How Big is the Kitchen in Pickleball?

Pickleball has its own unique terminology and extensive set of rules. One perplexing term for beginners is “the kitchen.” This does not refer to actual cooking but describes a key section of the pickleball court. 

Understanding the kitchen’s size and associated rules is essential for mastering pickleball. This article explores the kitchen’s dimensions and function in detail.

men and women playing pickleball-showing how big the kitchen is

What is the Pickleball Kitchen?

The kitchen is a defined zone on each side of the net with special rules, much like a real kitchen has protocols. For example, players cannot volley the ball while standing inside the kitchen. You must move outside the kitchen before hitting a volley. 

Violating this rule, known as “kitchen handling,” results in a fault and could lead to losing the game. The purpose of the kitchen is to prevent players from dominating the net by volleying every shot, which would create an unfair advantage. The kitchen promotes fairness and sportsmanship.

Players can reach or step into the kitchen to return a volley but cannot make contact with the ball until their body is completely outside the kitchen again. 

The key is that no part of the player’s body can touch the kitchen boundaries when striking the ball in the air. You must allow the ball to bounce once before volleying if any part of you is touching the kitchen. Understanding these technical boundaries is crucial.

Balancing the Court: The Strategic Purpose of the Non-Volley Zone

The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, serves an important purpose in pickleball:

  • It prevents players from camping out at the net and volleying every shot, which would give them an unfair advantage. Requiring players to move back outside the kitchen to volley promotes better sportsmanship and more balanced play.
  • It adds strategy and complexity to the game. Players must master both baseline play and net play. Knowing when to volley versus when to stay back and wait for the ball to bounce adds nuance.
  • It forces players to cover more of the court. The non-volley zone ensures players can’t just stand at the net the entire game. They must be able to move laterally and cover shots hit deep to the baseline if they want to be competitive.
  • It regulates the speed and flow of play. The kitchen naturally slows down fast-paced volley exchanges, allowing for more rallies and longer points rather than lightning-quick winner shots.

The non-volley zone essentially balances out the court and makes for more dynamic, strategic pickleball. It requires well-rounded skills and helps create substantive, back-and-forth gameplay.

Pickleball Kitchen Dimensions

Court Element Dimensions
Entire Court Length 44 feet
Entire Court Width 20 feet
Kitchen Length 7 feet
Kitchen Width 20 feet
Service Area Length 15 feet
Service Area Width 10 feet
Net Height at Sidelines 36 inches
Net Height at Center 34 inches

Like a standard pickleball court, the kitchen is 20 feet wide and extends 7 feet from each side of the net. Imagine standing at the net and looking down – if you are within 7 feet on either side, you are inside the kitchen, behind the non-volley line.

The kitchen line and sideline boundaries are considered part of the kitchen. If any body part or item, like a hat or sunglasses, touches the kitchen during play, it is a fault, even if the paddle contacts the ball after it bounces. These standards align with other court sports like tennis.

This 7-foot kitchen area running parallel to the net requires players to let the ball bounce before hitting a shot. Remembering this key dimension is vital when playing pickleball competitively or recreationally.

The Purpose of the Pickleball Kitchen

The pickleball kitchen, or non-volley zone, spans 7 feet from the net on each side of the court. This standardized 7-foot length significantly impacts the flow of a pickleball match.

According to the rules, players must allow the ball to bounce before volleying if they are inside the kitchen. Hitting the ball without a bounce while any part of the body touches the kitchen results in a fault, costing the player the serve or ending the volley rally.

Mastering the nuances of the kitchen is integral to competitive success in pickleball. Understanding the kitchen’s function helps build better sportsmanship and games.

How To Use The Kitchen Strategically

Here are some key strategies for using the non-volley zone (kitchen) effectively in pickleball:

Master the Dink Shot

Being able to delicately drop shots over the net and into the kitchen can draw opponents in and set up scoring opportunities. Practice control and placement.

Use the Kitchen for Defense

When pulled wide off the court, play defensively and keep balls low over the net, forcing opponents to hit up from the kitchen.

Fake Out Your Opponent

Vary shots by faking a soft dink then hitting a powerful groundstroke. This sudden change of pace when your opponent expects a dink can catch them off guard.

Control the Net

When you gain control of the net, move forward into the kitchen to cut off angles and apply pressure. Just be ready to retreat.

Hit Sharp Crosscourt Angles

Aim shots crosscourt to pull opponents wide into the kitchen area to create open court space.

Use Spin

Topspin or backspin on shots can allow the ball to check or skid once it hits the kitchen, making it harder to return.

Don’t Linger Too Long

Avoid getting caught hitting volleys from inside the kitchen. Stay alert and exit quickly.

Communicate with Your Partner

Doubles teams should discuss who will take shots in the kitchen area vs. at the baseline.

The non-volley zone requires strategic play. Mastering these tips and court positioning can help maximize your use of the kitchen area when playing pickleball.

Use The Pickleball Kitchen To Your Advantage

The kitchen is an often overlooked but important area on a pickleball court. Spanning 20 feet wide and just 7 feet long in the center of the court, the kitchen provides ample space for players to strategize and reset during a match. 

Smart players will utilize the kitchen to their advantage by moving back to return lobs or tricky shots. They can also pause in the centrally located kitchen to catch their breath and recalibrate between rallies. 

While some view the kitchen as solely a service area, savvy players know it can be much more. Treating the kitchen as just another part of the court to control during play can give players an edge over their opponents. 

With the right strategy, the humble kitchen, central yet often forgotten on a 44 ft by 20 ft court, can be a secret weapon for pickleball success.

Damien Dansel
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