Major Pickleball Rule Changes You Need To Know For 2023

Major Pickleball Rule Changes You Need to Know for 2023

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The new pickleball rules approved by USA Pickleball, including the ban on the one-handed spin serve, will take effect on January 1, 2023.

These mid-year rule changes were implemented immediately rather than waiting until 2024 in order to have a positive impact on amateur tournaments for the remainder of 2023 and to align amateur and professional rules.

Other notable 2023 rule changes include allowing players to immediately stop play to correct an incorrect score call, requiring players to avoid wearing clothes matching the ball color, and clarifying that players hit by the ball have committed a fault.

When do the new 2023 pickleball rules take effect?

The 2023 pickleball rule changes were approved by USA Pickleball in September 2022 and will go into effect on January 1, 2023 for all sanctioned tournaments. USA Pickleball made the strategic decision to implement these mid-year rule changes immediately rather than waiting until the 2024 rulebook. The rationale was twofold:

  • To have a positive impact on amateur tournaments for the remainder of 2023 after the rule tweaks were tested successfully on the professional tour in 2022.
  • To align the rules for amateur and professional pickleball as much as possible.

By adapting the rulebook mid-season, players of all levels will become familiar with the changes sooner and develop the right habits and strategies. Tournament directors can also prepare appropriately to enforce the new rules when competition resumes in 2023.

What are the most important 2023 pickleball rule changes?

The 2023 rule changes aim to improve sportsmanship, pace of play, safety, and consistency across different levels of competition. Here are some of the key modifications recreational and competitive players alike need to be aware of:

1. Ban on one-handed spin serves

One of the most impactful changes for 2023 is the total ban on one-handed spin serves. Previously, spin serves could be hit with either one hand or two hands. However, research showed that one-handed spin serves led to higher injury rates. According to Mark Renneson, a top pickleball teaching pro, the one-handed spin serve “places undue stress on the shoulder joint and elbow and should be eliminated.”

By completely banning this type of serve, USA Pickleball hopes to promote safer play and prevent shoulder injuries. Players can still perform two-handed spin serves, but any one-handed serves will now result in a fault. This rule will significantly affect game strategy, as the one-handed spin was utilized frequently to pull opponents wide off the court.

2. Allowing players to immediately stop play for incorrect score calls

Previously, players were required to finish the rally and then appeal to the referee if they believed their opponent made an incorrect score call. However, the 2023 rulebook allows players to immediately stop play as soon as an incorrect score is called to avoid scoring disputes.

By stopping play right away, players can efficiently correct the score discrepancy before the next point begins. This improves pace of play by eliminating lengthy debates after the completion of a rally. It also enhances sportsmanship and keeps the match running smoothly.

3. Requiring contrasting clothing compared to ball color

To maximize ball visibility and fair play, the 2023 rules state that players cannot wear clothing that matches the ball color. Most pickleball tournaments use a yellow ball, so players would be prohibited from wearing yellow tops or bottoms. This rule change allows easier tracking of the ball in motion during long volleys or rapid exchanges at the net.

While recreational players often wear a variety of colors, this rule aims to add consistency for competitive tournaments. Referees will also be able to enforce clothing contrast requirements to ensure fair play.

4. Players hit by the ball have committed a fault

The updated rules also clarify that players who are hit by the return of serve before it bounces have committed a fault. This applies even if the ball was going out of bounds. The prior rulebook was vague on whether being hit by the ball was a fault or just resulted in a dead ball.

The revision provides concrete guidance that if players are struck by the ball on the return before it bounces, their opponents will be awarded the point. This disincentivizes players from using their body to block volleys near the net. Overall, it results in smoother game flow and less ambiguity about who should be awarded a point in these scenarios.

How will the 2023 rule changes affect recreational vs. competitive play?

The 2023 pickleball rule modifications will have implications for both recreational and competitive players:

Recreational Impact

  • The serve and clothing contrast rules enhance pace of play, which benefits recreational players who often have limited time slots at public courts.
  • Stopping play immediately for scoring disputes reduces confusion for newer players still learning the rules.
  • While recreational players use a variety of serve styles, prohibiting the one-handed spin eliminates a higher-risk motion.
  • Requiring contrasting outfits from the ball simply improves visual tracking for recreational play.

Competitive Impact

  • The one-handed spin serve ban substantially impacts strategy at the higher skill levels where players frequently utilized this technique.
  • Allowing stopped play for scoring debates mid-rally reduces delays and arguments during tournament matches.
  • Clothing contrast requirements add consistency and ensure balls are visible even during pro-level volley exchanges.
  • Calling players hit by returns at fault clarifies awarding of points during intense net battles among elite players.

