Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

How to Keep Score in Doubles Pickleball

Scoring can be tricky, but here’s how to master it in six easy steps

spinner image four people meet at the net on a pickleball court and touch paddles
Getty Images

It’s frequently said that pickleball is one of the easiest games for beginners to pick up, but while it’s true that many players have no issue learning about dinking or the “kitchen,” mastering the art of scoring often takes a lot more effort. After all, keeping track of points in pickleball is a bit more complicated than in most other racket (or paddle) sports.

“Wrapping your head around the scoring system might seem tricky at first,” says Eva Welsher, an AARP Champions Tour Pickleball Pro. “However, once you understand the basics, you’ll be all set to handle the score like a seasoned pro.”

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

Sometimes people are having so much fun playing that they forget the score. We can’t help you with that, but we can teach you how it’s done. If the below seems a little confusing, don’t worry. After you’ve played a few games, you’ll get it. Remember, learning a new way of scoring and remembering the score, especially while exercising and socializing, is a great workout for your brain.

Here are six simple steps to scoring the game:

1. The game is played to 11 points, but you must win by two

In doubles pickleball, games are played until 11 points, but a team must win by two points, not just one. And only the serving team can score, with both players getting a chance when it’s their side’s turn. Unlike tennis, the server only gets one chance to get the serve in, not two.

2. Scores consist of three numbers

At the start of every point, the server has to call the score aloud for both sides to hear, and it must consist of three numbers in a sequence: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score and the server order (either one or two). For instance, if your side is serving, you’re the first server, and you’ve won four points to your opponents’ two points, you’d call out “4-2-1.”

Let’s Play Pickleball!

Become a part of the country’s fastest growing sport. Learn the rules, tips for playing and ways to win. Plus, how to warm up, what to wear and where to play. 

Read more about the joy of pickleball

3. The first server always starts on the right service court

To begin a match in doubles pickleball, the first server must always serve from their right-side service court. If they win the point, they’ll then switch places with their partner and serve again from the left-side service court. “The serving team will continue to switch places until they lose a rally,” explains Welsher, adding that this can happen if they hit the ball into the net or out of bounds, or let it bounce twice on their side.

4. The second server serves from their current position

After the serving team loses the rally, the second server then serves from their current position, switching places with their partner with every point they win.

Health & Wellness

Target Optical

50% off additional pairs of eyeglasses and $10 off eyewear and contacts

See more Health & Wellness offers >

5. After the serving team loses their second rally, it’s time for a “sideout”

No matter how good the serving team might be, they’re bound to eventually lose their second rally. Once that happens, “the opposing team takes the ball and now has two chances to serve,” says Welsher. In doubles pickleball, that’s what’s called a “sideout.”

6. There’s one exception to this order: The very first serve

Although you must follow the above rules for the majority of your pickleball game, there is one crucial exception: the very first serve. In order to avoid giving the initial serving team “an unfair advantage,” Welsher explains, the first server is actually considered the second server, with the first score called out as “0-0-2” rather than “0-0-1.” Once that first server loses the point, a sideout is called and the other team gets a chance to go.

It’s understandable if it takes you a bit of time to get the hang of pickleball scoring, but once you do, it’ll make the game even more fun. As Welsher says, “grab your paddle, find a partner and get out there on the pickleball court!”

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?