Rules to get you started

Basic Rules of Game

Racquetball can be played three ways. Versions include “Singles Play” between two players, “Doubles Play” between two teams of two players each, and “Cut Throat,” which involves three players. In addition, Racquetball can be played both indoors and outdoors. Tournament play usually involves either Singles or Doubles play. Regardless of the type of play, there are basic “Rules of the Game” that apply. The following commentary pertains to standard 4-Wall indoor play.

The Serve

Play begins with the server standing in the service zone (the area between the two red lines) and serving the ball to his/her opponent(s). Before the player starts to serve, he/she will announce the score. The server always says their score first and then the receiving player score. To serve, the server must first bounce the ball on the floor and then strike it with the paddle before it bounces a second time. After being struck, the ball must hit the front wall first and on the rebound hit the floor beyond the back edge of the short line and before the back wall. In its flight, the ball may strike one side wall, but no more.

Rules of game

Fault Serves

The following are fault serves. In all of these circumstances, the server gets a second chance to hit a good serve. Two fault serves result in the loss of serve. There are other fault serves, but this is a good start.

  • Short Serve – A serve that does not carry beyond the short line of the service zone.
  • Long Serve – A serve that hits the back wall without first bouncing on the floor between the short line and the back wall.
  • Ceiling Serve – A serve that hits the ceiling.
  • 3-Wall Serve – A serve that hits the front wall and two side walls.

Out Serve

Any serve that does not hit the front wall first. If the server misses hitting the front wall on the serve, then it is called an “out serve”, and the server doesn’t get a second chance.

The Return of Serve

The best place to stand to return the serve is in the middle of the court (equal distance between each side wall), approximately one arm and paddle length away from the back wall. Return serve by striking the ball before it bounces twice on the floor. The ball must travel to the front wall for it to be a good return. The ball may hit ANY surface except the floor on the return as long as it hits the front wall before touching the floor.

The Rally

Once the ball is in play, the players alternate hitting the ball until one misses the ball or hits an illegal shot. Players try to earn points or win the serve by putting an end to the rally. This is done when a player hits a shot so that the ball bounces twice before their opponent can return it.   This is accomplished by hitting the ball away from an opponent or by skillfully directing the ball to hit the front wall at its lowest point, causing the ball to roll out across the floor rather than bounce back into the playing area (called a killshot or rollout). Points are also earned when rallies end with an error, or a “skip ball,” i.e. when the ball makes contact with the floor before reaching the front wall.

During the rally, the walls and ceiling can be used for shot variations. Points are scored when, after hitting a good serve, the server wins the rally. If the player returning serve wins the rally, the result is a side-out, and no points are scored for either player. The player who won the rally now gets to serve. Whoever wins the rally always serves next. Matches are typically two games to 21 points, and a tiebreaker to 21 points, if needed.


Hinders are stoppages of play, and result in the replay of the point. It is your responsibility to give your opponent enough room to hit the ball and have a reasonable follow through on their swing. You must give them enough room to hit a straight shot to the front wall. Typical hinders are:

  • A ball striking any part of the court, which results in an erratic rebound (fan vents, door knob, lights, etc.)
  • Accidentally hitting your opponent with the ball
  • Unintentionally contacting your opponent while attempting to hit the ball
  • Screening your opponent’s view of the ball or having the ball pass between one’s legs.

Basics to remember once you have started playing a game are:

  • Only the server scores points
  • The ball can only bounce once
  • The ball must return to the front wall after being hit

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