Skip to Content

How to Keep the Pickleball Low Over the Net

Male pickelball player reaches for the ball during a tournament.

We’ve talked before about my childhood games of badminton and baseball. Kids don’t need to play professional-quality games in their own backyards. They just hit the ball back and forth until mom calls lunch.

It’s much the same in gym class at school, except for lunch. It’s said in pickleball that keeping the ball low over the net is the best way to play the game. The object of the exercise, of course, is preventing your opponent from gaining the upper hand and thus the point.

So how does keeping the ball low over the net accomplish this goal? We’re glad you asked.

Keeping The Ball Low Over The Net Is Important For What Reason?

Four players compete in the mixed doubles division of a pickleball tournament.

Keeping control of the game so that your opponent has to scramble for a point is the name of the game. Control of the ball and where it goes is how you accomplish this. Your opponent won’t be able to make power hits that might give him/her the point.

It’s called an attackable ball. Balls that are hit or returned high in the air give your opponent a chance to smash the ball back at you and possibly gain a point. Since this is what you want to avoid, then hitting the ball low is the answer to the problem.

How do you hit the ball low over the net?

That Makes Sense. What Are Some Ways To Hit A Pickleball Ball Low Over The Net?

A married couple compete in the mixed doubles event of a seniors pickleball tournament.

Serving or returning a ball that’s coming in low so that you have to hit it high in an arc over the net gives the opponent an attackable ball. The answer is to keep from playing low to high shots. Here’s how.

Do Your Best To Minimize The Low To High Shots

This means that your opponent served a ball that’s coming in low. You’ll have to get under it to return it. Try not to sweat it; it happens, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

The need to neutralize these shots can be accomplished with a loose grip on the paddle and the angle of the paddle.

Pickleball Master Course by Steve Dawson ($199)

Get A Grip

Proper pickleball bat with grip as demonstrated by instructor.

When we’re tense, our muscles tense up. If we’re holding something, it sometimes breaks due to that pressure. If you’re holding a pickleball paddle, then that tension hits the ball instead of the paddle.

That’s not good. Breathe deep. Breathe deep again. The more oxygen to the brain, the more relaxed the body.

Now hold the paddle in front of your body. Breathe deep again. Your grip will loosen and your muscles relax.

You’ll return the ball low over the net, causing your opponent to lunge under the ball for a high to low return.

What’s Your Angle?

A man hits a pickleball.

How you hold your paddle determines in some measure how the ball will fly. Your arm will be relaxed, and you’re breathing deeply, so now all that’s needed is a small push, a little wrist action, and a neutral angle to your paddle. Now you can return that high to low ball just low enough to clear the net and make your opponent worry.

Strike While The Ball Is In Front Of You

Would you take a swing at a ball that’s behind or beside you? Of course not. You’d have no power in your muscles, your angle would be off, and the panic would make you take a shot you never would have under normal circumstances.

Your opponent would get the point. When you see the ball coming at you, get closer to it immediately. Now it’s squarely in front of you, like the guy in the above picture.

Your paddle is in a neutral position in front of you, your muscles are relaxed, and your grip is loose. You now have the power and the control going into the proper swing to return the ball low over the net and mess up your opponent’s strategy.

Hit The Ball As Early As Possible

Female Pickleball player in action on an outside court.

This is going to involve some physics, so grab a coffee and get comfortable:

  • When the ball is hit, its power is in the rise or the arc over the net.
  • The sooner you hit the ball, you can use that power for yourself.
  • If you wait to hit the ball too long, the ball will arc over the net because it doesn’t have its own power in the arc, it has yours.
  • If you hit the ball directly after the bounce, you’re hitting it while it still has momentum. It will likely remain low over the net.
  • When the ball loses momentum, you’ll have to get under it. That’s not good.

It’s A Game, Guys. Have Some Fun And Relax

Pickleball was developed by men whose families were bored and with nothing to do. The game was born to be fun. People come together to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Ruining that with tense bodies and too tight grips on the paddle defeats the purpose. When you’re enjoying yourself and having fun, it’s easier to remember tips for keeping the ball low over the net. The more you play and see how it really works, the more you’ll relax.

Your skill set will advance, and you’ll be able to have way more fun.

How To Keep The Pickleball Ball Low Over The Net FAQs

A senior hits a pickleball shot during a tournament.

How Do You Hold The Pickleball Paddle In Order To Keep The Ball Low Over The Net?

If you’re holding the paddle in the palm of the hand, then you run the risk of choking the paddle handle. This gets you a bad shot due to the tension. Hold the paddle handle loosely in the fingers, but not so loosely that the paddle drops out of your hand.

What’s The Best Grip To Hold Your Paddle In Pickleball?

The grip on the paddle determines the angle at which you hold it. It also affects the flight of the ball. What you need is to master the neutral grip or, as it’s called in sports, the Continental Grip.

It’s done like this:

  • The handle of the paddle has bevels. These point the paddle in different directions.
  • Right-handers holding the paddle on edge will notice that the bevels go in a clockwise manner. The first bevel will be on the edge. The second will be at 1:00, the third at 3:00, and so on.
  • Left-handers holding the paddle on edge will see that the second bevel going counter-clockwise is at 11:00, the third at 9:00, and so on.
  • What you want to do is “shake hands” with the paddle. Your thumb will be at 9:00, with the knuckles of your first finger at 1:00.
  • Another way to ensure you have the Continental Grip just right is that the V formed by the thumb and first finger will be on the edge of the paddle.
  • Practice your forehand and backhand swings against a garage or basement wall, remembering to keep the paddle in front of you and your arm muscles loose and relaxed for the best resulting shots.

How To Return A Low Pickleball Shot?

Get right up to the ball immediately. This gives you more power as the ball is losing momentum. Now, holding the paddle at a neutral angle, just slightly push the paddle at the ball in a forehand motion.

This keeps the ball low over the net. Never come up under the ball; that will send it high over the net, giving your opponent the chance to smash the ball back to you, possibly for a point.

How Do You Serve A Pickleball Low Over The Net?

Holding your paddle at waist level, bring your arm back in a backhand motion. Dropping the ball, bring your arm in its backhand around to meet the ball. Your paddle should be in a neutral position, not angled up or down, because the ball follows the trajectory dictated by the angle of the paddle.

Bring your arm around at waist level even through the follow-through. That will keep the ball from being hit up into the air. Your serve should sail low right over the net.

How To Prevent Pickleball Balls From Popping Up

This is how you give your opponent a chance to smash a ball back to you and take the point. To avoid it, holding your paddle in a neutral position, not choking the handle, and getting to the ball quickly, hit the ball in a high to low maneuver. This keeps the ball from popping up as well as keeping it low over the net.

Now it’s your opponent’s turn to scramble.

Why Is The Low Over The Net Pickleball Shot So Hard?

It’s the hardest shot in all the pickleball games because it takes skill, concentration, and control over both the body and the ball. Holding your paddle in the proper neutral position, hitting the ball from the front of the body, and just slightly pushing it in a forehand manner all take great concentration. Although the game is meant for fun, it still takes some major work to get it right.