches the non-volley zone (including the line), the team that hit the ball loses the point.
Permanent Object Interference
- If the ball hits any permanent object outside the court boundaries (fence, lights, etc), it is out.
The team that hit the ball out of bounds loses the point.
Who Determines If a Ball is In or Out?
During a pickleball match, players are responsible for calling lines on their side of the court to determine if a ball is in or out of bounds.
The exceptions are:
- Short serve – Only the referee can call a short (non-clearing) serve out.
- Foot fault – Only the referee can call a foot fault on the server.
- Non-volley zone fault – Only the referee can call an NVZ fault.
If players disagree on an in/out call, they can request a referee ruling. The referee’s decision is final.
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What Happens When the Ball is Ruled Out of Bounds?
When a ball is declared out of bounds, the following happens:
If a serve lands out of bounds, it is a fault. After 2 fault serves, it results in a side out with service turnover.
When the ball goes out of bounds during a rally, the team that hit the ball out loses the point. If serving team hit it out, it is a side out with service turnover.
Replay the Point
Rarely, if there is uncertainty on an in/out call, the referee may decide to replay the point.
So in summary – hitting the ball out of bounds results in loss of point or service turnover.
Tips to Avoid Hitting Out of Bounds
Here are some tips players can follow to reduce out of bounds hits:
- Aim service and returns down the middle of the court.
- Try not to hit too close to the sidelines especially down the alleys.
- On service, toss the ball slightly into the court so the serve lands well inside the lines.
- Call for help from partners if you are unsure a ball will land in or out.
- Play shots with control and opt for placement over power.
- If returning a fast shot, block it into play rather than swinging wildly.
- Be in ready position to run down shots landing near sidelines.
- Call shots out loudly if you see they will likely be out.
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What is The Rationale Behind The Out of Bounds Rule?
The out of bounds rule serves some key purposes:
- It defines the playing area and provides boundaries.
- It necessitates accuracy and control in shot-making.
- It makes players cover the whole court to defend shots.
- It allows variety in serve placement strategy.
- It speeds up the game by eliminating very wide shots.
- It emphasizes the importance of ball control over power.
- It enables short indoor courts and smaller playing areas.
In essence, the out of bounds rule contains play within a defined space and enhances precision.
Interesting Points About “Out” Calls in Pickleball
Here are some interesting aspects of out of bounds calls:
- Pickleball has one of the tightest out-of-bounds margins among racket sports. Courts are much smaller than tennis.
- The lines are usually only 1-2 inches wide, making for very thin margins.
- The ball moving at high speeds makes it hard for players to track if it hits in or out.
- Players often have to rely on sound to make calls, listening for a distinct change when the ball hits out.
- Players are expected to make prompt “out” calls as soon as they see a ball landing out.
- There can be close calls and disagreements on out-of-bounds ruling necessitating a referee.
- Top players are extremely skilled at painting the lines and hitting winners that just sneak in.
So making correct in/out calls is a vital skill in pickleball requiring quick judgment.
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Common Out of Bounds Mistakes to Avoid
Pickleball players should be aware of these frequent out-of-bounds mistakes:
- Forgetting to call out “out” balls landing near the sidelines.
- Hitting lobs or backhand shots too deep past the baseline.
- Serving diagonally into the wrong service court.
- Tossing serves too wide leading to serves outside the sidelines.
- Attempting down-the-line shots very close to sidelines.
- Failing to check where the partner is before hitting crosscourt.
- Not accounting for the ball curving outside off paddle edges.
- Assuming a ball landing very near the lines is in when it’s actually out.
- Hitting the ball very low over the net so it hits the non-volley zone.
Staying cognizant of court boundaries, communicating with partners, and controlling shots can help avoid these errors.
How Do Out of Bounds Differ Between Pickleball and Tennis?
There are some key differences in out of bounds rules between pickleball and tennis:
- Tennis courts are much larger – 78 feet long x 27 feet wide for singles. Pickleball courts are 44 feet x 20 feet.
- Tennis has alleys between singles sidelines and doubles sidelines. Pickleball courts have no alleys.
- Tennis serves must land within the service box diagonally. Pickleball serves can land anywhere in the correct service court.
- Tennis serves landing out are faults. In pickleball, they result in loss of serve.
- Tennis ball hitting a sideline is still in. Pickleball balls must land fully inside court boundaries.
- Tennis sidelines extend infinitely. Pickleball sidelines extend only to fence or walls.
So pickleball courts provide less margin for error on out of bounds hits compared to tennis.
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Conclusion: Significance of “Out of Bounds” in Pickleball
The out of bounds rule is fundamental to pickleball as it defines the limits of the playing area. Mastering control and placement to consistently keep the ball inside the boundaries is a vital skill. Players must develop the ability to make split-second in/out judgments, communicate with partners, and move swiftly to defend shots near the lines. While the boundaries make pickleball challenging, they also create a dynamic game that rewards accuracy, finesse, and mobility. Calling lines accurately and fairly while avoiding foot faults and other boundary errors are key to success. So an intimate knowledge of the out of bounds protocols is essential for all aspiring pickleball players.