What is a Lob in Pickleball and When Should You Use it?

Great pickleball players aim for the open spaces on the court. They look for the best angles, hit them, and get their opponents off balance before going for a put-away shot. But, using angles and aiming for open spots often requires a well-timed and well-placed lob shot. 

What is a lob in pickleball?

A lob in pickleball is a shot that sends the ball high in the air and into the back of the opponent’s court. It should be high enough to force the opponent back and deep enough that they are forced to hit it from their baseline. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll detail what a lob is and how to use it in pickleball. I’ll also cover some of the strategies surrounding it. 

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How Do You Lob the Ball in Pickleball?

To lob the ball in pickleball by hitting it with the open face of your racquet. You can do this after letting the ball bounce on your side of the court or in mid-air. You should hit the ball with enough force that it travels high and far toward the back of the court. 

That said, pickleball players normally hit lob shots off the bounce. 

Whether you hit the ball in mid-air or after, the important thing is you send it to the back of the court so your opponent is forced to chase it down. 

Related: Click here for a beginner’s guide to the anatomy of a perfect lob shot in pickleball.

Advantages of the Lob Shot

There are two ways that the lob shot can help a player — on offense and defense. The important thing is that it’s only effective if the player hits it well. 

Depending on your playstyle and how the specific game is going, you may want to add the lob shot to your arsenal. 

Using the Lob Shot on Defense

The lob can be useful if you’re in a rally and are constantly out of position because your opponent is hitting great shots. If you hit it well, a lob can give you time to recover to a safer position on the court. Whether your opponent is volleying well closer to the net or if they’re stretching you out with shots from their baseline, a sky-high lob can give you a moment to recover. 

Using the Lob Shot on Offense

Conversely, if you’re in control of a rally, the lob can be a great way to open up angles in the court and tire your opponent out. One great combination to try is to hit a ball into the no-volley zone to bring your opponent in. After they hit their shot, you can lob the ball to the back, forcing them to chase it down. 

The lob can be especially useful as an offensive tool if you’re up against a player who likes to position themselves close to the net for volleys. In that scenario, you can use the lob to push them back. 

Disadvantages of the Lob Shot

Just as there are advantages to the lob shot, there are also disadvantages that can lose you a point. When considering using a lob, you need to do a little bit of risk assessment. How accurate and comfortable are you lobbing? How tall is your opponent? 

Making a mistake with this type of shot can be disastrous if done improperly. There’s a fine line between hitting the shot deep enough without going out of bounds. There’s also the possibility that your opponent gets to the ball quickly and has the chance to smash it at you. 

The key is to be careful of what’s happening in a rally and what you’re capable of. 


Should You Lob in Pickleball?

You should lob in pickleball if you are comfortable with it, as a poorly hit lob can hurt more than help. You also need to consider what is happening on the court during a rally. If lobbing the ball would give you time to recover on defense or provide an opening on offense, give it a try. 

The bottom line is that some players like to incorporate the lob into their playstyle because it makes sense. For other players, it might be better to use it more sparingly. 

How Do You Hit a Lob Serve in Pickleball?

You hit a lob serve the same way you would lob during a rally: Open the face of your racquet and hit the ball high in the air, sending it deep into the opponent’s court. Since you are allowed to serve after bouncing the ball in pickleball, you can hit a lob serve off the bounce if that is easier. 

A lob serve can be useful against players who have difficulty hitting lobs. It can also be risky if your opponent is good with them, as they’ll have plenty of time to set up for a smash or hit it off the bounce. 

How To Defend Against a Lob in Pickleball

Defending against the lob in pickleball is easier said than done. Sometimes a player catches you out of position, making it nearly impossible to chase the lob down. 

However, if you’re up against a player who likes to lob frequently, preparing for it can help.

Practice Hitting the Lob

The first step in defending against a lob is getting used to hitting them. One way to do this is off the bounce, which means getting used to timing your shot immediately after it hits the ground. The second way to hit the lob is in the air, usually as an overhead smash. 

Both types of return may be unnatural at first, so practice is important. 

Set Up Against the Lob

If an opponent constantly lobs, you need to set up according to how you want to return the ball: 

  • If you like hitting lobs off the bounce, move to the baseline. 
  • If you prefer to smash them out of the air, stay a little closer to the middle of the court. 
  • If your opponent tries to move you into the net before lobbing, make sure you move back after each shot. 

What is a Lob in Pickleball – My Final Thoughts

The lob in pickleball is a powerful tool. It can be a shot that inspires fear in whoever it’s done against — and, therefore, one that may help your game. Not all players use it well, but if you learn how and when to use it, it can open up many possibilities on the court. 

What is a Lob in Pickleball – Other FAQs

Below are some other commonly asked questions related to the lob shot in pickleball.

1. How do you cover a lob in pickleball?

The best way to cover a lob in pickleball is first be prepared for one.  It starts by being in a low, ready position that allows you to move backward at the blink of an eye.  Standing straight up while at the kitchen line is NOT being in the ready position.  Being low and ready to back up is the best way to defend the lob.  The quicker you can put yourself in a position to get to a lob, the better you can defend it. 

2. How is a lob shot executed in pickleball?

To hit a lob in pickleball, the player needs to use a gentle upward stroke with their paddle to lift the pickleball high into the air, causing it to travel over the opponent’s head and land deep in their court.

3. When should players use the lob in pickleball?

Players use the lob shot strategically, often as a defensive shot when pushed back near the kitchen line or to create an offensive opportunity by forcing their opponents back and opening up space for the next shot.

4. What is the difference between a lob and a drop shot in pickleball?

In pickleball, a lob is a high, deep shot aimed over the opponent’s head, while a drop shot is a low, delicate shot intended to land just over the non-volley zone line with little bounce, making it challenging for opponents to reach.

5. Can players use the lob from the backhand side?

Yes, players can execute a lob from the backhand side, and it is an essential skill for playing defensively and adding variety to their shots.

6. What are some tips for effectively using the lob in pickleball?

When using a lob in pickleball, players should focus on accuracy, timing, and creating spin to control the trajectory of the ball. It is essential to practice varying the height and depth of the lob for different situations.

7.  How Do You Defend a Lob in Pickleball?

To defend a lob in pickleball, you can start by quickly moving back toward the baseline to get into position. Use an overhead smash shot with an upward trajectory to return the lob with power and accuracy. Practice tracking and timing the ball to improve your ability to defend against lobs.

8.  How Do You Beat Lobbers in Pickleball?

To combat lobbers, position yourself appropriately by staying balanced and ready for a potential lob, practice your footwork to move backward efficiently and swiftly, then reset the point with a deep return lob or go on the offensive with a well-placed overhead smash.

9.  How do you stop a lobber in pickleball?

The best way to stop a lobber is to anticipate it.  Once you can anticipate a lob (lobbers will always do more than one), you can position yourself to attack the shot.  Smashing it back at them will send a message that that strategy isn’t going to work anymore.  Once you get good at anticipating a log, you can bait your opponent into giving you more overhead smash opportunities. 



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