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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rules Clarification - Temporary Net Frames

If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius...

Some questions keep coming up again and again - both locally and in the national forum. I'm sure this is due to new players joining play and is something we must face with pickleball's tremendous growth. One set of questions that frequently arise is the ruling on balls that hit parts of the medal frame of temporary nets. 

First, let's look at a net to identify the most frequent culprits of confusion.

The 2 main parts are the horizontal bar and the center base. Both parts are within the boundaries of the court and a ball can react wildly when they are struck. There are 4 scenarios that are often discussed:
  1. A ball strikes the horizontal bar and deflects up and over the net.
  2. A ball hits the top of the net, rolls over the net, and strikes the horizontal bar before bouncing on the court surface.
  3. A ball hits the top of the net, rolls over the net, and gets caught between the horizontal bar and net.
  4. A ball hits the top of the net, rolls over the net, and strikes the center base before bouncing on the court surface.
Luckily for us, a specific rule was written to address each of these scenarios.
12.J.5 When net systems have a horizontal bar that may include a center base: If the ball hits the horizontal bar or the center base before going over the net, it is a fault. If the ball goes over the net and then hits the horizontal bar, the ball is still in play. If the ball goes over the net and then hits the center base or the ball gets caught between the net and the horizontal bar before touching the court, it is a let and must be replayed. (added April 1, 2011)
In other words, each of the scenarios would have the following ruling:
  1. Fault on the team hitting the ball that struck the horizontal bar from their side of the net.
  2. Ball remains in play after hitting the horizontal bar on the other side of the net. The team which did not hit the ball must play it before it bounces on the court twice or get a fault.
  3. A let is called and the point replayed.
  4. A let is called and the point replayed.
Eric Hurst of Indy Pickleball has developed a good graphic to illustrate the rules.


  1. We had this issue (ball climbs over net and hits H. Frame) this week. It was great to find this explanation. Thanks.

  2. This rule has been revised See revisions January 31,2018 All balls that land on the center base AND the horizontal bar after going over the net are a replay.
    Rule 11 L 5 replaces Rule 12 J 5

  3. In the 2019 Referee handbook page 29 paragraph 4.b. it states that the point will be replayed if the ball hits the crossbar before or after the ball bounces.Rule 11.L.5 does not state after the ball bounces. Can you clarify?

    1. Two things:

      1. It is my understanding that the rules are intended to remove the impact of interference caused by the ball striking the bar. The bar is an impediment only one side of the net and can cause an unfair disadvantage for the team on that side. The same principle of interference should apply either before or after a ball bounces.

      2. The referee handbook will always be more current than the rulebook. The rulebook will be updated periodically (I'm not sure of the schedule) with all rule updates that are developed since the prior version. But those updates are to be implemented in play when approved. The USAPA uses the referee handbook to communicate those changes - especially to referees but also to players.

    2. Thanks for your response. Based on your last 2 sentences in paragraph 2, as a referee, I can't make the call on a bounce bar into the cross bar until it comes out in the rulebook. Is that correct?

    3. It is my understanding that Referee Handbook represents the latest rules for play even though the rulebook has not yet been updated. With regard to this specific example, that seems to be backed up by the Referee Casebook where Example 3 is Hitting the Horizontal Crossbar After Bouncing. The casebook resolution states:

      "In keeping with Rule 11.L.5, if the ball goes over the net and hits the horizontal bar or gets caught between the net and the bar before a player has an opportunity to make a play on the ball, either before or after the ball bounces, it is a let and will be replayed."

      The casebook is definitely an official interpretation of the rules and indicates the handbook is as well. The Forward states:

      "This Casebook is primarily a collection of pickleball game situations with official rulings approved by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). The rulings are intended to clarify official rules in the USAPA/IFP Official Tournament Rulebook and official referee procedures contained in the USAPA/IFP Referee Handbook and are official interpretations to be followed as best practices by all pickleball referees.

      Many situations included in the previous (2018) edition of the Casebook are not included in this Casebook since they are addressed by the 2019 rules or are procedures that have been incorporated into the 2019 Referee Handbook."

  4. If the ball hits the top of the rod of the center base support making the ball go wild,is that a fault?

    1. it hit part of the net (even 'tho the support post is at the junction of the net) my opinon ,,it should be in play as long as it lands on the playing surface

    2. What is the answer on the rod question?

  5. I called a replay on a service that struck the top of vertical center stanchion inside net sleeve, then falling into service area. Correct or not. Also clarify during volleys if ball strikes center bar at top of net? Thanks

  6. I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question for a long time. When the ball hits the top of the post in the center of a portable net and lands in the opposite court, is it considered good? I understand a ball off the net and in is good, but one if the post seems like a different issue since it can literally go anywhere. Seems like maybe it should be an automatic replay.