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What Is the Tomahawk Shot on the Pickleball Court?

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 05-01-2023

A Tomahawk shot is a relatively new shot on the pickleball court that is most commonly used to put away a high overhead to a player’s backhand side. The Tomahawk shot has become more visible on the pickleball court because it can lead to more power, more reach, and more creative angles to help you put a pickleball away to win a rally.

What Is the Tomahawk Shot on the Pickleball Court? | Pickler Pickleball

To hit a Tomahawk shot, you will, first and foremost, likely need to change your grip. Most pickleball players use a continental or eastern pickleball grip (i.e., a grip where you essentially shake hands with the pickleball paddle—hold your pickleball paddle directly out in front of you with your opposite hand, such that the paddle face is looking evenly to the left of your body and to the right of your body, and then take your dominant hand, slide it down the face of the paddle, and shake hands with the handle). This is because these pickleball grips are more universal or neutral, as they allow you to hit both a forehand and backhand shot with the same grip.

However, to hit a Tomahawk shot, you will need to change to a Western pickleball grip. To find the Western pickleball grip, start in the “shake hands” grip and then turn your wrist 90 degrees clockwise for righties, or 90 degrees counterclockwise for lefties. The Western pickleball grip will allow you to hit a “usual backhand shot” to now be hit as a forehand (in particular, rotate your wrist so that your thumb is closer to the ground).

Since you are now able to hit these backhand-side shots using a forehand, the Tomahawk shot typically results in:

  • More Power – A Tomahawk shot generally results in more power because your palm is behind the pickleball paddle (as opposed to in front of the pickleball paddle with a more traditional backhand shot). With your palm behind the pickleball paddle, you are able to “push” and generate more power.
  • More Reach – Similarly, since you are not leading with your hand/wrist on a Tomahawk shot, but rather your hand/wrist is behind the pickleball paddle, you are able to extend further in front of you. As a result, you will have more reach toward the pickleball, which can be particularly valuable at the Kitchen line.
  • More Creative Angles – Since the Tomahawk shot is a relatively new shot and a more unusual shot on the pickleball court, you are able to create unexpected angles, which could give your opponents trouble.

Be wary of using the Tomahawk shot, though, as the Tomahawk shot requires a grip change (both to hit a Tomahawk shot and then also to revert back to your usual pickleball grip), which takes time to execute. Since this grip change takes time, it is important to use the Tomahawk shot sparingly and when you have time (and not to use the Tomahawk in place of your backhand shots in all circumstances)—which is usually on a high ball (like an overhead), where the pickleball takes time to travel in the air. Plus, with an overhead shot, hopefully, you are able to use the Tomahawk to put away the pickleball and not need to change your grip back to your traditional grip.

To summarize, the Tomahawk shot can be a useful tool in your arsenal on the pickleball court, as it can help you put a lot of power behind high balls on your backhand side. However, it requires time to change grips to execute properly, and should be used judiciously to avoid unforced errors, overuse, and predictability.

Now, get out on the pickleball court and give the Tomahawk a try!


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