Your Pickleball paddle grip is cornerstone to your stroke making potential for all stroke play. You maybe using a grip that currently enables you to play one or two types of shots awesomely well and with an educated guess, it is likely the forehand shot that is your master stroke if you are like most people.
The grip people use to generate this master stroke however limits most other strokes in the handbook of pickleball play. What you see time after time is that players using the wrong gripe are forced to either hit and hope when returning a ball that is not hit to their forehand side or they will try to run-around the ball to play a forehand return.
The other shot that can generally be played ok with any grip is a serve. No not a good serve, but just get it in type of serve. Aside the favored forehand shot and the serve (to some small extent) however, the same wrong grip will compromise your game and minimize your stroke playing potential and that in the real world limits you to just how good of a player that you can become.
The subject of the correct Pickleball paddle grip however has become way over complicated which I think is an overflow from the tennis world and other racquet ball sports and there are important differences to note.
The pickleball paddle is a paddle not a stringed racquet. With tennis, grips are varied to be able to do more with the ball because you can. The ball to string reaction when hit is different to the ball to flat surface reaction that happens with a paddle face.
A tennis ball is fury and compresses significantly when hit and causes a lot of friction– a pickleball is hard and smooth and does not compress significantly when hit and creates little friction. The strings of a racquet will stretch, grip and rebound when hitting a ball. The paddle face of a pickleball paddle reacts nothing like that of a stringed racquet when hitting a ball. This means that while you can play similar shots in the motion of hitting a ball with either a racquet or a paddle, the reaction you get with be far more pronounced with tennis.
A perfect explanation here is with a top spin shot. You can play topspin in both pickleball and tennis with the ‘right grip’ and while it is an definite advantage to be able to play topspin in pickleball, it is now a ‘must have’ shot in a tennis players bag of shots. Whether you do it with more or less intensity, one thing is certain, the topspin forehand is the primary shot in the modern game of tennis.
Because of this and the ball to string reaction when a tennis ball meets with tennis racquet strings, the topspin achieved can be vastly improved by changing your hand grip position and the risk reward for doing so is also increased. Not so for pickleball unfortunately which effectively cancels out the reason that you would want to try to do the same with a pickleball paddle?
To explain… To get topspin on any ball you need to hit with a down to up motion with the hitting surface rotated slightly forward as you hit through the ball so that it rotates the ball forward. A grip that changes the face of the racquet slightly forward and hit from down to up dramatically increases the spin achieved and its looping trajectory without compromise in power and this grip enables that “power” to be mechanically better applied.
This enables the tennis ball to be hit hard and to land significantly shorter than with the normal ‘right grip’. Not so in pickleball.
If you change your Pickleball paddle grip to angle the paddle slightly forward, the reaction of a hard ball hitting a flat surface of a paddle doesn’t result in a dramatic increase of spin or looping trajectory and actually compromises power because it is very easy to be too far forward in paddle angle. The ball simply slides down or across the hard surface of the paddle and of course with little spin, it will never emulate the trajectory of a tennis ball hit in the same manner with a tennis racquet.
The mechanical advantage of changing grip for pickleball is also far less because of the very light weight of the paddle and the disproportionate power needed or able to be applied in pickleball to a hard shinny light weight ball with far less friction potential compared to tennis.
Tennis not only provides a different reaction (due the friction between the two objects) when a ball is hit, it also affords more time to be able to adjust your grip as needed between different selected shots. This is generally not a luxury afforded in pickleball particularly at net play and makes trying to train and practice changing grips a very low percentage play and is an unconstructive use of time.
So what is the “right” Pickleball paddle grip?
There are a number of names for it but the simple understanding name is the “shake hands” grip. When you are looking directly at the edge of the paddle and the paddle face is at right angles to the ground and the handle is closest to you, simply grip the handle as if you were shaking hands with it. That is it!
This shake hands grip will enable you to effectively play every shot in the book without change. When you start with this grip you will almost certainly still be better at one or two shots and likely feel compromised in others, particularly if you have changed from another grip to this hand-shake grip. However, it will no longer be a grip that limits your potential for all stroke play. With this grip the only limiter is how much you practice with this grip to get better at all stroke play.
What is the wrong pickleball paddle grip?
Essentially any other grip. If you are running around balls to get them on your forehand, if you consider you do not have a backhand or an effective overhead or that you have awkwardness in deliberate paddle strike or inability to get the paddle to face in the direction of desired shot return, then you have the wrong grip.
The Pickleball paddle grip to use for all stroke play is (among a number of names or terms used) the hand-shake grip. Yes, even for serves. Speaking of serves and perhaps adding another tip to pickleball tips is to introduce spin to your serve.
Pickleball spin serves are a fantastic way to take your game to another level. Mastery of them adds another very effective winning dimension to your game. Read more here: Pickleball Spin Serves – Not your Average Serve but Great To have Up Your Sleeve
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