Overall, the 2023 rule changes aim to have a positive influence at both ends of the spectrum – improving flow for casual play while also addressing needs at the top skill levels to govern fair tournament competition.

What other notable pickleball rule tweaks occurred for 2023?

In addition to the major modifications highlighted above, USA Pickleball’s 2023 rulebook contains several other changes and clarifications:

  • Two serve attempts: Players now have two chances to put the ball in play on each serve. Previously, any serve fault resulted in a point for the opponent. Allowing one fault enables beginners to develop consistent serves.
  • Line call appeals: Only players directly involved in a rally, not spectators or coaches, can appeal line calls with the referee. This prevents interference from non-players.
  • Medical timeouts: Players are now limited to one medical timeout of 5 minutes per match rather than two timeouts. This improves pace of play.
  • Correcting the server: The rulebook provides guidance on correcting servers who commit foot faults repeatedly despite warnings. This allows for fair enforcement by referees.
  • Coaching: The updated rules clarify when coaches can advise players during timeouts, changeovers, and between games. This structure creates consistency.

While subtle, these kinds of refinements modernize pickleball rules for today’s players while maintaining the integrity of the sport. They eliminate gray areas that previously led to disputes due to lack of concrete policies.

What else can we expect in the future of pickleball rules?

Pickleball has evolved tremendously over the past decade as more people discover this fun sport, and the rules will continue adapting with its growth. Some potential changes on the horizon include:

  • Serve sequence rules: Compared to tennis, pickleball has less structured rules about serve sequence between partners. Governing bodies may add procedures to alternate serves in a more organized system.
  • Viability of two-bounce rule: There is some debate about eliminating the two-bounce rule to speed up high-level play. But many argue it’s a key part of pickleball’s charm and strategy.
  • Standardized paddle regulations: Currently paddles can vary greatly in terms of size, weight, grip length, etc. We may see more defined limitations to homogenize equipment.
  • Shot clock implementation: Other racket sports use shot clocks to enforce pace of play. This could emerge in pickleball to keep action moving, especially during televised matches.
  • Line technology: As pickleball reaches more mainstream popularity, technology like automatic line calling may be integrated similar to tennis. This eliminates human error on close calls.

The future of pickleball rules will likely balance upholding the game’s core traits and community feel while also adapting sensibly to its competitive growth.Pickleball players at all skill levels should stay informed each year on the latest rule modifications enacted by USA Pickleball and other governing organizations.

Knowing the changes inside and out will ensure you build proper techniques, employ the right strategies, and avoid any violations that could cost you points. By understanding the key 2023 pickleball rule updates around serving, scoring, clothing, and other facets, you’ll step onto the courts prepared and avoid being caught off guard.

Frequently Asked Questions About 2023 Pickleball Rule Changes

Can I still use a one-handed grip for other pickleball serves besides the spin serve?

Yes, gripping the paddle with just one hand is still permitted for underhand serves like the dink or drive serve. The 2023 ban only applies specifically to one-handed topspin/backspin serves. All other one-handed serves are still acceptable.

If I incorrectly call the score, does my opponent get the point automatically now?

No, your opponent does not automatically gain the point if you misstate the score. The new rule for 2023 simply allows them to immediately stop play to correct the score discrepancy rather than having to finish the rally first before appealing to the referee. The point outcome is still determined by normal rules of play.

Can I wear a yellow shirt if I’m using a yellow pickleball?

No, the updated 2023 rules prohibit wearing any clothing that matches the ball color precisely. So if playing with a yellow ball, you cannot have yellow shirts, shorts, dresses, hats, etc. This helps ensure fair play by maximizing ball visibility. Neutral colors or contrasting shades are recommended.

If I get hit by my opponent’s return before it bounces, is it always my fault?

Essentially yes, the 2023 rule adjustments classify players getting hit by the ball before it bounces a fault in all scenarios. So even if your opponent hits a return that is clearly going wide or long, if it strikes you first, the point is awarded to them.

Can I take a medical timeout to catch my breath if I’m exhausted but not actually injured?

No, the intent of the medical timeout is strictly for acute injuries that require immediate evaluation or treatment. Taking a break just to rest or recover from fatigue would go against the 2023 rule change limiting players to one 5-minute medical timeout per match.


With pickleball’s rising popularity as a recreational hobby and professional sport, long-time players and newcomers alike must stay up-to-date on rule changes that impact strategy and scoring.

The 2023 pickleball rulebook contains several key modifications like banning the one-handed spin serve, allowing immediate stopped play for incorrect scores, contrasting clothing from ball colors, and declaring players hit by returns at fault.

Understanding these latest regulations will ensure all your points, serves, volleys, and dinks conform to the current standards. Keep an eye out towards the future as well, as technology and competitive needs may drive additional advancements to pickleball’s unique rules.


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