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.    New 2021: 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.

Reason: If a player makes a line call, and then out of sportsmanship asks for either the opponent’s or referee’s opinion, if the referee or opponent can’t make a clear in or out call, then the initial line call made by the player/team will stand. The opponent may still appeal to the referee even though they could not make a clear in or out call. 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.

Scenario A: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks for the opponent’s opinion and then the referee’s opinion. The opponent and referee cannot make a clear call. The initial “out” call from the player stands.

Scenario B: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario C: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand. The receiving player then asks the referee if they can make a call. the referee says they cannot make a clear call, so the opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario D: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand. The player making the initial “out” call then appeals to the referee to make a call. the referee says they clearly saw the ball land out. The referee’s “out” call overrides the opponent’s “in” call. A player always has the right to appeal to the referee for a final decision.

6.D.2.   Players’ only line call is the centerline on the serve in matches that have line judges.

6.D.3.  New 2021: 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.

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.

Reason: This clarifies that the player losing the right to make a subsequent call only pertains to the specific rally that had just ended. The Intent: A player may ALWAYS appeal to the referee. A player may appeal to a referee or opponents if no one has seen the ball land.

Scenario: Peter is playing against Paul in a singles match. The ball is hit close to Peter’s sideline and goes by Peter. Peter did not see the ball and cannot make a call. Peter appeals to the referee. the referee says she did not clearly see the ball land. At this point, the ball is considered “in” on Peter. Peter then asks for Paul’s opinion. If Paul can make a clear call, it must be accepted. If Paul cannot make a clear call, the ball in considered “in” on Peter. Note: This scenario is similar to Rule 6.D.6. Peter was not going “call shopping” but rather trying to find someone who actually saw the ball land. Peter gave up his right to make a call the instant he appealed to the referee. Since the referee did not see the ball land, it is acceptable to ask for the opponent’s opinion.

6.D.4.   Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.

6.D.5.  New 2021: A player should not question an opponent’s call, although any player may appeal a call to the referee before the next serve occurs.

A player should not question an opponent’s call, although any player may appeal a call to the referee before the complete score is called to start the next rally.

Reason: This change is part of the multiple rule changes moving all timing issues to a consistent point in time; before the next serve occurs.

6.D.6.  New 2021: A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s side 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.

A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make a 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 considered “in”. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call.

Reason: This rule adds that if the opponents make a clear “in” or “out’ call, or if the opponents can’t make a call and the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team, the receiving team may still appeal to the referee for a final ruling. If the referee cannot make a clear call, then the outcome of the opponent’s decision or ruling must be upheld by the referee.

Scenario A: A receiving team does not make a line call on a ball that is on their side of the net. They ask for the opponent’s opinion and the opponent says they clearly saw the ball as “in”. The ball shall be considered “in” on the receiving team. A receiving team player then appeals to the referee for a final ruling. the referee cannot make a clear call, so the opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario B: The receiving team does not make a line call on a ball that is on their side of the net. They ask for the opponent’s opinion and the opponent says they clearly saw the ball as “in”. The ball shall be considered “in” on the receiving team. A receiving team player then appeals to the referee for a ruling. the referee makes a clear “out” call and the receiving team wins the rally.

6.D.7.   New 2021:  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.

Players should not call a ball “out” when looking across a line, unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits. The player’s depth-of-field judgment, based on the laws of parallax, prevents accurate judgment in these cases.

Reason: The discussion of parallax was removed from the rule because it is primarily an astronomical term used for judging the distance to distant stars and does not apply to pickleball calls. Furthermore, depth of field is an optical term about focus and has nothing to do with location.

Some will think the part of the rule that remains is a newly crafted rule when, in fact, it has always been the central part of Rule 6.D.7. But,it is now highlighted as the key determinant in making line calls. This removes the need for any discussion surrounding the size of the contact point and estimating where the ball contacts the court surface. This rule deserves a more thorough discussion why it is the key determinant in making line calls.

For some, what follows will be a change in thinking:

Players should consider all balls that land on their side of the net are in…..unless they can be certain that the ball landed out.

