Proposed New Rules for 2023 Could Change the Game of Pickleball

Raymond H. Goettsch

Every year, pickleball players submit proposed changes to the rules of the game to USA Pickleball, and other players have the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes. The decision as to which proposed rule changes will be adopted is made at the end of the year.

This year has generated many proposed rule changes. Some of the proposed changes are not surprising. Other proposed changes are startling.

One unsurprising proposed rule is that scoring be changed to rally scoring only. Rally scoring, of course, is when points are awarded to the winner of every rally, regardless of who served. Commentators have noted that rally scoring makes the game go more quickly. However, the question remains whether a faster game is a better game. In this regard, other commentators have argued that rally scoring removes strategy from the game.

A more surprising proposed rule is that the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ), or “kitchen,” be removed. Some commentators have suggested that the removal of the NVZ will result in a volley and slam contest and no “soft game” finesse. Yet, at least one commentator has reported playing games without the NVZ as a test and finding that “soft game” or dinking was still utilized.

Another proposed rule related to the NVZ is that when a player hits a volley outside of the NVZ but then steps into the NVZ after the hit, the ball should remain in play. Of course, currently, if a player hits a volley outside of the NVZ but then steps into the NVZ, the ball is dead, as the volley was a fault.

Still another proposed rule change related to the NVZ is that if a player touches the line to the NVZ when hitting a volley, the volley should be played, and touching the line alone should not create a fault. The apparent reasoning is that if a ball hitting any other line on the court is “in,” the same standard should apply to the NVZ line.

Yet another proposed rule change addresses lobbing. This proposed rule prohibits any lobbing before the fifth shot in a rally. The reasoning behind this proposed rule is that during the first four shots, players are trying to quickly reach the NVZ and that a lob as the third or fourth shot increases the likelihood of a player falling.

Finally, two proposed rules focus on balls hitting an opponent. One proposed rule provides that if a return ball strikes an opposing player above the shoulders, a fault is called on the returning side. The most startling proposed rule change is that if a receiving player is hit by a ball, the opponents get two points and the hit player sits out the next rally. One can only hope that this proposed rule was made in jest in response to the previous proposed rule.

To explore other proposed rule changes and comments, see