Pickleball Dink Shot

Pickleball Dink Shot – Add this Shot to your Repertoire of Strategic Shots

As a former high school and collegiate tennis player, the term “dink” has always had a negative connotation with those with whom I competed. It was a term predominantly used to describe a player who wasn’t really too good, didn’t “hit out” with their groundstrokes, and simply “pushed” the ball back to their opponent with little to no aggressiveness in the hopes of forcing an unforced error by his/her opponent. It was a strategy that would work well against “less seasoned” players but would be ineffective when playing those of higher caliber.

Dinking in Pickleball – An Underutilized Strategy

Dinking in pickleball, however, is a very effective and necessary doubles strategy employed by the very best players. Unfortunately, it’s also a strategy that is grossly underutilized by the beginning player.

After entering my first pickleball tournament I learned the hard way the importance of adding the dink shot to one’s repertoire of shots. It’s a strategy that will likely foil any tennis player’s hard-blasting strategy.

What is a Dink?

The dink in pickleball is simply a shot executed from around your own kitchen line that lands in your opponent’s non-volley zone (kitchen).

Because the pickleball rules clearly state that you cannot hit the ball out of the air from inside this non-volley zone, a well-executed dink will force your opponent to let the ball bounce. Because the ball will bounce – and a pickleball doesn’t bounce very high – your opponent will be forced to hit their next shot “up” to clear the net, making it very challenging for them to hit the ball hard and still keep it in the court.

Your opponent’s likely next shot is simply to dink it back to you. The dinking typically continues until one player hits the ball a little too far and high resulting in a shot that can then be struck in a downward motion, generally for a winner..

Dink Technique – How to Dink

To hit an effective dink, proper court positioning is crucial. Make sure you are positioned just 1-2 inches behind the kitchen line. If you stand further back than 1-2 inches, it will be easier for your opponents to hit the ball at your feet (a very vulnerable position) and they will also have better angles when attempting to hit between you and your partner.

As you execute the dink shot you will want to make sure you first have soft, relaxed hands with a relatively light grip pressure when holding the paddle. Use a very minimal backswing. The paddle should never go behind your body and the face should be slightly open – to the tune of approximately 45 degrees.

Bend your knees (stay low) and make contact comfortably in front of your body. Make sure your “swing” isn’t really a swing at all. Rather, when dinking, it’s more of a lifting motion with your shoulder.  The wrist and elbow should stay firm in a relatively locked position.

Finally, your follow-through should be quite short – perhaps just a foot or two after contact. And, of course, give yourself plenty of margin for error over the net. As long as you hit a dink in which you force your opponent to hit up on their next shot – even if they take the ball out of the air by extending their reach into the non-volley zone – your execution of the shot is just fine.

When to Dink

The time to hit a dink shot is when you and your opponents are all at the Non-Volley Line.

A Dink for a Dink

If your opponent dinks, the highest percentage response is – you guessed it – a dink. Responding with a hard-driving volley or groundstroke is a very low-percentage shot. Chances are that, because you have to hit “up” to clear the net, such a hard-driving shot will be difficult to keep in the court. The dink, while not necessarily the sexy option, is the best shot selection.

>>READ MORE: 15 Pickleball Shots to Add to Your Arsenal<<

When Not to Dink

The dink is typically a smart and effective shot when all players are at the net. However, it is not the most effective strategy when you and your partner are at the net and you have pinned your opponent to the baseline. You have a distinct advantage at this point. Don’t negate this advantage for you and your partner by bringing your opponents up to the net. Instead, keep your opponent pinned to the baseline – and don’t let them get to the net – you’ll increase your chances of winning the point.

Practice, Practice, Practice

To be good at the dink shot requires practice and repetition. With that in mind, see you on the courts! For additional doubles and singles strategies, click here.

Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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9 Comments

  1. As a beginner, I understand why the dink shot is a great tool to develop. It will deepen my set of strategies. Thank you.

  2. I’m a four month novice/intermediate. Our intermediate instructor is really driving the point of working on the dink, 3rd shot drop. I’m losing many games practicing that shot. My dinks can not seem to clear the net. Frustrating. Not giving up, though !

  3. I am now playing much better pickle now that the dink shot or soft game is being used much more than the slam bam pickle I used to use quite a bit.

  4. Being an intermediate I am still way behind perfecting my shots, although I am developing my dink and I hope I can use it effectively when I improve.

    1. That’s great, Beth. Seems silly that a dink shot is such an important shot in pickelball, but it truly is. Being able to execute this shot will take you to the next level! See you on the courts!

  5. Thanks! It’s taken me a while to develop my dink but now I love it and sometimes(?) very effective!!

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