What is the Pickleball Kitchen aka Non-Volley Zone?
The Kitchen in the sport of Pickleball is the unofficial name given to the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ). The Kitchen Rule is that a player can not volley the pickleball while standing in or landing in the zone. Doing so is considered a fault and the point will be awarded to your opponent.
New Pickleball Players find The Kitchen line to be one of the more intriguing aspects of learning how to play. You can tell when beginners internalize the Kitchen Rule as their bodies will begin to “toe the line” while keeping out of the Kitchen zone during the act of volleying. Beginners who are badminton or tennis players tend to wrangle the Rules of The Kitchen a bit faster than say, shuffleboard players.
You see, only groundstrokes are allowed while a player is in The Kitchen. But we’ll get to the Non-Volley zone rules in a bit.
Where is The Kitchen Line
The Kitchen line, which is also known more formally as the Non-Volley Line, is the first line back from the net. The line is 7 feet back from the net, and it runs from one side of the Pickleball court to the other.
It’s good to have a basic understanding of all of the court lines and what they mean for the game of Pickleball. The same can be said about all paddle and racquet sports.
Some sports create faults (or errors) when players cross a certain line and stroke the ball. Some allow for players to move beyond the line if the ball, or shuttlecock, as in the case of badminton, successfully crossed the net.
Or as is for Tennis, a ball that makes contact with a line is still considered in-bounds. Of course, the line in question that the ball hit must not be considered out of bounds to begin with.
According to the official rule book, lines on a Pickleball Court must be 2 inches thick. Here are the lines below:
- Non-Volley Line
How big is The Kitchen?
The Kitchen area is approximately 140 square feet per side of the court. The total square footage of The Kitchen zone is 280 square feet, as it is evenly divided on both sides of the net. Your opponent’s side is just as large as your own.
The Pickleball Non-Volley Zone is larger than it feels, allowing for many a dink shot to land within.
Socially, The Kitchen will become a lot "bigger" if the sport gets included in the 2024 or 2028 Olympics.
Why does the Non-Volley Zone exist?
A Non-Volley Zone was created to prevent players from dominating the game through vicious net play. Because the dimensions of a Pickleball Court are much smaller than Tennis, skilled players could repeatedly smash volley shots while standing at the net and remove rallies from the game almost entirely.
Furthermore, a fast player could react to lob shots in time to return anything over their head. If you consider the court’s vertical size of 22 feet, you aren’t exactly talking about a long way to run. So, the Non-Volley Zone - aka - The Kitchen was created and solidified as part of the rules of Pickleball.
The creators of the game, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, knew that the creation of the Non-Volley Line would benefit the sport and its players at all levels, from amateur to professional.
In fact, the sizing of the court combined with the NVT is why older players can remain highly competitive, as it places an emphasis on skill and finesse instead of raw strength and speed.
What are the Pickleball Kitchen Rules?
The USAPA Rule Book states that the Non-Volley Zone applies to the 7x20’ space on the ground, not the air above it. So, there is room for some flexibility when it comes to having a part of your body over The Kitchen, but none with regard to being in The Kitchen.
Before we explain the rules though, you should know some Pickleball terminology first. The sport considers a volley to be a shot that is struck before the ball bounces (hitting the ball out of the air).
- Volley Shot. A player cannot volley a pickleball while standing in The Kitchen or on the Non-Volley Line (foot fault).
- Paddle. A player’s paddle cannot touch The Kitchen or the Non-Volley Line. Dropping pickleball paddles into The Kitchen is a big no-no too.
- Teammate. A player striking a Volley Shot cannot be in contact in any way with a teammate who is inside of or touching The Kitchen zone.
- Follow-Through. A player’s follow-through from a Volley cannot place them within The Kitchen or touching the Non-Volley Line.
Rules for Accessibility
- Volley Shot.** A player in a wheelchair cannot volley a pickleball with all four wheels within The Kitchen or touching the Non-Volley Line.
Can you jump and land in the kitchen in pickleball?
Yes, a player can jump and land in The Kitchen in Pickleball provided that they are not hitting a volley when they are doing so.
It sounds silly, but a player can jump and hit a groundstroke while landing in The Kitchen. They can also simply jump and land in The Kitchen, just no volleying. Part of the Kitchen strategy is knowing when and when not to enter and exist to make contact.
Can you hang out in the kitchen in pickleball?
Yes, a player can hang out in The Kitchen all they want, provided that they do not hit the ball out of the air (volley) while doing so. For instance, if a player touches their teammate who is striking a volley, the rule offending team loses a point.
Is it sound strategy? No, probably not. But the official rules allow for it. And also, until you're competing against Ben Johns or Tyson McGuffin on the Pro Tour, don't overthink it.
Does the return in Pickleball have to clear the kitchen?
Yes, a serve must clear The Kitchen on both sides of the net and land in the proper service box to be considered good and in-play. Not clearing all 14 vertical feet of the Non-Volley Zone will cause a fault.
What happens if the ball lands in the kitchen in pickleball?
If the ball lands in the kitchen after being successfully returned by your opponent to your side of the court, then it is in your best interest to return the ball with a backhand, forehand, or overhead smash, provided that the ball bounced high enough, to try and win the point.
Can you make a Volley Motion while standing in The Kitchen?
That’s an interesting question and we are going to have to do some research on faking hits with a Volley Motion and get back to you.
The Kitchen is like a condensed version of No Man’s Land in Tennis. However, the difference between the two is that Kitchen Rules are intentional, whereas No Man’s Land, oft considered the area where the ball hits is simply just bad strategic placement when playing the game.
Remember, don’t hang out in The Kitchen. And, don’t try and get crafty, as jumping out of The Kitchen while volleying and landing back in bounds is also illegal.
Until next time, always know where the NVZ is, and most importantly, have fun out there Pickleballin’ away the day.