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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hitting the Offensive Lob

When "over your head" is a good thing...

A couple of posts last week discussed the 2 primary situations for a lob - the offensive lob from the NVZ line and the defensive lob when needed to buy time. 

Note that an offensive lob from mid-court or the baseline is not among the best strategy options. There are a couple of reasons for that omission. First, it is extremely hard to hit a lob to the other baseline from that distance. A short lob generally results in an opponent's overhead smash. Second, the distance the lob travels also gives the opponents plenty of time to react and get into position for a good return. In short, the risk vs. reward relationship does not make this a smart shot.

But today's post is not about strategies. It is about the lob technique. Some of this was covered last year in my post The Lob. We will cover it in more detail today, using Deb Harrison's video How to Hit a Lob that illustrates the offensive lob. The video shows 2 distinct lobs - the regular lob and the topspin lob. 

The regular lob is the simpler of the 2 options. The paddle face is open and angled to establish the desired trajectory of the ball. The paddle face must not be too flat or the ball will be high and short. Nor should the paddle face be too steep or the lob will be too low and more like a groundstroke. Much like Goldilocks’ taste for porridge, the paddle face must be just right.

The lob stroke starts low and ends high. An exaggerated low to high arc is needed in order to create a steep upward direction at the point of contact. The goal is to “carry” the ball over your opponent's reach. At the point of contact the face of the paddle should be pointing upward at the angle you are trying to hit. The follow through should continue at that same angle and the swing should end with the paddle above your shoulder at the finish.

The topspin lob is much more difficult. It takes more effort because the swing does not take the paddle "through" the ball to propel it forward. Instead, the swing causes the paddle to "brush" the bottom and back of the ball to impart topspin. The power of the swing goes into the spin while providing just enough propulsion to carry the ball over the opponent's head.

The stroke starts identically to the regular lob but, rather than extend upward, the paddle is quickly taken back over the paddle-hand shoulder while tucking the elbow. This quick move imparts the spin necessary to cause the ball to run away from the opponents after it bounces.

The offensive lob can be most effective when all 4 players are at the net and engaged in a dinking battle. Players can get settled in and the deception in changing from a dink to a lob makes it particularly effective. Below is a comparison of Deb hitting the lob vs. hitting a dink (from a separate video - Rethinking the Dink). While the photos are taken from different angles, it is evident that the same start position is used. In fact, Deb mentions that her dinking technique "rethink" allows the options of different shots.

When engaged in a dinking battle, look for the right shot to lob. It should be a ball that bounces and "hangs" out in front so it is easy to move forward and elevate the ball.

Deb recommends using the lob against short players and to take advantage of the sun in opponents' eyes. Be wary of opponents with strong overhead games or windy conditions. When hitting a lob, the target should be over the nearer player's head when their partner would have to hit a backhand after chasing it down.


  1. Hi, if you read this blog regularly and are a fan, I would love to connect with you. I am writing an article for a local magazine about this blog and need a third-person perspective. I'm in talks with Paul already. If you want to contact me, I can be reached at or (864) 316-6559. My name is Steve Wong in Inman, SC. Thanks!

  2. I'm pretty new to pickleball (about a year) and use the topspin fairly often. Always from beyond mid-court and as far enough back as the baseline. Not only do I win points directy from that shot, but, just as in tennis, once that shot is "established" opponents tend to back off the nvz line, in anticipation on the lob, hence leaving more room for the 3rd shot drop.