New Rules for Pickleball Announced by USA Pickleball

Raymond H. Goettsch

USA Pickleball has announced new rules and rule changes for pickleball play effective in 2023. One change is that the “spin” serve, or “chainsaw” serve, is no longer allowed. Under this rule, a server may not spin the ball when it is released to be struck by the paddle. However, while serving, a player may create topspin or slice with the paddle. If the server does make a prohibited “spin” serve, the player does not lose the serve. Instead, the player is allowed to re-serve.

The reasoning behind this rule change is twofold. First, the explanation for the change is that not every player can perform a “spin” serve. This reasoning may not be persuasive to many players, as players who have mastered the “spin” serve seem to be punished for their skill. The second explanation for the change is more persuasive: The effects of the “spin” serve can increase the likelihood that the receiver may be injured due to the limited play space. In other words, the concern is that due to the limited space, the receiver may run into fencing or other barriers in moving to return the ball due to the effects of the spin.

The player’s clothing is the subject of another rule change. Under this rule change, a player is barred from wearing clothes that closely match the ball color. As a consequence, a player can be required to change apparel. The reasoning behind this rule change is based upon “fair play” and safety in that wearing clothing similar to the color of the ball can be a distraction.

Under another rule change, if a player has an equipment issue, the player does not need to use a regular time-out. Instead, the player has the right to an equipment time-out.

The new rules also address the timing for curing a wrong score call. Previously, if a wrong score was called, opponents were required to wait until the end of the rally before correcting the wrong score call. If the opponents corrected the wrong score call during the rally, they would suffer a default. Under the new rule, the opponents can correct the wrong score call before returning the serve. However, if the opponents are themselves wrong, they are in default.

Under the new rules, a player may ask, “Am I good?” to an opponent or a referee to be sure he or she is the correct server or in the correct position. This question then protects the player from a fault for serving from the wrong position or in the wrong order.

The rules also clarify some existing rules. The rules confirm that when a player is hit by a ball, that player suffers a fault. Also, the rules underscore that an “out” call must be made by the opponent prior to hitting the ball or before the ball is dead. Otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play.