There is a lot of confusion in the pickleball world about calling balls in or out. So, here’s the scoop:
If a ball touches any portion of a line when it lands, it is in, unless it is the kitchen line (NVZ or non-volley-zone line) on a serve.
It is up to the receiving side to state whether a ball was out.
The opposing players do not get to argue, object, cross-examine or even doubt the call. That’s poor pickleball etiquette. If you see the ball you sent bounce inside a line by a meter (39 inches) that’s called out, you still don’t get to say anything.
Pickleball players are not supposed to ask people watching the game for their thoughts on a ball that might be out.
A player can ask an opposing player for their opinion, but then must accept that opinion as the absolute truth.
In doubles pickleball, if the players on one side cannot agree on a call, then it was in, awarding the rally to their opponents.
In doubles, if a ball is near the left sideline, the player on the right side is less qualified to call it than the player on the left.
Also in doubles, when one player is receiving a deep shot, it is better for that person’s partner to watch and possibly call the ball out since the person receiving will be busy at that moment just trying to return the ball.
A ball cannot be properly called until it has hit the ground because it’s final trajectory may be surprising.
In doubles, a ball can be called in or out by a player’s partner to assist that partner in knowing what to do. Any other discussion, especially if loud, can potentially be considered a distraction causing the loss of the point.
If there is doubt about whether a ball was in or out, the receiving player or team has the final word. Replays are not appropriate for unclear line decisions.
To visually indicate an out ball, a player can point upward. To indicate an in ball, the player points downward.
SECTION 6 – LINE CALL RULES
6.A. A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.
6.B. Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.
6.C. A ball contacting the playing surface completely outside of the court is “out.”
6.D. Code of Ethics for Line Calling. Pickleball is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line-calling responsibilities when performed by players.
The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or line judges. The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind. The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.
The basic elements are:
6.D.1. Players are responsible for calling the lines on their end of the court (excluding short serves, service foot faults and all non-volley-zone faults, if being called by a referee). If a player makes an initial line call, and then asks for either the opponent(s) or the referee’s opinion, if the opponent or referee can make a clear “in” or “out” call, the clear call will stand. If no clear call can be made, the initial line call by the player will stand. A call made by the opponent can be appealed to the referee for a final “in” or “out” decision.
6.D.2. Players’ only line call is the centerline on the serve in matches that have line judges.
6.D.3. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty. A player who does not make a call may appeal to the referee to make the call if they did not clearly see the ball land. If the referee is unable to make the call, the ball is “in.” The moment the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.
6.D.4. Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.
6.D.5. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s end of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally. The receiving team/player may also appeal to the referee to make a clear call. If the referee cannot make a clear call, the outcome of the opponent’s ruling will stand.
6.D.6. Players shall not call a ball “out” unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits the ground.
6.D.7. All “out” calls must be made prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.
6.D.8. In doubles play, if one player calls the ball “out” and the partner calls it “in,” then doubt exists and the team’s call will be “in.” Any player may appeal a call to the referee. If the referee did not see the ball, the ball is considered in.
6.D.9. “Out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and/or hand signal (as described in Rule 13.E.2).
6.D.10. While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to their partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.
6.D.11. An “out” call made after the ball bounces is a line call. The ball is dead and play shall stop. If, upon appeal, the referee overrules any type of “out” call, it is a fault against the player or team that made the “out” call. Exception: If the match has line judges, the baseline and sideline judges are responsible for the call. (See Rule 13.E.2)
6.D.12. After the completion of a rally, players may overrule a partner’s line call, an officiating team’s line call, or an opponent’s “in” call to their own disadvantage.