Master the Erne Shot in Pickleball: All the Details

not so quick


Ah, the Erne—the veritable ninja move of pickleball.

Ever found yourself on the pickleball court, drenched in sweat, heart pounding, and in dire need of a game-changing shot? Enter the Erne in pickleball, a high-skill maneuver that can turn the tide of the match and make you the talk of the pickleball community. This advanced shot is not just about flash; it’s a crucial element in any seasoned player’s game strategy.

What is Erne in Pickleball?

The Definition

The Erne shot (pronounced like the name “Ernie), named after the famed player Erne Perry, is an aggressive play where a pickleball player dashes to a position outside the kitchen, also known as the non-volley zone (NVZ), to volley a ball that’s aimed near the sideline. This shot allows you to take an offensive position without breaking the kitchen rule—one of the most fundamental aspects of pickleball.

ErneA volley shot taken from a position outside the kitchen near the sideline.
Kitchen or Non-Volley ZoneThe 7-foot area on both sides of the net where volleys are not allowed.
VolleyHitting the ball in the air before it bounces.

The Uniqueness of Erne

We know what you’re thinking…

What makes the Erne shot stand out from other typical shots like dinks, smashes, and groundstrokes?

  • High Risk, High Reward: It’s a high-risk shot that can catch your opponent off guard, potentially winning you the point outright.
  • Advanced Skill Required: This is not for novices; it requires a good understanding of pickleball strategy and advanced shot techniques.
  • Strategic Positioning: You have to be agile enough to swiftly move outside the kitchen to a position where you can volley near the sideline, also known as the court boundary.

Curious about how to master this shot? Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. We’ll walk you through it.

But first, let’s take a brief detour and understand how Erne fits into the broader landscape of pickleball rules. For an even deeper understanding, you can check out our pickleball rules book tips and tricks.

When to Use Erne in Pickleball

The Ideal Scenarios

Timing is everything when it comes to the Erne shot in pickleball. Knowing when to use it is just as important as knowing how to hit it. Below are some scenarios where the Erne could be your best option:

  • Your Opponent is Defensive: If your opponent is hunkered down, hitting soft shots or dinks, and refusing to get aggressive, an Erne can break the monotonous cycle.
  • You Have Momentum: When you’re in the zone, and everything is going right, an Erne can further demoralize your opponent.
  • The Ball is High and Slow: These are prime conditions for an Erne, offering you ample time to leave the pickleball court or playing field and set up your shot.

How it Fits in Your Game Strategy

The Erne should not be the cornerstone but rather a spice in your overall pickleball strategy.

  • Complement to Basic Shots: While dinks, smashes, and volleys are the bread and butter of any pickleball player, the Erne adds a layer of unpredictability.
  • Risk Management: Use it sparingly to manage risk. Repeated use can make you predictable.

Intrigued about how rules shape gameplay? Learn more about the 7 rules of pickleball everyone forgets.

How to Hit an Erne Shot

Master the Basics

Before attempting an Erne, you need to have a solid grasp of basic pickleball shots. Once you’re comfortable with your swing technique and other foundational aspects, you can venture into executing this advanced shot.

Steps to Execute an Erne

  • Identify Opportunity: Look for a high, slow ball that is hit toward the sideline.
  • Positioning: Quickly move outside the kitchen, also known as beyond the NVZ, in preparation to make your volley.
  • Footwork: Make sure both your feet are well outside the non-volley zone or NVZ line.
  • The Swing: Use a controlled, yet forceful swing to volley the ball at a sharp angle, ideally out of your opponent’s reach.

Advanced Techniques

Once you get the hang of it, you can add a little flair or put spin on the ball for that extra oomph. For some advanced tips, feel free to read our post on pickleball ball hits player out of bounds.

The Kitchen Rule and Erne

What’s the Kitchen Again?

The “kitchen” is the pickleball term for the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ), the 7-foot area on both sides of the net where volleys are not allowed. Understanding the kitchen rule is essential as the Erne is a shot that defies the norm by volleying from just outside this zone. It’s crucial to remember that both your feet should be outside the kitchen, or beyond the NVZ, when executing an Erne.

pickleball kitchen zone

The Interplay Between the Two

Since you’re volleying from a position just outside the kitchen, you should be fully aware of the kitchen rule. For more detailed insights into the kitchen rule, refer to our comprehensive pickleball kitchen rules guide.

How to Defend Against an Erne

Defensive Strategies

To defend effectively against an Erne, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Anticipation: Use your opponent’s body language to anticipate the shot.
  • Positioning: Move to a position where you can quickly counter the shot, either with a dink or a volley.
  • Quick Reflexes: You’ll need fast hands to counter the high-speed volley that comes your way.

Techniques to Consider

  • Block and Counter: Use a blocking shot to counter the force of the Erne and regain control of the rally.
  • Defensive Lob: A well-placed lob can give you enough time to reset and get back into position.

Risks and Rewards

The Daring Nature of the Erne

The Erne is a high-risk shot, but with high risk comes high reward. If executed correctly, it’s a point-winner. If not, it could cost you valuable points and momentum.

Risk vs Reward Factors

  • Element of Surprise: The Erne can catch your opponent off guard, disrupting their game strategy.
  • Vulnerability: Miss the shot or mess up the positioning, and you leave a big portion of the court open for an easy counter-shot.


Mastering the Erne can take your pickleball game to new heights. It’s a flashy yet strategic shot that can catch even experienced players off guard. Incorporating this advanced shot into your game strategy will not only make you a more versatile pickleball player, but it will also add an exciting layer to the sport. Go ahead, step outside the kitchen and take a swing at mastering the Erne.

Additional Resources

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