6 Pickleball Kitchen Rules | The Non-Volley Zone

Pickleball Kitchen Rules or Non-Volley Zone Rules, without a shadow of a doubt, are one of the most important aspects of comprehending the game. The rules, are quite challenging to grasp, especially for the newcomers to understand what is going on. You might step over the kitchen boundary or serve the ball in the wrong quadrant and wouldn’t even know why the opposing team didn’t return the ball unless the line judges point out the error.

When playing pickleball on the court, you might have heard the phrase “Don’t step into the kitchen!” multiple times. Individuals that have just begun playing pickleball might get confused when it comes to kitchen rules. But once you get the hang of these complicated rules. You can use it to plan your next move, making use of your pickleball paddle rightfully to gain advantage against competitive players.

Pickleball Kitchen Rules Explained:

Pickleball Kitchen Rules are:

  1. Don’t hit the volley when in the kitchen.
  2. The ball must get past the kitchen line when serving.
  3. Don’t drop anything in the kitchen.

These are also called “Non-Volley Zone Rules”.

Finding out what goes and what doesn’t go in the kitchen or non-volley zone is certainly the most frustrating thing to figure out. Many new pickleball players have a hard time and face difficulties, even using the most control-oriented paddle, when understanding the mystery that is the kitchen rules.

What is Kitchen?

The technical phrase for the kitchen is “Non-Volley Zone”. If you paid attention to the way a pickleball court is constructed, you might have noticed that the “kitchen” is about 7 feet on both sides when measured from the net. This 7 feet area got its name from a game called Shuffleboard. In this table game, there is a zone located behind the first scoring area known as the “10-off” area. If the ball lands in this area, 10 points are reduced as a foul or penalty.

Kitchen in Pickleball
Kitchen in Pickleball
Fun Fact: There is nothing mentioned as the “kitchen” in the official Rulebook of either the USAPA or IFP.

Non-Volley Zone/Kitchen Rules:

There are several stipulations attached to the kitchen area. There are some things that are forbidden while some are not. These rules make pickleball somewhat puzzling. But don’t worry! We at Pickleballobby are committed to elaborating on all the crucial rules regarding the non-volley zone. So let’s jump right into it!

Rule #1 – Refrain From Volleys Inside Kitchen:

A lot of pickleball players get confused about this rule. Some people believe that you’re barred from entering this zone. However, there is no truth to this statement. You can stand inside the kitchen as long as you fulfill one condition. And that is, you don’t make contact with the ball or let the ball come in contact with you. If a player strikes the ball while standing in the kitchen. It’ll be considered a foul.

Refrain From Volleys Inside Kitchen
Refrain From Volleys Inside Kitchen

“But what should I do if the ball lands in the non-volley zone?” well there is one way to overcome this problem. Just let the ball bounce against the ground once. When the ball touches the ground, it becomes acceptable to smash the ball. In simpler terms, you can’t strike a volley. Although you can strike a groundstroke.

In simpler terms, you can enter the kitchen zone when you’re playing dink shots, drop shots, groundstrokes, or any shot that let the ball bounce once. Mostly, the pro players trick the opponents by making them comfortable in dink rallies, and then hit a strong volley on their paddle that they can’t miss, and boom! a fault on the opponents. Therefore, make sure, you’re active and reading every shot carefully, and stay away from the kitchen so no one can trick you!

Volley: A strike on the ball that is still in the air and has not touched the ground or bounced back.
Groundstroke: A strike on the ball that has touched the ground or bounced back successfully.

Rule #2 – Don’t drop anything in the Kitchen:

Don’t Drop Anything In The Kitchen
Don’t drop anything in the Kitchen

This rule alone is a little tricky to take in and simultaneously one of the most challenging to get used to. We all know that a player can’t step over the kitchen line to hit a ball. But here comes the hard part. The player themselves or anything that belongs to the player must not be dropped. It could be anything, a paddle, a cap, ring, key, cellphone, etc. if it touches the ground, it’ll be counted as a fault.

It does not matter if you are standing behind the non-volley zone line while your feet are not even touching the kitchen boundary. If any of your possessions find their way into the kitchen area, you’ll be penalized for sure. In addition to that, you have to be very careful while toeing the line and play with utmost consciousness.

Toeing the Line: To play very near the kitchen line, that toe of your shoes without stepping over the line.

Rule #3 – Serve the Ball Beyond NVZ Line:

Another interesting rule that pickleball players must abide by is that the ball must be served in such a way that it goes over the kitchen line across the net. The ball shouldn’t land in the kitchen zone during service or else it’ll be considered a penalty. On top of that, if the ball even grazes the NVZ or the kitchen line. It shall be accounted as a fault.

Serve The Ball Beyond NVZ Line
Serve the Ball Beyond NVZ Line

Rule #4 – Double Trouble:

When playing a doubles match, your teammate can stay in the non-volley zone as long as they want to. You can also smash stunning volleys when the ball comes toward you. Although, it’s only valid until your partner does not come in contact with you or vice versa. But if the partner touches you, then there is no going back as it will be a fault.

Rule #5 – Stay on the Ground:

When you come in contact with the Non-Volley Zone, you’re not allowed to return the volley until you step outside of the kitchen. One might try to jump and then strike the volley as they’re not “inside the kitchen” anymore and then settle down outside the NVZ. Technically, it’s true that they’re not inside the kitchen boundary, but this move will also be counted as a fault.

Rule #6 – Wait. But don’t wait too much:

There is no doubt in the fact that you have to be patient while waiting for the ball to get out of the Non-Volley Zone. Calmly, wait for the ball to come to you, and then smash the volley. One thing to keep an eye out for here is that you have to wait for the perfect moment. If you wait too much, the ball might become dead. If that happens, it’ll also be considered a fault.

Wait. But Don’t Wait Too Much
Wait. but don’t wait too much


It’s extremely significant to get familiarized with all the rules and regulations of the sport if you want to move up in the pickleball world. Understanding the concept of pickleball kitchen rules is no easy feat but once you’re onto it. There’s nothing stopping you. So keep practicing the rules and soon you will master these regulations in no time.

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