That statement is exactly what’s behind existing rules 6.D and 6.D.3.

Here is 6.D:

“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.”

And here is 6.D.3:

“Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.”

So, the next logical question is: “How do you tell if a ball is in fact ‘out’ with certainty?

But, before that question gets answered, why the focus on certainty? That’s because if we aren’t certain, there’s doubt. If a player is estimating, guessing, approximating, or assuming the ball is ‘out’, there is, by definition, doubt. And, if there’s doubt, as players we must rule in favor of our opponents. Again, back to rule 6.D.3:

“The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made.”

Scenario A: You and your partner are playing together. You are returning serve. Your partner is up at the net. The server serves the ball to you and you are concentrating foremost on returning the serve, not on where the ball hits. Your partner, however, turns and watches where the ball lands. You return the ball, but your partner is able to call it out not because they are guessing or assuming it’s out, but because they are certain it is out. They are certain it is out because they can see space between the ball and the line (Rule 6.D.7). Seeing that space is the ONLY way to be certain the ball is out. Otherwise, guess what? It’s in.

Scenario B: Your partner is on the odd side of the court, you’re on the even. Your opponents hit the ball and the ball straddles the left sideline. Just like you returning serve, all your partner can see is that the ball hits close to the line. Your partner cannot call it out because some of the ball overlaps the line; they cannot see the contact point. Your partner may be pretty sure it’s out, but they are not certain because they cannot actually see where the ball and the court contact point is; it’s hidden. So, because they don’t see space between the ball and the line, your partner HAS to play it. You, however, may be able to see space and call it out because you have a better view than your partner does. But, if you don’t see space, you cannot call it out either. This means is that you and/or your partner may very well be playing actual ‘out’ balls from time to time. Neither of you see that space, so you must assume it is ‘in’ and have to play it. But, that is what giving the benefit of the doubt to your opponents is all about.

6.D.8.  New 2021: All “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

All “let” or “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “let” or “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

Reason: The word “let” was removed due to let server replays being omitted this year

6.D.9.   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.10.  New 2021: “out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and/or hand signal (as described in Rule 13.E.2).

out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and may include a hand signal (See Rule 13.E.2.), regardless of how obviously the ball is “out.” People who are Deaf or hard of hearing are allowed to use hand signals only.

Reason: This change reflects that “out” calls should be made by voice and/or hand signals. Hand signals are helpful to players with impaired hearing as well as players who cannot verbalize “out” calls. The accepted hand signals are: 1) arm extended parallel to the court with palm down for “in” balls, 2) outstretched arm pointing in the direction of the out-of-bounds ball path for “out” calls.

6.D.11.   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.12.   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.)

6.D.13. New 2021: 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.

Players may call faults on themselves or line calls to their disadvantage during or after the completion of a rally. This includes overriding a line judge’s call if it is to their disadvantage.

Reason: This change reflects the new rule 13.D.1.c (which states players should call faults on themselves). The section concerning fault calls was removed which is now covered by 13.D.1.c. It expands the 2020 rule and states that a team may overrule an opponent’s line call, an officiating team’s line call (including a referee’s line call who also is a member of the officiating team) and even their own partner’s line call if it is to their team’s disadvantage

Scenario: Player A hits a ball to Player B, and Player B does not see the ball land and does not make a call. Player B then appeals to the referee to make a call. the referee says that the ball landed “in”. Player A then says the ball actually landed “out”. Even though the referee made an “in” call ruling, Player A may still overrule the referee to their own disadvantage. Player B is awarded the rally. Note: Allowing a player to overrule a referee’s call does not imply that the referee made a wrong call. It adds that a player may overrule a referee’s call if it is to their own disadvantage.

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4 thoughts on “SECTION 6 – LINE CALL RULES

  • Rule 6.D.9. says, “ 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” .” This happens when we received a serve. My partner returned the serve good but called the serve out. The opponents stopped playing. I disagreed with the call since I had a clear view that the serve was in. One of the opponents immediately claimed the point but I begged to differ. I thought since the return of the serve was good, we should play a let. Otherwise, they should be awarded the point. Who is right?

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