Free Shipping Over $50*


Your Cart is Empty

What Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?

by Pickleball Superstore™ January 22, 2024

Aerial view of a pickleball complex featuring several geometric courts

Have you ever walked past a pickleball court and heard someone loudly shout, “Kitchen!” followed by a big commotion? There’s a good reason for that!

The kitchen is the name for the non-volley zone on a standard pickleball court. Pickleball kitchen rules are entirely unique to the sport. Even new players with some experience with tennis or other paddle sports likely have questions about the kitchen rules.

Once you’re comfortable with the kitchen rules in pickleball, however, the game becomes a lot more fun! We’ll explain everything you need to know to master these tricky rules and win your next match! Let’s jump in!

All About the Kitchen in Pickleball

You won’t find a reference to the kitchen in an official pickleball rulebook. It’s actually a casual term that players started using unofficially. The official name for this segment of the court is the non-volley zone. All “kitchen rules” in official rulebooks from the IFP and USAPA will use that terminology instead.

Why Is It Called the Kitchen in Pickleball?

Many new players wonder where the term came from. The agreed-upon mythology seems to be that it was borrowed from the sport of shuffleboard. There is an area on the shuffleboard court known as the “10-off” area. This penalty zone is also colloquially called the kitchen.

Shuffleboard is the older sport, so pickleball players may have borrowed the term. After all, “non-volley zone” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!

How Big Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?

The kitchen is the area that extends 7” on both sides of the net. On most pickleball courts, this rectangular area will be marked off.

The area called the kitchen refers to the space on the ground only. The airspace above and around the non-volley zone is not subject to any pickleball rules about the kitchen.

An isometric diagram of a standard pickleball court, which clearly shows the location of the kitchen

What Are the Pickleball Kitchen Rules?

Once you know the kitchen is also called the non-volley zone, the basic pickleball kitchen rule becomes clear. You cannot volley while in the kitchen! The ball must bounce at least once before you can legally step onto that part of the court.

It is against the rules to make any contact with the kitchen, including the kitchen line on the court, while volleying a ball. That includes anything you are wearing or carrying, from pickleball shoes to paddles. If you or anything on your person enters the zone or touches the line, a ref (or your opponents) can declare a fault.

Faults can include:

  • Dropping a paddle into the kitchen
  • Momentum carrying you into the kitchen
  • A partner being pushed into the kitchen
  • Entering the kitchen after a ball is declared dead

All to say, if your ball has not bounced, stay away from the kitchen! This includes any volley you attempt while in the air, even if you land outside the kitchen. If the ball does not bounce first, it’s always a fault.

Can You Step In the Kitchen in Pickleball?

You can absolutely step in the kitchen in pickleball as long as you are not making a volley before the ball has bounced! Just about anything else you want to do there is fair game. The best way to avoid a penalty is to ensure the ball bounces first.

Our best tip for avoiding a penalty, however, is to resist the urge to linger in the kitchen. The instinct to volley the ball is often very strong. If an oncoming ball triggers your reflex, you will almost always act out of instinct. This gets a lot of players in trouble!

Master the Pickleball Rules

The kitchen rule can be tricky for new players. Once you understand the role of the kitchen in pickleball, however, you’re on your way to mastering the sport!

Are you ready to put this rule into practice? Use our pickleball court locator to find a court near you! Learning on your feet is the most fun way to learn the rules of pickleball!

Pickleball Superstore™
Pickleball Superstore™