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If Pickleball Hits the Line Is That In or Out?

A pickleball hitting on the court line.

In 2022, you can make ball “in or out” calls by rewinding video footage of a pickleball game. What if you don’t record the game though? It’s a matter of point of view, which can be wrong.

Related To: How Pickleball Tournaments Work? | How to Keep Score in Pickleball | Switching Court Sides in Pickleball Explained

First Things First: What does “in or out” mean in pickleball?

A yellow pickleball left in the court.

“In” means the ball is within the boundary line once it has dropped to the ground. “Out” means that the ball is out of bounds.

If the ball lands on the ground and is “in,” the serving team continues to serve. If the ball is “out,” the other team gets to serve if it’s a single’s match. For doubles, the second person gets a chance to serve before losing the ball to the other team (except for the first serve sequence).

Non-Volley (Kitchen) Zone Not Included

A vector illustration of a pickleball court.

The usual “in or out of” bounds rules doesn’t apply to the non-volley zone (a.k.a. “The kitchen”). This area directly in front of both sides of the net is a place where neither team should enter. They also must not hit the ball while it is still in the air. It must bounce first.

Sometimes, this section, which should not be touched, results in a ball landing on the non-volley zone line. When this happens, the ball is considered “out” instead of “in” like on in the volley zones.

Why is “In Or Out” such a tough call?

A pickleball outside of the court line.

“The ball is covering the line from our viewpoint, but it is actually not touching the ground,” says Lynn Cherry, who has played pickleball since 2018.

That’s one example of how the point of view affects whether we think a ball is “in” or “out.” Our perspective makes us think that the ball is “on the line,” which means “in.” However, the ball from another standpoint could appear to be on the grass, not on the line.

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So How Do We “Make The Call?”

Referees sometimes also have to diffuse arguments when opposing players and fans yell “it’s out!” or “it’s in!” It can be a mess, but it’s a referee’s job to make the final “in or out” judgment call.

As far as the call itself, Pickleball Kitchen says, “If the ball physically touches the paint that the line is made of, it is in.”

Pickleball Kitchen also explains that a ball that doesn’t touch the paint and “lands outside the zone in question” is “out.”

Making the call of “in” or “out” is not always as cut and dry as we like it to be though. That’s one reason why pickleball matches, like most other games, have referees. They look at all points of view to determine what players standing too far away cannot decide.

It’s About Where The Ball Touches

A pickleball player making a serve on a game.

When in doubt, it’s where the ball touches, not where it hovers over. That’s advice coming straight from USA Pickleball, which is “the” official athletic association for this sport.

When you look down at a ball from the front, it looks like part of that ball does cover the line. However, it’s not actually “touching” the line. Really, it’s on the green to the left of the line. If you look at the ball from the side and the back, you’ll see that the bottom of the ball is on the grass.

Why does ball line position matter?

A pickleball paddle and a ball on the court.

The ball position, which determines if a ball is in or out of bounds (the line), also determines who serves next. Where the ball lands will also establish whether or not the serving team or receiving team (team not serving right now) makes the fault that causes loss of point or serve.

Balls landing in certain spots also could result in scoring for one team or the other. That’s why discussions between opponents can become heated and referee mediation is needed.

For Ball Position in Non-Volley Zones

If either team doesn’t allow the ball to bounce once before volleying in a non-volley zone, that’s how a fault is determined. The tricky part is whether or not you should hit a ball that bounces from the non-volley line. As long as your momentum doesn’t carry you into the non-volley zone before it does bounce, you should be fine.