What Happens When You Hit the Net in Pickleball? Understanding Fault Rules

Pickleball is a paddle sport with rules that sometimes puzzle its players, especially when involving the net.

When you hit the net during play, different outcomes may arise depending on the circumstance.

For example, during a serve, if the ball touches the net and lands in the appropriate service court, the serve is considered a let, and the server is allowed to retry without penalty.

This rule allows the game to continue seamlessly, reducing disruptions and maintaining the flow of play.

The pickleball hits the net, causing it to vibrate and create a distinct "thwack" sound

When the ball is in play, if it hits the net and goes over into the opponent’s court within bounds, it remains in play. The opposing player must return the ball before it bounces twice.

However, one must be cautious as any direct contact with the net on a swing outside of a legal play on the ball, including touching it with your paddle, your body, or even your clothing, results in a fault.

Key Takeaways

  • A serve touching the net but landing inbounds is a let, allowing for a re-serve.
  • The ball hitting the net during play but landing inbounds continues to be in play.
  • Touching the net with any part of your body or equipment during play is a fault.

Basic Rules of Pickleball

A pickleball hits the net and bounces back onto the player's side

Pickleball is a sport that combines elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Understanding the basic rules is crucial to playing the game correctly and enjoying it to the fullest.

Court Dimensions:

  • The court is a rectangle measuring 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, inclusive of lines for both singles and doubles play.


  • Paddles: Similar to a large ping-pong paddle, made of wood or composite materials.
  • Ball: Lightweight and perforated for play in indoor and outdoor conditions.


  • You must serve underhand and below the waist.
  • The serve is diagonal, starting from the right-hand service square to the opposing service square.


  • Games are typically played to 11, 15, or 21 points.
  • You must win by 2 points.
  • Only the serving team can score points.


  • To volley means to hit the ball in the air before it bounces.
  • You must avoid the non-volley zone (the kitchen) when volleying.

When it comes to the net and what occurs if you hit it, the USA Pickleball rulebook states:

  • Your serve must clear the net without touching it. If the ball hits the net and lands in the correct service court, it is called a “let” and you reserve.
  • During gameplay, if the ball hits the net (excluding the serve) and goes over into the opponent’s court, the ball is still in play.
  • If the ball hits the net and fails to go over, the opposing team earns a point or gains the serve.

Net Height:

  • At the sidelines, the net height is 36 inches, and it drops to 34 inches at the center.

Serving in Pickleball

Serving in pickleball initiates the point and has specific rules about the service area, let serves, and what constitutes a fault on serve.

Service Area

When you serve in pickleball, you must stand behind the baseline and between the centerline and sideline. You are not permitted to step on or over the line during your serve.

The serve shot should be hit underhand and the ball must be struck below the waist level. The goal is to land the ball diagonally across the court within the opposing service area.

Let Serves

A let serve occurs when the ball hits the net during the service motion but still lands in the correct service area. In such cases, the serve is replayed without penalty. There is no limit to the number of let serves allowed during a player’s turn to serve.

Faults on Serve

  • A fault on serve happens if the ball:
    • Touches any part of the non-volley zone, including the line, on the serve.
    • Lands out of bounds.
    • Fails to clear the net.
    • Strikes the server or their teammate in doubles.

If a fault occurs, the service passes to the opposing team (in doubles) or to the other player (in singles). The server does not get a second chance unless it was a let serve.

In-Play Rules

When you hit the net during play in pickleball, the outcome depends on whether the ball lands inbounds and during which part of play the event occurs.

Volley Shots

If you hit a volley in play and the ball touches the net and continues into your opponent’s court, the ball is still in play. This is true as long as the ball lands within the bounds marked by the baselines and sidelines.

Non-Volley Zone

The Non-Volley Zone, commonly known as the kitchen, has specific rules.

If you volley the ball and it hits the net but lands in the kitchen, play continues except if you step on or over the kitchen line before making a volley shot; this would be a fault.

Out of Bounds and Inbounds

  • Out of Bounds: When a ball in play hits the net and falls out of bounds, the rally ends, and the player who hit the ball loses the point.
  • Inbounds: If the ball contacts the net but lands in the opponent’s area within bounds, the rally continues.

Players need to observe several key details while the ball is in play:

  • The ball can only bounce once before being hit.
  • The ball can be played off a bounce (groundstroke) or volleyed.

