The lob is a type of shot in pickleball. It’s a high, arching shot meant to displace your opponent from their position at the non-volley zone. Technically, it can be executed from anywhere on the court with the shot landing near your opponents baseline. Although, often criticized by the pickleball community, I have to say, my perception of the lob is that it can be effective at very specific times in a game. First of all, some folks use the lob shot while they’re standing at the baseline. This is the riskiest time to use it and least effective because it’s the longest distance you are trying to send the ball. If you’re playing outside and lob the ball from the baseline chances are the wind will carry the ball to an area that you are not aiming for.
Picture credit: Pickleball Channel
Here’s when I find the lob shot to be effective:
- When your opponents are bent over and extremely focused on their dinks at the non-volley zone
- If the team you’re playing has shown that their overhead smashes are not strong put away shots
- If the team you’re playing has bad vertical movement (short, can’t jump high)
- To avoid falling into repetitive and predictable patterns at the non-volley zone (keep your opponents on their feet)
On the flip side, here’s when I find the lob is not as effective:
- If your opponent is tall with a longer reach
- If your opponent has a very strong overhead smash
- Lobbing from the baseline
- During recreational play when the other team has mobility issues like bad knees or sensitive rotator cuff (this is more about recreational etiquette)
If you’re playing a team that tends to lob frequently and/or can disguise it so it’s unpredictable here’s what I suggest:
- Stand off of the non-volley zone by about 6 inches so you’re more prepared for the ball to be lofted in the air
- Run around the ball, allow it to bounce and then execute your return shot
- Try to keep an eye on the face of the paddle; if the paddle face is open and the player’s head is down they’re probably setting themselves up for a lob
- Talk to your partner about who’s going to take the ball (especially if the lob is centre court)
I’ve used the lob more often - not off a dink - but off of an offensive volley shot that sits about waist high, made by the opposing team. A dink typically keeps the ball lower to the ground, thus, making it harder to gain the height needed for an effective lob, especially, while standing at the non-volley zone.
If you haven't yet played around with the lob shot, I recommend you give it a try. Understanding various shots in pickleball and the advantages and disadvantages to each of them will help you improve your game; and incorporating the lob shot will add an extra tool to your belt!
Have you been lobbed in a game before? What are some of your strategies when playing against a lobber? Leave your comments below!