As a new pickleball player, you'll soon find out that serving and volleying are surprisingly easy to get the hang of. The real twist comes in with the scoring — unlike tennis, pickleball scoring has its own unique flavor, and can be one of the trickiest parts to master for singles and doubles play. 

So, how do you get to grips with this scoring system? Read on to learn how to keep score in pickleball. 

How Pickleball Scoring Works

Pickleball scoring may look daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be scoring points like a pro. 

The basic premise of how to keep score in pickleball involves understanding who serves and which side of the court the serve is made from. Games are typically played to 11 points, and a team must win by at least 2 points. Here's the kicker — points can only be scored by the serving side. 

Let’s explore how this would work in a singles vs doubles game. 

Singles scoring

When it comes to singles, pickleball scoring is as much about keeping track as it is about playing well. 

Before each serve, the server calls out the score. This includes three numbers: their score, the opponent's score, and the server number — in singles, the server number is always 1. The server starts from the right-hand court if their score is even, and from the left if it’s odd. 

So, for example, if the server has 4 points and the opponent has 3, the call will be "4-3-1". If the server scores a point, they continue to serve, switching sides of the court based on the new even or odd score. 

If the server loses the point (i.e., the receiver wins the rally), the serve switches to the opponent. The player who reaches 11 points first, with a minimum lead of 2 points, wins the game. 

Doubles scoring

Doubles scoring is where it gets a bit more interesting. The serving team's score is called first, followed by the receiving team's score, and then the server number (1 or 2). 

The game starts with "Server 1," who serves from the right-hand court. If they lose a point, the serve goes to "Server 2" on their team. If "Server 2" drops the ball, so to speak, it's the other team's turn to serve.

If Team A's first server has 5 points and Team B has 3, the call is "5-3-1". When the second server serves, and the score is 6-3, the call is "6-3-2". Each team gets two serves (one for each player) before the serve shifts to the other team, except for the very first serve of the game, where only one player on the starting team serves.  

Traditional vs rally scoring

As you play with more experienced players, you might encounter different scoring methods.

The traditional way, also known as side-out scoring, means only the serving side can score points. Comparatively, rally scoring, which is a newer method, lets both sides score whether they're serving or not. It speeds up the game and adds a dash of excitement since every rally counts. 

Still, in most pickleball tournaments, traditional scoring is the way to go.

Ready, Set, Score

Whether you're just beginning to play the game or are transitioning from tennis, learning how to keep score in pickleball is key to having a great day on the courts. 

Looking to up your game even further? Consider hiring a coach. The right coach can not only help you nail the scoring system but also fine-tune your play style, giving you those insider tips and tricks that make all the difference. Find top coaches near you today