How to Master the Lob Shot in Pickleball (Offensive and Defensive Lobs)


How to Master the Lob Shot in Pickleball (Offensive and Defensive Lobs)

Pickleball lobs have always been popular, but now more than ever pro players are using the offensive lob and the defensive lob effectively and it is trickling down to every level of play.

Check out: Critical Tips Every Intermediate Picleball Player Should Know

The lob in pickleball is an enticing shot, with everyone at the non volley zone line (kitchen) it’s tempting to just pop it up over the line of defense for an easy winner. Or if you are in trouble, why not just blast a ball into the atmosphere?

Well, the pickleball lob shot is harder than it looks and if you use it at the wrong time you could find yourself in a world of trouble.

But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In this article we’ll explore when and when not to use a lob shot, how to properly execute both the offensive and defensive lob, how to best defend against them, and anything else you can think of regarding the infamous lob.

What is a Lob Shot In Pickleball?

Let’s start at the beginning. A lob is a lofted shot that goes high up in the air. A well hit lob is usually aimed deep toward the back line of the pickleball court.

Defensive Lob Shot

A lob can be a highly effective defensive shot. Whether you find yourself out of position at the kitchen line, in the mid court, or even scrambling to return a baseline shot, throwing a lob high up in the air can help buy you some time and get you ready to regain momentum in a point.

Sometimes it is the only shot available to you.

Defensive lobs are generally not hit with the intention of immediately winning a point. In fact, when you play a high lofted shot out of position, you are more often than not going to be blasted back with an overhead smash from your opponent.

The beauty of pickleball is that no matter the speed, you can often hit a series of lobs as long as you can get a paddle on the ball. Each ball you hit back increases the likelihood that your opponent will make a mistake or hit you a ball that you can hit a drop shot on or drive, to get you and your partner right back into the point.

Offensive Lob Shot 

An effective lob can be a lethal pickleball shot. Offensive lobs come in many forms and can be utilized in various situations. They can keep opponents guessing and quickly either win a point, or establish a very strong position. Let’s go over how and when to hit the offensive lob.

How and When to Hit the Offensive Lob (10 Tips)

  1. Aim to hit the pickleball in an upward motion such that it goes over your opponent’s outstretched paddle, but still lands in bounds.
  2. A basic lob is a good shot to start with, but practice hitting topspin. Just like in any other topspin shot, brush up on the ball as you hit it. a top spin lob will help your ball drop in bounds without sailing long.
  3. Practice hitting pickleball lobs up and over the backhand shoulder of your opponent. This will make it harder for them to slam.
  1. When everyone is up at the non volley zone with your opponent leaning forward is the perfect moment for a well placed lob shot.
  2. If you are playing in a competitive match feel free to use the sun to your advantage. A high floating lob can be a difficult shot to return for even the most seasoned player.
  3. Similarly, if your opponent is short, not highly mobile, or not great at returning lobs, lofting them up can be a great strategy to score points (only for competitive play).
  4. Line yourself up in ready position so that you are prepared to hit a great lob. Knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart, paddle out in front.
  5. Try to make any shot you hit look identical. No need for a big wind up, or changing your line of vision dramatically. If you can make your offensive lob look like a dink, you will have much more success catching your opponent leaning forward and taking them by surprise.
  6. If your opponent is running up towards the non volley zone, it may be a good time to hit an offensive lob. Some high level players even use this strategy successfully on a third shot.
  7. If in doubt, go higher. There is nothing worse than a low lob. Don’t be afraid to really hit with upward trajectory, and let ‘er rip.

Lob Shot Mistakes to Avoid

The number one no-no when hitting a lob as an offensive or defensive shot is not to hit it low. You will learn this one quickly, as the ball will generally come whizzing back at you.

From an etiquette point of view, if you are playing casually or against players with limited mobility or physical attributes to successfully return lobs, you should probably not hit too many of them, especially into the sun. Tournament and competitive play is totally different, and for the most part everything goes. But in a casual rec game, it’s okay to practice hitting pickleball lobs, but don’t get carried away.

Read your opponents. For a lob shot to be effective, there usually needs to be an element of surprise. If your set up is to obvious, or they are not in the right position, the shot will generally not work.

How to defend against a lob shot 

The gold standard in lob defense is the overhead smash. If you can get to the ball in time and set yourself up, this is a tremendous return and one that will potentially stop your opponents trying to lob you.

Here is a great example of Ben Johns defending a lob against Jay Devilliers.Rewind 10sPlayForward 10s

If you are unable to hit an overhead you should run back to catch the ball on the bounce. From there you can either hit a drop shot into your opponent’s non volley zone, or hit a drive. This is all very situational and depends on your strengths as a player, but try everything out in practice and in rec games, and you will be ready when the pressure is on.

Do Pickleball Pros Use the Lob Shot?

Absolutely! The lob has come and gone over the years in the pro scene, but players like AJ Koller and Callan Dawson have brought back offensive lobs in recent years with a vengeance. Matt Wright has been known to loft up a lob especially over Collin Johns right shoulder, and there recently was some drama on the women’s side when Leigh Waters felt like her opponents were being unsportsmanlike hitting lobs into the sun against her (see lobgate videos on Youtube).

Pros typically hit defensive lobs when they are in trouble and caught without too may options. Sometimes they will hit a series of them, biding their time to pounce on a weak overhead that they can either drop or drive to get themselves right back into the point.

Final Thoughts

The pickleball lob shot can be a very effective shot for pickleball players of all skill levels and should be included in everyone’s pickleball strategies. Whether it is utilized as an offensive or defensive shot, everyone should hit pickleball lobs and learn to defend them effectively in order to progress.

Lob shots are a great way to add variety to your game, keep your opponents guessing, and have fun. Just be sure to try to use them in the right situations and don’t forget to hit them high and you should be good to go! 

Written by:

Daniel Hawk

Daniel Hawk is a Northern California transplant from the Washington D.C. area. He grew up playing as much basketball as he possibly could while mixing in tennis, ping pong, and whatever other sports he could find that would get his heart rate going, test his reflexes, and fuel his competitive drive. He picked up pickleball in 2021 and has never looked back. Daniel is a 4.5 player who is constantly studying the game and working to improve. Daniel has been writing his whole life. His father is a professional editor who helped imprint the beauty and necessity of clear writing in Daniel at an early age. He studied English at the University of Colorado on Boulder and has written countless works of fiction and nonfiction since.

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