During the Service:

  • Let Serve: A serve hitting the net and landing inbounds is a let and should be reserved.
  • Fault: If the serve hits the net and lands out of bounds or in the kitchen, it’s a fault, and the serving player loses the serve.
Volley TypeNet ContactBall Lands in NVZBall Lands InboundsOutcome
VolleyYesYesN/APlay continues
VolleyYesNoYesPlay continues
ServeYesNo (Let Serve)YesServe is reserved (no point awarded)
ServeYesYes or Out of BoundsNoServing player commits fault

Net Rules and Regulations

A pickleball hits the net, causing a slight bounce and then dropping to the ground

Understanding the specific regulations regarding the net in pickleball ensures you can effectively navigate scenarios involving a ball hitting the net, the net structure itself, and personal contact with the net during gameplay.

Ball Interaction with the Net

When you play pickleball, the ball will often hit the net, and it’s crucial to know the outcome of these plays.

If the ball hits the net during a rally and lands in bounds, the ball remains in play. However, a ball that contacts the net and then lands out of bounds, lands in the non-volley zone, or hits a permanent object like the pole is considered out, ending the rally.

Net Posts and Center Strap

Pickleball courts have specific regulations for the net posts and center strap to maintain standard play conditions.

The regulation net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the center, differing slightly from a regular tennis net.

It is important to ensure that the center strap is properly adjusted to maintain the correct height at the middle of the net, as this can affect gameplay.

Player Contact with the Net

As a pickleball player, you are not allowed to touch the net, net posts, center strap, or even the opposing team’s side of the court. Any such contact results in a fault, giving the point to the other team.

Remember, this rule includes all parts of your body and clothing, so maintain a safe distance from the net at all times to avoid penalties.

Scenarios Involving the Net

When playing pickleball, various scenarios can arise involving the net. Understanding the rules pertaining to these situations is crucial for maintaining the flow of the game and knowing how to react accordingly.

Dead Ball Situations

In pickleball, if you hit the ball and it connects with the net post or any part associated with it, the ball is considered out of bounds, which results in a dead ball. Landing out of bounds gives the opponent the advantage, as it is called a fault and play stops.

Here is a simple breakdown:

  • Player or Ball Contacts the Net Post: Fault
  • Ball Lands Out: Point for Opponent

Replays and Lets

A let occurs when a served ball hits the net but still lands in the correct service court. This doesn’t count as a fault. Instead, it calls for a replay, meaning you serve again without penalty.

The service must be repeated without changing the server’s advantage. Remember, a let is only valid during a serve, not in regular play.

  • Serve Hits Net and Lands Properly: Let — Serve Again
  • Serve Hits Net and Lands Improperly: Fault — Point for Opponent

Use this information to guide your responses in net-related plays, ensuring you keep the advantage or avoid faults during your match.

Advanced Play and Strategies

In advanced pickleball play, your strategic choices at the net, including your ability to execute lobs, return shots, and ATPs (around the post shots), can significantly influence the outcome of the match.

Mastering these techniques allows you to keep your opponents off balance and capitalize on opportunities to win points.

Lob and Return Shots

When facing a net attack, strategic use of lob shots can give you breathing room. Lobs arc the ball high over your opponent’s reach, ideally landing close to the baseline.

Successful lobs force your opponents to quickly retreat from the non-volley line, which can momentarily throw them off their rhythm.

With an effective lob strategy, what happens when you hit the net barrier in pickleball is less critical, as you’re focusing your play on depth and control rather than net-clearance.

Your return shots should also be deliberate. Quick reflexes are vital since return shots usually occur after a volley exchange at the net.

Strive to hit the ball with precision, focusing on placing the ball where your opponent isn’t. The goal is to make them work for every point, attacking their weaknesses and keeping the pressure on.

Around The Post Shots

Around the post shots (ATPs) represent high-skilled pickleball prowess. ATPs circumvent the net entirely by going around the net post, staying at a low height.

To execute an around the post shot:

  1. Anticipate the ball’s trajectory as it travels wide off the court.
  2. Position yourself so that you can strike the ball before it crosses past the net.
  3. Aim the ball horizontally just around the net post, targeting the opponent’s court.

