The first thing you hear when you enter the pickleball court is, “don’t step into the kitchen, don’t step into the kitchen.” And you hear it over and over again. But what is the pickleball kitchen, you ask?
The kitchen is another term used for a non-volley zone (NVZ) in pickleball. It is a 7 feet-wide area on each side of the net, which extends to the sidelines of the court. Whereas a volley is a shot you hit that hasn’t bounced yet. So to score a point, you need to hit the volley outside the kitchen area or the non-volley zone.
The pickleball kitchen rule states you can stand in the kitchen anytime you want, but you can NOT stand on the kitchen line or in the kitchen while volleying the ball. If you hit a volley from inside the kitchen area, you’re at a kitchen fault.
You need to make sure you do not let your momentum take you into the kitchen area while volleying — you need to play it safe.
All this sounds a little too complicated, and you must be wondering about ways to play it safely and how to score in the game. Well, fret not because we’re going to break it all down for you to understand it easily.
What Is the Pickleball Kitchen Rule?
The pickleball kitchen rule is based on the principle that the ball has bounced or not yet. If a ball has bounced, players can certainly hit it any way they want inside the kitchen area. The key is to NOT hit the volley (the ball that hasn’t bounced) inside the kitchen area or while touching the kitchen line. If a player does, they’re at fault.
This rule includes the swing, the follow-through, and the body’s momentum during the action. All of this happens pretty fast, so there are many chances for players to violate the rule.
This is the essence of the kitchen pickleball rule, but there are different distinctions of the rule that can be summed up in it.
5 Important Pickleball Kitchen Facts
To get a better understanding of how things work in pickleball, you need to know these 5 important pickleball kitchen facts:
- As we’ve mentioned in the beginning, in pickleball, the kitchen is the non-volley zone. A volley is a shot you hit where the ball hasn’t bounced, yet.
- The kitchen is a 7 feet-wide area on both sides of the net, which extends to the sidelines of the court. All of this area is a non-volley zone. A player cannot hit a volley while standing in the kitchen area or touching the kitchen line.
- Similar to the pickleball court lines, the kitchen also has lines that are 2 inches thick on all ends. If a player touches the line while volleying, they are at fault.
- The pickleball kitchen rule makes the game more interesting and a level playing field for all the players. This rule ensures that players smash the volleys while staying away from the kitchen area. Without this rule, pickleball will only remain limited to smashing the ball with or without bounce. Without this rule, the fun element of the game will be eliminated.
- It’s important to remember the kitchen is the physical area on the court, and it is not the space above it. So players can play a volley while keeping their feet in the air in the kitchen area. This won’t be a fault on the player’s part, and they can surely score a point.
These are some of the rules that you need to keep in mind to understand better the dynamics of the kitchen and the pickleball game.
What Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is the 7-feet-wide flat surface on both sides of the net, inside the court, including its lines, all the way to the edges. It is not the air above it nor the 3D space around it.
A non-volley zone means a player cannot hit the volley in that area. A volley, however, is every time a player hits the ball before it bounces out of the air.
This includes an overhead, a normal volley, and the one where a player hits the ball right before it hits the ground.
Players can most certainly enter the kitchen area to hit a shot with the ball that has bounced on the ground. The concept of the kitchen is to eliminate “smash” shots.
Unlike in other games, where the back-and-forth hitting completely ends after a smash, in pickleball, players can still hit a dink with the ball that’s landed on the ground.
A dink is where a player gently hits the ball that has landed on the ground back to the opponent’s court.
Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum came up with the concept to not make the game so hard and to make it more enjoyable.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules Summary
Here’s a quick summary of the pickleball kitchen rules:
- A player cannot be in the kitchen or the kitchen line in pickleball while volleying a ball.
- No player can have any part of their body, paddle, or be in contact with their partner who is inside the kitchen or the kitchen line while hitting a volley.
- The swing, follow-through, and body momentum are all included in the volley.
- So, a player has to maintain these three while staying outside the kitchen and the kitchen line once they hit the volley. A player can always lean in to hit a volley because this means the paddle stays in the air surrounding the kitchen and not the flat surface.
Note: To be safe to score a point, it is important to stay behind the kitchen and the kitchen line while you volley the ball.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules Explained
By now, you must have understood the gist of the pickleball kitchen rules. Therefore, it is time to have a look at the USAPA kitchen rules in detail.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9A
The volleys must be played outside of the kitchen or the non-volley zone.
This rule is quite simple: a player has to stay behind the kitchen and the kitchen line to play a volley.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9B
A player is at fault if any part of the player’s body is inside the non-volley zone while volleying the ball.
This encompasses everything that touched the paddle before and after the action, including the swing, follow-through, and momentum while hitting a volley.
This rule is quite tricky, as it includes your whole body, accessories, and paddle to be outside the kitchen line while you hit a volley. You miss a point if you drop anything during the action or if you touch your partner inside the kitchen line — yikes!
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9C
A player is at fault if their momentum causes them to touch their partner, the kitchen, or the kitchen line while volleying the ball. The rule applies even if the ball is dead and the player touches the non-volley zone.
Players need to stay behind the kitchen line, even if the ball is dead. The only chance at scoring is if the ball has bounced inside the court.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9D
A player cannot volley if their foot is touching the kitchen line until they move outside the kitchen area. Jumping outside the non-volley zone, only to hit the volley and then jumping back in is also a fault.
So players, don’t try that. You have to stay outside the kitchen line to score a volley!
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9E
Players can most definitely enter inside the kitchen or step on the kitchen to play a shot that is not a volley.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9F
In order to hit the ball that has bounced, a player may enter and exit a non-volley zone.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9G
A player can stay inside the kitchen area to hit that ball that has bounced and may continue to stay inside the non-volley zone even after hitting the shot. There is no fault there.
Note: It is extremely important to stay away from the kitchen and the kitchen line while playing a volley. This cannot be said enough times.
Pickleball Kitchen Rule 9H
No rule will be violated if players hit a volley while their partner stands inside the non-volley zone.
Note: Both players don’t have to stay outside the non-volley zone, but only the player who hits a volley shot.
Yes, a player can go inside the kitchen, stay inside it and play the shots that are not volleys. The player only needs to be outside the kitchen while hitting a volley shot. This includes staying outside NVZ during the swing, follow-through, and momentum of the action.
If a ball has landed inside the kitchen, it can be dinked back to the opponent’s court while staying inside the non-volley zone. There’s no violation of the rules here.
Only the serve needs to be hit outside the non-volley zone (kitchen). Otherwise, in pickleball, the return shot can certainly land in the kitchen.
Hey, fellow pickleball player!
My name is Ethan Josephson. I am a pickleball enthusiast who has been playing this fantastic game for more than 5 years. Before that I had almost 20-years-experience with tennis and table tennis, but pickleball fascinated me completely.