If you've ever played, or even talked about pickleball, you've likely heard of pickleball Kitchen rules. The "Kitchen", also referred to as the Non-Volley Zone, is often one of the first elements new players trip up on.In this guide, we explain:
- What is the Kitchen in pickleball?
- Why is the NVZ called the Kitchen?
- What are the pickleball Kitchen rules?
When you're learning how to play pickleball, understanding how you should interact with the Kitchen is vital to making the leap from a beginner to an intermediate player. Plus, once you know how the Kitchen works, you can use it to your advantage and pull off more advanced plays.
What Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
The Kitchen, as we and the majority of players refer to it, is officially called the Non-Volley Zone (or NVZ for short).
It's the area located 7 feet on either side of the net, from sideline to sideline, and the line marking its location is called the Kitchen line/NVZ line.
Some of the most intense and exciting pickleball rallies occur in and around this part of the court, and a lot of scoring opportunities occur at the Kitchen line. So if you're playing at that line, you'll need quick reactions in order to make your shots count.
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We'll get into the reasons for this later. But first, let's talk more about the Kitchen itself.
How Big Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
A standard pickleball court is44 feet long by 20 feet wide. The Kitchen covers the area within 7' of the net on both sides and extends from sideline to sideline.
That means on each side of the net, the Kitchen is 7 feet deep by 20 feet wide, for a total area of 140 square feet.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules To Know
As a pickleball player, it's important to form good habits and learn the Kitchen rules early. TheUSA Pickleball Rulebook for American players, and the IFP Rulebook for international players, spend a lot of time talking about the Non-Volley Zone.
While the term "kitchen" is frequently used by players, there are no mentions of it in the rulebooks. To search for these rules, you need to use the term Non-Volley, and remember that a volley simply means hitting the ball before it's touched the ground.
You Can't Volley in the Kitchen
While this one may seem obvious, it's a rule that's regularly misunderstood. A common myth is that you can't go into the Kitchen unless the ball bounces. But this simply isn't true!
You can be in the Kitchen any time you want, but you can't hit the ballwhile you're in the Kitchen until it bounces. If you have so much as a toe on the line and you volley the ball, it's a fault.
This rule isn't just limited to the moment your paddle hits the ball, though. You can't enter the Kitchen during your swing, follow-through, or the momentum of the action. Even if your opponent hits the next shot, if your continued momentum from that shot carries you into the Kitchen, it's a fault.
Because of the wording of those rules, advanced players will often execute an Erne shot as a way of hitting a volley inside the Kitchen, without breaking the rules!
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How Does this Rule Affect Wheelchair Users?
Wheelchair pickleball rules allow the player to volley the ball with their front wheels on or inside the Kitchen line. But if the rear wheels touch the line and they volley the ball, it's a fault.
The Kitchen Line is Part of the Kitchen
The lines outlining the edge of the Kitchen are considered part of the Kitchen itself, meaning you can't volley while touching any of those lines – this includes both the Kitchen line and the sidelines.
Neither Your Body or Equipment Can Touch the Kitchen When Volleying
No part of your body or equipment can touch the Kitchen while performing the entire volley motion. That includes your paddle striking the Kitchen area while making a volley on a low ball.
Fortunately, the Kitchen only refers to the area on the ground and doesn't include the space above it! Therefore, your body or paddle may cross the plane of the Kitchen line, as long as nothing touches the ground within its borders.
However, there are a few stipulations that you need to be aware of with this:
Nothing You're Touching Can Be in the Kitchen When Volleying
If you hit a volley and bump into your doubles partner whose foot is on the kitchen line, you'll have committed a fault.
No Item of Clothing can fall into the Kitchen zone when hitting a volley
In addition to your body and your paddle, if any piece of clothing or any other gear you are wearing such as a hat or sunglasses, falls into the Kitchen zone while hitting a volley, it is a fault.
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Both Feet Must Be on the Ground Outside the Kitchen
Both feet must be outside the Kitchen before hitting a volley. While that may seem obvious, this rule is aimed at players who are in the kitchen to hit a shot and must then get back out quickly before another shot is hit at them.
You must establish both feet on the ground outside of the Kitchen if you're forced to hit a volley!
Serving and the Kitchen
The service box consists of the Kitchen line, the center line, the sideline, and the end line. The center, side, and end lines are all considered "in", or good if a served ball lands on them. The Kitchen line, however, is considered as "out".
That means a serve must completely clear the Kitchen line to be considered a valid serve – even if it grazes the net.
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What Can You Do in the Kitchen?
You can do anything you want in the Kitchen! You can hit any type of shot you wish from inside the Kitchen, as long as the ball bounces first.
Although probably not a good strategy, you can hit a groundstroke while standing in the Kitchen, or a dink, or a lob. You can move within the Kitchen freely and you can stay there as long as you'd like, as long as you don't volley the ball.
Our guide to pickleball lobs
In doubles pickleball, one teammate can be inside the Kitchen while the other volleys, as long as you don't touch each other in the process of making the shot.
Just remember, as long as you don't volley in the Kitchen, you won't violate the pickleball kitchen rules.
Here's a great recap on all the do's and don'ts of play in the Kitchen from the Pickleball Channel:
What Is Dinking?
A "dink" is a softer pickleball shot, usually played from near the kitchen line. It's hit with control and finesse over the net and intended to land in the opponent's Kitchen –keeping the ball close to the net and forcing your opponent to let it bounce.
A well-placed dink can force your opponent into a different position. This creates scoring opportunities by making it difficult for your opponent to volley the ball, and keep them moving until you see an opening.
