CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Pickleball Lob-Use It or Lose It?

Should you use the pickleball lob as a tactic?

I’m often asked if a pickleball lob is a sound strategy.

The answer is YES and NO.

It depends on how and why you’ve chosen to use the lob and that can be confusing. It helps if we start with understanding some lob basics.

Why use a pickleball lob?

The lob is a tactic to move your opponents away from the non-volley zone.

Is the pickleball lob like a tennis lob?

There are some similarities to the tennis lob but in pickleball, there are two types of lobs.

A defensive lob is hit primarily from the baseline while your opponents are at the non-volley zone.

An offensive lob is when all four players are at the non-volley zone.

Why shouldn’t I use the lob?

It’s a risky shot.

      1. If you hit it too short, your opponents have an overhead that they can now smash at your feet.
      2. If you hit it too long, you’ve committed a fault.
      3. The court is short and there’s little margin for error.

Is the lob a good option for a third shot to get my opponents away from the net?

I often see players try to use the lob as a 3rd shot alternative. While this might work against some teams, in general, it’s a weak shot compared to a drop shot or a drive.

Make sure to watch the video for a complete overview of the lob and strategy for using it successfully.

Do you use a lob? Tell us about it in the comments below.

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)


  1. Avatar photo Phillip Lavender on June 29, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Just started playing pickle ball about month ago. I’m a 4.00 tennis play being play for a along time. Your video is very helpful in understanding the game fundamental. Thanks

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on June 29, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks Phillip. What has been the most challenging part of making the transition from tennis to pickleball?

  2. Avatar photo Richard Marten on June 29, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Yes! I use it sparingly but I do use the lob!

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on June 30, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Richard, thanks for adding to the discussion. I think that when someone uses it sparingly as you do, it adds another element of surprise! Pickle On!

  3. Avatar photo Tom on June 29, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    Great advice on the lob. I use a topspin lob very effectively. I use it offensively and it often wins the point. Of course sometimes I hit it short and get SMASHED or too long and lose that rally.

    With practice anyone can learn to hit the topspin lob.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on June 30, 2019 at 9:05 am

      Hi Tom thanks for mentioning spin. You’re dead on it makes this shot easier and more effective.
      You bring up another good point, not every shot is going to be perfect but sometimes I fool myself into thinking I’m more consistent than I am. One of the ways I measure my shot consistency is to video games on my phone and count how often I’m successful with a shot. That helps me to build productive practice sessions and to understand which shots are consistent enough for serious play. Pickle On!

  4. Avatar photo Diana on June 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm


    I am a relative beginner (playing just over one year and no previous racquet sports) and I find that a lob can deliver an element of surprise, and my opponent usually lets it go, thinking it will be out, which mine rarely is.

    It’s one of my favorite shots.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on June 30, 2019 at 8:59 am

      Hi Diana, thanks for sharing. It sounds like you’ve become accurate with the baseline lob. Congratulations! That’s not easy to do.
      You may find that as you continue to play and improve this shot becomes less effective. When players become accustomed to watching their opponents’ paddle face it’s easy to spot this shot and get a jump on it. Another element that changes and allows extra time to run down a lob is our ability to judge a ball that’s in or out improves. Pickle On!

      • Avatar photo Barry on March 7, 2023 at 2:37 pm

        I’m rather new also but am able to hit a good lob with topspin keeping it in (some tennis background). I haven’t used it much but want to work it in much more. If I can come in on a good 3rd drop it seems a great tactic. Even if my opponent tracks it down they give up the kitchen and have to hit a difficult shot back. Seems the perfect way for a serve team to turn the tables!

        • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on March 7, 2023 at 3:02 pm

          We like the lob. Just not as much court as tennis so you are right give it some practice.

  5. Avatar photo Blake on July 1, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I like to lob offensively and try to disguise the shot, waiting until the latest possible moment to show it. This also means that I use it very rarely, twice per game would be unusual for me. At my level of competition (2.5 to 3.5 I’d say) I want to do more that push the opponents back, I can go for an outright winner. This means a relatively low-trajectory shot, often down the middle between players who are positioned too wide apart. I don’t usually plan for it, I just “feel” it.

  6. […] In last weeks post, I answered a question I’m often asked, CJ, what’s the difference between an offensive lob and a defensive lob? This week we are focused solely on the offensive lob; what it is, when to use it, and most importantly, how to hit it. […]

  7. Avatar photo Craig Jones on September 30, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    I love the lob. When both opponents are at the kitchen, there are 2 open spots to attack: 1. In the opponents kitchen, and near the net, and 2. Along the baseline behind the opponents. In my mind it’s just as easy (maybe easier) to hit the lob as it is to hit the perfect drop. When you do hit a good lob, your opponents must run away from the kitchen to a point beyond their baseline, and then hit a perfect drop back to your kitchen. Not an easy assignment!. In my mind, the lob is harder to return effectively than the drop is.

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