You might be wondering… what is a lob in pickleball?
Is the lob only for beginners? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Beginners and intermediate players will use it more often, but professional pickleball players still use it. You are at the right place to learn all about the pickleball lob.
Are you ready to master the lob shot to win more pickleball games?
What is the Lob Shot in Pickleball?
A pickleball lob shot, which can be thought of as a high lofted shot, is a shot that attempts to send the ball over the opponent, sending the ball high and deep so that it lands in back of the court.
The USA Pickleball defines the lob as a lofted shot that sends the ball high overhead and deep.
It can be a very effective shot used in pickleball. A pickleball player can use this shot when their opponent is close to the net, standing at the non-volley zone line.
It is an effective pickleball shot to move your opponent away from the non-volley line, or the area colloquially called the kitchen, and give you extra time to set up for your next shot while putting your opponents in a defensive position.
Hitting The Pickleball Lob As An Offensive Shot
As an offensive shot, the lob is an excellent surprise tactic. It is a hit from your non-volley zone into their deep court.
You will typically hit an offensive lob off a dink from your opponent. Their dink may bounce or you can hit it out of the air. Both can work and you will see both used. As long as you time it right and execute it well, the lob can be a great offensive weapon.
Your opponent, like you will be standing in the front of the court at the kitchen line or non-volley zone (NVZ) and will have to move back quickly to retrieve your lob, so it can be a lethal pickleball shot for some players.
When & Where to Hit an Offensive Lob
It is best to use an offensive lob shot when you notice your opponent leaning forward at the non-volley zone line, almost as if they are anticipating a dink shot. It is a great time to execute a lob shot.
An offensive lob is most effective when used if:
- Your opponent is not very quick on the court – this well-placed lob shot will cause them to have to move quickly.
- You are hitting with the wind. You can use the wind to carry your lob deep into the court. It’s important to read the wind well if you choose to use it and not overhit.
- When nature stand in your opponents way. This can be the sun or shadows that make it difficult for them to see a ball overhead.
- Your opponent is not very good at hitting overheads. One of the biggest downsides of using a lob is fear of a powerful overhead smash from your opponent. However, many beginners and intermediate players struggle to hit a good overhead. It’s a good idea to lob if your opponent has a weak overhead smash.
- Your opponent is a shorter player. A lob is typically more challenging for a shorter player to return. Although the opposite is true, it is easier for a taller player to return a lob shot.
Be cautious about using the log as a repetitive tactic especially if your play is recreational and fun is a priority. Many players simply can’t deal with a lob due to physical and skill limitations and it can become a boring game for all if lobs are used on every point.
Executing a Lob Shot
A perfectly executed lob shot will go over the defensive player’s non-paddled left shoulder or backhand shoulder and land just inside the baseline in the backcourt.
It is important not to hit the ball too hard as you lob it.
It is not an effective shot if it goes passed the baseline, and if it does, the rally has ended. You have lost your team point – so a careful execution of the lob shot is necessary.
It’s also not good if it is to low or short as you will likely be facing an overhead smash from your opponents at that point.
You need to hit the lob with a balanced proportion of height and depth as the downsides either way are high.
Primetime Pickleball Lob Tip: The trajectory of the ball should carry it over your opponent’s outstretched paddle and land in bounds close to the baseline. This shot needs to be practiced to master.
Often, a player will try to use a lob pickleball shot as a third shot after the double bounce rule has been achieved.
A lob as a third shot tends to be a weak shot and does not use the element of surprise because it is often an expected shot, and the players tend to be toward the backcourt already.
However, if your opponents generally have a hard time dealing with balls coming in high, as many lower level players often do then it could be effective. At high levels, a 3rd shot lob is a terrible idea and you will pay for it as they smash it back at you.
2 Types Of lobs that are great offensively:
2 Offensive Lob Shots To Master
1. Regular or Basic Lob
This is an easy offensive shot. It is accomplished by having the paddle slightly open, and your paddle moves from low to high.
You can use your arm to make this pickleball shot, but it is much more effective to use your body as you swing. It can be a backhand lob or forehand lob and is hit with the similar body form on both sides.
It looks very similar to a dink motion only with a much more pronounced follow through because you need to send the ball much higher and send it a greater distance than a dink.
2. Top Spin Lob
This is an offensive play that is an advanced player’s lob, and it is a more difficult shot to play because it requires more paddle skill.
It is achieved by hitting the ball with a low to high stroke but instead of hitting the ball very flush you will “graze” or “brush up” the back to put rotation on it with your paddle face. You need to really get under it more and have a strong upward motion to give it that heavy topspin.
It is much more difficult for your opponent to return the top spin lob because when it lands it will be bouncing away from there and is harder to run down than a shot with no spin.
How To Defend a Lob Shot
A lob is a great offensive strategy, but how do we plan a defensive shot for an effectively placed lob shot?
The best return is if you can reach the lob out of the air before it bounces by using an overhead smash. If you’re quick and have a good overhead motion then strive to do this as much as possible. An overhead shot hit well and that is well placed deep or at an angle will almost always win you the point or stop the rally.
An overhead shot is a hard shot hit downward into the opponent’s court. The paddle is extended high with the elbow straight when the ball is contacted.
The overhead shot is a difficult shot for the returning player to hit and is why a lob is sometimes not used by advanced pickleball players.
If the overhead shot cannot be executed, then a drop will be an effective plan to return the lob shot.
If the lob does get over your head and lands in the court behind you then it’s best to run it down and hit a drop if you can.
A drop shot is a soft shot hit from the back of the court intended to land in the opponent’s non-volley zone. This can then allow your to run back up to the non-volley zone line which is what you want to do.
You main goal is to reclaim your position up at the non-volley zone line after getting pushed back by a lob.
A Drive or Defensive Lob
If you don’t appear to be able to use an overhead or a drop effectively when your opponent has given you a lob, use a low drive which will hopefully allow you to drop on the next shot and follow it up to the NVZ line.
If you’re really on the defensive then throw up a lob defensively as a return shot to buy yourself some more time to set up for the next shot.
We have learned a lot about pickleball lobs. A couple of key pickleball lob takeaways are:
- Lobs can be used both offensively and defensively
- A well hit lob has to be very well balanced in terms of height and speed or the consequences can be steep.
- Use an overhead or a drop as your best options to defend against a well-placed lob from your opponent.
Do not overuse this particular pickleball shot because unpredictability is key for success when using the lob.
Check out our article on How To Score in Pickleball for more tips and scoring rules.
Do Professional Level Pickleball Players Lob Shot?
An expert player will use this shot sparingly because they are nearly always facing opponents that move well and have a good overhead. If they don’t hit it perfectly then there will be a big downside. A much bigger downside than if they had used another shot, even if they didn’t hit that shot perfectly.