Patience is key, so keep the ball low to prevent your opponent from hitting a hard volley or even an overhead smash. They might even pop up their return, allowing you to attack the ball.
Whether you use a dink as part of an offensive strategy or as a defensive shot, it'll give you time to move into a better position and help you keep your opponent on the run.
Why Is There a Non-Volley Zone In Pickleball?
The Kitchen serves a few purposes in pickleball, and forces players to play more strategically, rather thancamping out at the net, and smashing the ball back at their opponents.
It's a vital rule to maintain the enjoyability of prolonged rallies and strategic play, andplayers must learn to rely on better footwork and shot placement if they want to outplay their opponents.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules and the Erne
The Erne shot is an advanced move named after Erne Perry, who popularized the shot in tournament play, and it can be devastating when used properly.
It's difficult to master, but it involves a player quickly shifting outside of the sideline to volley the ball as it comes into the Kitchen. Because the player isn't technically in the Kitchen, it's a perfectly legal move!
How Is an Erne Legal?
When performing an Erne, the player never touches the Kitchen. The pickleball rulebook states that players can't hit the ball out of the air while standing in the Kitchen or touching the Kitchen line, but that line doesn't extend beyond the sidelines.
So, if you're in the air above the Kitchen, or are standing outside the court lines beside the Kitchen, it's legal to volley. Just make sure you don't hit the ball on your opponents' side of the net or cross over to their side while the ball is still in your court.
Our Guide to Erne shots
Why Is it Called the Kitchen in Pickleball?
Nobody knows for certain why pickleball's Non-Volley Zone is called the Kitchen. However, there are a few popular theories:
One explanation is that the term is borrowed from shuffleboard, which also has a Kitchen. In shuffleboard, the Kitchen is behind the scoring zones in what's called the "10-off area". If a player's shot lands in the Kitchen, they lose 10 points. No one wants to be in that Kitchen!
Given that pickleball's creators drew heavily on other leisure games, it's definitely possible they may have borrowed the term from shuffleboard.
Another popular theory is it refers to the old phrase, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen".
With both teams' players positioned at the Kitchen line, they are only 14' apart. Rallies can get hot at the Kitchen line, and even hotter if you have to step into the kitchen to make a shot!
If we had to put a pin in it, we think it's probably a bit of both.
See the origins of pickleball
The Bottom Line - The Kitchen Rules!
If you haven't actually played pickleball, the Kitchen rules might sound complicated, but they're actually pretty simple in practice, and they quickly become second nature.
When in doubt, just remember: unless the ball has bounced, stay out of the Kitchen!
If you're thinking of putting your newfound Kitchen knowledge to use, why not ?
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What is the kitchen in pickleball? ›
The seven-foot zone on each side of the net is known as the non-volley zone, more commonly referred to as “the kitchen” of a pickleball court. Players are not permitted to volley while standing in it. The kitchen rule exists to prevent a player from standing at the net and smashing every hit.When can I step in the kitchen in pickleball? ›
In pickleball, when can you be in the kitchen? Pickleball players are allowed inside the kitchen (non-volley zone) only after the ball has bounced. It is common practice for experienced players to casually step into the kitchen to return a short dink. If you step into the kitchen, be sure to exit as soon as you can.Is the kitchen line out on a serve? ›
All of the lines of the correct service court, except for the Non-Volley Zone line (also known as the Kitchen line), are “in.” This means that if the served pickleball lands on the sideline, centerline, or baseline, the serve is “in.” If the pickleball lands in the Non-Volley Zone (or the Kitchen), on the Non-Volley ...Can you hit the ball in the kitchen? ›
The kitchen is the area within seven feet from each side of the net. In this area, you're not allowed to hit a volley (striking the ball before it bounces). The kitchen only extends the width of the court, so you're allowed to stand on the side of the non-volley zone, although it's best not to in most situations.Why is it called the kitchen? ›
of coquinus "of cooks," from coquus "cook," from coquere "to cook" (from PIE root *pekw- "to cook, ripen"). The Old English word might be directly from Vulgar Latin.
The first thing to remember about the kitchen is that you cannot stand in it or make contact with the kitchen line while volleying the ball. If any part of your body is making contact with these areas, your opponent receives a point. This rule discourages from standing at the net for the duration of the game.Can your foot touch the kitchen line in pickleball? ›
A player cannot be in the Kitchen, or on the Kitchen line, during play unless the ball lands into the Kitchen first. A player's body or any part of it that comes in contact with the Kitchen, or Kitchen line, will be at fault. A player cannot touch the kitchen line with their swing, follow-through, or momentum.What is the #1 mistake beginner pickleball players make? ›
1. Scooting up after the serve. The most common mistake I see is that after serving, they scoot up a bit. The problem with this is that the return server is going to hit the ball as deep as possible, and if you've scooted up following your shot, you'll have to run back or will have a very hard time returning the shot.Can your foot cross the line when you serve in pickleball? ›
At the time the ball is struck, the server's feet may not touch the court or outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline and at least one foot must be behind the baseline on the playing surface or the ground behind the baseline.Can you jump and land in the kitchen in pickleball? ›
Can you ever go in the kitchen in pickleball? You can go in the kitchen in pickleball at any time during a game but you can't stand in the kitchen and volley the ball. This means that if the ball has bounced, you can stand in the kitchen and hit the ball.
WHO calls in the kitchen in pickleball? ›
It still stands that either team can call a foot fault, however, a new clarification as been added. In Section 9i it states, “For non-officiated play, non-volley-zone faults may be called by any player on either team.