Here is a technique breakdown:

Step 1Read the ball’s path
Step 2Move quickly to the ball’s side
Step 3Strike the ball firmly, aiming it low and just inside

For further expertise on aggressive net play and surprise elements like the around the post shots, enhance your knowledge by learning specific techniques to dominate the net.

Incorporating advanced strategies such as lob and return shots, and around the post shots into your repertoire will increase your ability to react swiftly and with precision when up at the net, making you a formidable opponent in pickleball.

In pickleball, specific faults occur in relation to the net that could hinder your play. Understanding these will help you avoid penalties and improve your game strategy.

  • Serve Fault: When you serve, if the ball touches the net and lands in the wrong service court or not at all, it is a fault. A serve that hits the net and proceeds to land in the correct service area is known as a “let” and the serve is replayed.
  • Net Contact by Player: During play, if you or any part of your paddle or clothing touches the net, it is a fault. This rule applies whenever the ball is in play.
  • Volleying the Ball in the Non-Volley Zone (Kitchen): A common fault occurs when a player volleys the ball – hitting it before it bounces – while standing in the non-volley zone, sometimes called the ‘kitchen’. To avoid this fault, ensure both your feet are behind the non-volley zone line before and after the volley.

In addition to personal faults, external factors can also cause net-related faults:

  • Ball Rolling to Opponent’s Side: If the ball in play rolls on the net and then drops onto the opponent’s side, the rally continues as normal.
  • Wind Affecting Ball Trajectory: Unexpected winds may cause the ball to hit the net or alter its intended direction, leading to a fault if it doesn’t cross over.

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with these scenarios and corresponding rules. For a more detailed breakdown, refer to the discussions on ball hitting the net in pickleball and a comprehensive explanation of fault rules in pickleball.

Handling Net Play

When engaging in net play during pickleball, your hand and wrist movements are critical for quick reactions. Ensuring effective techniques will help you handle balls that hit the net and maintain control during fast-paced exchanges.

Effective Net Play Tips

  • Positioning Your Hand and Wrist: Keep your wrist firm and your hand ready for a swift, controlled response. Your paddle should be out in front, allowing for quick directional changes to handle net balls effectively.
  • Quick Reactions: Stay on your toes and anticipate the ball’s movement. Be ready to react swiftly if the ball clips the net, maintaining a balanced stance for stability.

Here are some actionable strategies to improve your net play:

  1. Improve Your Reflexes: Sharpen your reflexes with drills that simulate net balls. By practicing these scenarios, you will become more adept at responding to unpredictable net shots.
  2. Master the Soft Game: Utilize soft shots, like dinks and drop shots, from the net to outmaneuver your opponents. A gentle touch can turn a difficult net situation into an offensive opportunity.
  3. Develop Hand-Eye Coordination: Engage in exercises that enhance your hand-eye coordination. The better this skill, the more precise your paddle work will be when the ball hits the net.
  4. Anticipate and Move: Learn to anticipate where the ball will go after a net contact. Move toward the ball quickly, keeping your paddle prepared for a swift return.

Recreational vs. Regulation Play

A pickleball hits the net, causing a distinct "clink" sound. The ball bounces back onto the court, signaling a fault in recreational play. In regulation play, the ball is considered out of play

In pickleball, whether you’re playing recreationally or in regulation play, the net serves as a pivotal element of the game.

Recreational Play:

  • The atmosphere is typically more relaxed.
  • Informal rules might be applied for the sake of enjoyment.
  • Net Hits: If your ball hits the net and goes over, play often continues.

Regulation Play:

  • Adheres strictly to official pickleball rules.
  • Governed by strict guidelines to ensure fairness.
  • Net Hits: In official games, a ball hitting the net on the serve but still landing in the correct service court, known as a “let,” allows the serve to be replayed.

Key Differences:

Net HitsMore lenient, play may continueGoverned by clear rules on ‘lets’
Rule EnforcementMay vary based on players’ consentStrictly enforced
Competitive NatureGenerally lowerHigh, especially in tournaments

Rule Application:

  • In both types of play, after the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, players may volley the ball (hit before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (groundstroke).
  • The net height remains the same, with 36 inches at the posts and 34 inches in the center.

Pickleball Rules Regarding the Net:

  • You may not cross the plane of the net with your paddle or any part of your body until after you hit the ball.
  • Your clothing or anything you are carrying must also not cross the net plane before the ball is struck.
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