How to Use Pickleball Lobs and When to Use Them

The pickleball lob shot may seem simple, but it’s actually a strategic powerhouse that can transform the dynamics of a rally when used properly. For many beginners, lobs are an afterthought compared to more obvious offensive weapons like drives and drops. However, they deserve far more respect. Even moderately effective lobs can unravel opponents, buy precious time, enable scoring opportunities, and outright win points.

In this blog post, we will explore everything from lob types and tactics to the common mistakes that plague enthusiasts. Whether you currently struggle with lobs or wish to add more weapons to your on-court arsenal, This guide will set you on the way to pickleball lob mastery. Read on to unlock the secrets of one of pickleball’s most indispensable skills!

What Is a Lob in Pickleball?

A lob is simply a shot that sends the ball in a high arc over your opponents’ heads and into the back third of their court. The goal is to create time, move your opponents back, and open up the court for your next shot. Lobs are most often hit when you can’t drive the ball past quick opponents at the non-volley zone line (a.k.a. “the kitchen”). Faced with a blocked angle, savvy players turn to the lob to change the trajectory of the rally.

Unlike lobs in sports like tennis, pickleball lobs don’t need to carry all the way to the baseline. In fact, good tactical lobs often land just inside the baseline within your opponents’ non-volley zone. This forces opponents to scramble backward from their ready positions at the kitchen line, allowing you time to reset for your next shot.

Why the Lob Is Such an Effective Pickleball Shot

There are several reasons why the humble lob is such a potent weapon in pickleball:

1. It neutralizes opponents’ aggressive positioning

Many pickleball players are taught to take command of the no-man’s land just behind the non-volley zone early in points. By poaching in this area, quick players can punish anything hit within their reach. The lob takes away these opportunities by sailing over aggressive poachers’ heads.

2. It buys time

Even when not outright winning the point, a well-placed lob resets the rally by pushing opponents back. This allows the lobber and their partner time to retreat, reorganize, and prepare for the opponents’ response. Using the lob early in a point can establish your team’s positioning advantage for later shots.

3. It enables further offense

Once opponents are pinned deep behind the non-volley zone line, they must return the ball high over the net by necessity. This cedes control of the point by allowing the lobbing team to then pick their next shot against a predictable reply. 

4. It exploits weaknesses

Players who struggle with their overhead shots and baseline play are vulnerable to a steady dose of lobs. Floating lobs away from these players set up easy putaway opportunities when the weak response inevitably comes.

5. It finishes points with winners

With enough spin and placement, lobs don’t always need to be backed up. Well-struck lobs can bounce just inbounds or skim sidelines for clean winners, particularly on grass and outdoor courts subject to wind.

Even without scoring directly, a flummoxing lob often elicits a weak or harried return that’s easy pickings for a volley or groundstroke winner.

Savvy teams mix in these point-ending lobs to keep opponents guessing. Even if the lob misses, seeing it tried is unnerving enough to fray opponents’ nerves.

How to Execute an Effective Pickleball Lob

It’s tempting to think of the lob as a simple desperation play requiring little finesse. But the truth is, there are good lobs and bad lobs, just as with other strokes. To maximize your chances of success, make sure you always:

Get Height and Distance

An effective lob starts by creating space between you and your opponents. As soon as you identify the lob opportunity, quickly shuffle back. This allows you to get under the ball for the lift you need to arc it high over the non-volley zone.

Contact the Ball Out Front

Make contact with the ball in front of you using an upward swinging motion. This imparts the height and depth to land the ball deep while clearing your opponent’s reach. Leading with the top of the paddle introduces topspin for control.

Aim High

Initially, aim well over the baseline to calibrate the length. An excessively lofty lob that pushes opponents back still does the job. As you dial in the distance, start progressively painting lines to maximize effectiveness.

Take it Over the Shoulder.

A hallmark of solid lob mechanics is the high finish. Following through over your opposite shoulder conceals your intentions and ensures you get full paddle acceleration through contact. This translates to power, spin, and consistent execution.

With footwork to create space, a dialed swing path for lift, overspin for control, and solid finish for deception, lobs can reliably unsettle opponents. Committed practice is key for making it look effortless!

Common Pickleball Lob Types & Tactics

While novice players often default to the simple desperation lob, veterans mix up subtle variations to multiply effectiveness:

Baseline lobs

Hit deep in the court to push opponents into the back third of their box. Useful for resetting when out of position.

Offensive lobs

Struck aggressively to set up a quick putaway. Riskier but highly rewarding.


Extremely high arcs that sail over opponents’ reach. Require perfect touch and conditions to land.

Side Line lob

Curved aggressively toward sidelines for angled winners. It must have spin control.  

Drop lobs

Floated lobs with finesse that seem destined for the kitchen before abruptly sinking in the non-volley zone. Cruel and frustrating when they catch tape!

In terms of tactics, smart players also disguise lobs amid sequences of groundstrokes before unleashing them unexpectedly:

Change of pace lobs  

Sold as drives before floating at the last moment over surprised poachers. Requires selectively holding back swing speed.

Quick reaction lobs

Emergency defensive replies elevated over blocking opponents. Must pull off balance and footwork quickly.

Fakeout lobs   

Faking groundstroke preparation before leaning back into a lob. Fools opponents on timing and commits them forward.

So long as you have reliable basic lobs in your toolkit, it’s worth exploring these advanced variations to keep opponents off balance. Not only will mixing lobs expand your capabilities around the court, but it will also make the game far more fun!

Common Pickleball Lob Mistakes to Avoid  

While the basics of lob mechanics are straightforward, it’s an easily botched shot if not given full concentration. When frustration mounts, even seasoned players fall into bad habits on their lobs, including:

Lack of spin

 Floating all lobs flat and knuckering drives leads to trouble. Learn to brush both lobs and drives for control.  

Inconsistent contact

From frames to misjudged footwork, poor setup ruins accuracy. Set your feet under every lob, no exceptions!  


 Stiffening up or backpedaling too obviously signals the lob. Keep athletic in your movements.

Low trajectories

 Dinky lobs are blood in the water for aggressive opponents. Get lobs up with margin to spare every time.  

Bailing too early

 If forced backward, don’t assume lobs are the only option. Playing out of trouble takes patience.

Rushing execution

Even when pressed, it retains its smooth form. Flubbing lobs from panic just worsens dilemmas.

Master lob technicians make the shot look casual, floating lazy rainbows no matter the score or situation. Channeling this unhurried mentality takes intentional focus. Stay loose through your prep, turn, and release to gain lob proficiency.  


In Conclusions, the pickleball lob is a strategic gem that transforms the game dynamics, providing players with a potent tool to neutralize opponents, buy time, enable offense, and secure winning points. Mastering the lob demands attention to mechanics, from footwork to spin generation.

Its versatility and various types, from baseline lobs to deceptive fakeouts, add depth and excitement to play. However, avoiding common mistakes like lacking spin and telegraphing is crucial for success. 

Becoming a lob master requires commitment, turning what may seem complex into a skill accessible to all. So, whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, embrace the challenge, stay relaxed, and relish the journey to pickleball lob proficiency!

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