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Can You Carry the Ball in Pickleball?

Over the shoulder shot of man hitting a pickleball with a paddle.

I’ve dug deep into some pickleball rules lately after a desire to learn more about this sport. It taught me what carrying the ball means and if it’s appropriate in this game.

What is “carrying the ball” in pickleball?

“Carrying the ball” means that you make contact with the ball by pushing it with the paddle. It does not bounce off the paddle toward your desired play direction. Sometimes, a carry happens intentionally, but it also may occur unintentionally.

This sometimes coincides with accidental or “on-purpose” double hits.

Is carrying allowed in pickleball?

Adult man playing pickleball in court.

I thought I saw a source that says carrying is allowed in some instances in pickleball. However, I did come across this text in the USA Pickleball Rulebook Section 7 – Fault Rules (Rule 7.L.). A fault would occur if a player is caught “deliberately carrying or catching the ball on the paddle while performing the serve or during a rally.”

After a fault occurs, it prevents the serving team from scoring. In doubles pickleball, the second person may still have a chance to serve. In singles pickleball, the serving team forfeits the faulted ball back to the receiving team, who now has the chance to serve.

The rule text for ball carrying comes from the USA Pickleball 2002 Rulebook. I have also seen conversations about this that hopefully could clear up some confusion.

Double-Hit and Carry Rules

Male pickelball player reaches for the ball during a tournament.

I found more information about both double hits and carries. It’s in Section 11 – Other Rules of the official USA Pickleball Rulebook. It’s in the same 2022 version where I found the Section 7 – Fault Rules pertaining to ball carrying.

Sometimes carrying happens unintentionally, and it may happen along with a double hit. I don’t know enough about pickleball yet to explain this as well as I’d like. All I know is that you can only hit the ball in one direction.

Only one person can hit the ball too — not more than one player. Carries and double hits done on purpose are not allowed. If a referee or another impartial judge sees you do this, then, it disqualifies the play.

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It’s considered a fault that could cause you to lose your serve or lose the chance to score a point.

Other Ball Carry Scenarios

Close-up of a pickleball on a pickleball court.

Normally, a fault will occur if the ball hits a player or anything the player is wearing or has in their hand. Betsy, the Crazy Pickleball Lady, expounds on this and reveals one exception found in the Section 7 Fault Rules. Betsy says that a ball that hits a player’s arm is considered “dead” and a fault has occurred.

However, a ball that hits a player’s hand right below the wrist is considered “part of the paddle.” Rule 7.H of the Pickleball Rulebook Fault Rules confirms this. It says “except the paddle or the players hands” that comes “in contact with the paddle and below the wrist.

This includes when a player has changed the hand in which the paddle is held. From what I know right now, it would have to be a complete paddle handoff from one hand to the other. That means you can’t still have the handle partially in both hands, at least as far as I know.

It’s best to review all the fault rules to understand double hit and carry rules. For now, know that the part of your wrist below where you hold the paddle acts as an extension of that paddle. Update: I did find out some pickleball leagues allow two-handed strokes.

This would mean that the ball can hit either hand where it extends from the paddle and nowhere else.


How does a referee know that a carry is intentional?

I haven’t a clue to be honest. I think the opposing team probably would have to point it out. Then, any ref who saw it would make the judgment call. You may want to sift through the how to play section to find more answers.

Joining a local or national pickleball association and connecting with other players could help you learn better how a ref makes these calls too.

What’s the penalty for a pickleball carry?

It usually results in the loss of a serve or the loss of the chance to score a point.

What’s the penalty for a pickleball double hit?

It causes a “fault” and the loss of serve or chance to score a point for your team.