Pickleball line rules are straightforward—if the ball is touching the line, it’s in. If it’s not touching the line, it’s out. And if the ball can’t clearly be called “out,” it’s “in.” Pickleball has a unique culture that emphasizes erring on the side of generosity toward your opponent when it comes to line calling.
How Line Rules Work in Pickleball
In pickleball, the basic line call rules are simple:
- When serving, the pickleball must land in the diagonally opposite service court. It can hit the lines on that side of the court, but if it lands outside of them, it’s out-of-bounds.
- During normal play, the ball is considered in-bounds if it lands anywhere within the pickleball court, including on the lines. If it lands outside the lines, the ball is out-of-bounds.
- Only players (or line judges and referees) may make calls. Spectators can’t weigh in.
Who Makes the Line Calls in Pickleball
In most matches, the players on the court make the line calls in pickleball. Typically, it’s expected that the players closest to the ball will make the call, which means if the pickleball lands on your side of the court, you make the call. If it’s too close to call, you should give the benefit of the doubt to your opponent.
It’s unusual for points to be replayed during casual pickleball play. If there’s a dispute over whether the ball is in or out, you could theoretically request to replay the point in casual play. However, it’s considered best practice to err on the side of generosity rather than dispute the call.
In tournament play, there is often a line judge as well as a referee. In this case, the line judge is charge of calling “in” or “out,” and the referee oversees overall adherence to the rules of pickleball. In matches with line judges, the players are only responsible for calling the centerline on the serve.
Players can appeal a line judge’s calls to the referee, who may overrule the calls and allow a replay of the point. If there is only a referee, the players still make the line calls.
When to Make a Line Call in Pickleball
It’s important to wait until the ball has hit the court before making a line call. Calling it before it’s hit the court is considered bad etiquette.
On a serve, a ball may be called out if it lands in the non-volley zone, or outside the lines of the appropriate service court. In any other type of situation, a ball can only be called out if it lands completely outside the lines of the pickleball court.
It’s also important to make line calls quickly before the ball is dead. Otherwise, the ball is considered to be still in play.
How to Make a Line Call in Pickleball
Pickleball rules emphasize that players should only call a ball “out” when they have absolute certainty. It is also necessary for players to correctly signal a line call using both their voice and their hands so that other players know the ball is out of play.
Additionally, players must always give their opponents the advantage on a line call, which means that if there is any doubt about the call, the opponent will be granted the rally.
Hand Signals for Line Call
Hand signals should be used by players to make a line call:
- When calling the ball “in,” hold your hand flat with your palm facing downwards toward the court.
- When calling the ball “out,” point upwards or in the direction of the ball with your index finger.
Resolving Disputes Over Pickleball Line Calls
Line call disputes shouldn’t happen much on the pickleball court since the etiquette dictates making calls in favor of your opponent. Here are a few guidelines to resolve pickleball line call disputes:
- If there’s no referee or line judge, the team on the side of the court where the pickleball goes out of bounds gets to make the call. The team needs to be certain the ball went out of bounds. Otherwise, they should give their opponents the benefit of the doubt and call the ball “in.”
- If there’s a referee (and no line judge), players can ask the referee to make the call.
- If there’s a referee and a line judge, any decision made by a line judge can be appealed to the referee for review.
- Occasionally, two players on the same team may disagree with each other, with one calling “out” and the other calling “in.” In this case, the ball is assumed to be “in.”
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