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How To Do a Dink Shot in Pickleball

Two women playing pickleball double on the court.

Whether you are just starting to learn how to play pickleball, or have started and want to perfect your game, you will hear the term “dink shot.” It is among the most common terms heard in pickleball, and when used correctly, an important component of your strategy.

Many will say the dink shot can be the softest approach to playing pickleball, but it is actually a more serious shot that sets you apart from many other players.

In the dink shot, like any other shot in any other sport, there is a certain amount of luck, and a certain amount of skill. As many highly rated players and pickleball professionals will tell you, you can’t control the luck but you can control the dink shot.

For those learning how to become a professional pickleball player, mastering the dink shot is a must. Learn more about how to perfect the ultimate strategy shot in pickleball, the dink shot.

Related To: How To Return a Slice in Pickleball | Types of Pickleball Training Aids | Types of Pickleball Shots

The dink shot is that shot in pickleball that sets up many other shots and returns in every game

A person playing a pickleball single on a multiple court.

Defining the dink shot is easy, and it has everything to do with the no volley zone. That is where the dink shot occurs, as you perform the shot in an upward motion, just passing the net and into your opponent’s kitchen. The kitchen is also called the no volley zone.

Overall, the dink is a slower shot that forces all players to change their pace in the game. When you are dealing with a player who is unpredictable, the dink shot is a good strategy.

USA Pickleball defines the dink shot as one that hits “on a bounce” and barely touches the net. You need it to land in the kitchen, and it does not matter if it is a straight shot or a cross shot. In a nutshell, the dink shot is one with a bounce, low to the net, and focuses on the zone where the shot is sent.

For many, the purpose of the dink shot is to get the opponent to move from one zone to the next on the court, in order to keep the opponent guessing.

The purpose of the dink shot is to either function a an offensive move or a defensive move

An old couple playing pickle ball together.

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There are many purposes to the dink shot, but overall, the dink shot is a strategic move intended to keep your opponent guessing. It can be either an offensive move or a defensive move. If you are using the dink shot for offense, in either singles or doubles in pickleball, it puts pressure on your opponent to move and this could result in an error.

As a defensive move, the dink shot relieves a little bit of pressure on your opponent, they may even be expecting it. With the dink shot, you give the opponent a little bit of a false sense of security.

A good dink shot is one that has a very high point with its arc and lands precisely in the kitchen. That prevents the other player from being able to volley it back, as it will have landed in the no volley zone. It forces a bounce on the ball to slow down your other player as they will then have to hit the ball higher to the other side of the net.

The steps to performing the perfect dink shot are easier than you think

Four people playing pickleball together.

When you are performing the dink shot, there are a few steps to take that are common to all players. Your athletic position and the way you handle your pickleball paddle will be key when you are performing the dink shot. You want to start by bending the knees so that you can hit the dink at the right angle. The most important part of perfecting this shot is making sure that it is low.

You are going to use your paddle to hit the ball from below, and you want to lift up with the shot using your knees. Keep the arm and the wrist when holding the paddle relaxed, and you will just move it using the shoulders of your arm. So, you will hold the paddle low, but use your upper body to move it when performing the shot.

Some say the best way to hold the pickleball paddle is to hold it as if you are shaking hands with someone. You want the heel of your hand to be touching the handle of the paddle.

Your grip on the paddle should be light. A lighter hold on the paddle will help you to grasp some of the energy from the ball and the bounce required for a true dink shot can occur. A gentler hold on the paddle will help to hone the shot.

An underhand stroke is key to the dink shot here, and you want it to be as low as possible. So you will start by allowing the ball to bounce, letting it reach its highest point, and then letting it fall before you hit it. The hit on the ball needs to be consistent and steady. It’s impossible to get a good dink shot perfect the first time, unless you are very lucky.

You have to hit the dink shot into the kitchen, that is the key marker that you are hitting the dink shot. This makes the other player move on the court, and works well if they are at the baseline. Keep in mind your opponent may be preparing for the dink shot. And, if you are playing doubles, it is almost always the general strategy for one player to be looking out for the dink shot.

The other player is required to wait until the ball bounces before they are permitted to step into the kitchen in order to return the ball. Then their focus is to step back for the next play of the game. One common strategy with the dink shot is to keep your feet at the kitchen line. Don’t move.

If you move back, the other player will see your feet and this gives them the chance to put the pressure on you, as they will have more space to return with their own dink shot against you. Always keep your feet at the kitchen line.

Net clearance is an important part of the game, as you want the ball to just clear the net for the perfect shot. This is not an easy task, and perfecting this will take some time and a lot of practice. Go easy on yourself while you are practicing this. Aim just enough over your net, and give yourself some room here.

There is always a good time to dink and a bad time to dink

Couples playing pickleball double.

As with any game, you want to know when is the best time to play your strategy. Hitting the perfect dink shot is no different. There is always a good time to hit the dink shot and a bad time to hit a dink shot.

The best time to do it is when the other player is at the no volley line, or at the kitchen line. Another great time to hit the dink shot is when your opponent hits a dink shot in your direction. If you dink shot back, you could gain some lead here.

If you have already pushed your opponent back to the baseline, then you don’t want to hit the dink shot because they won’t be able to hit it back the way you will need them to. You can still hit a dink shot, but strategy wise, hitting it when they are at the baseline is not always going to be the most effective strategy.  You’ll get the point then.

When the ball bounces a second time is another good time to go for the dink shot. This gives you a little bit more time when you are going in for the shot. This extra time, even if it is only just a few seconds, gives you time to assess where your opponent stands on the court.

It’s important to remember that the dink shot is not the shot that is going to win the game, but it is a step in that direction. It forces your opponent to make a move, and reveal their own strategy a little bit when it comes to showing how they move and respond to returns on the court.

The point of the dink shot is to get a weak return. The dink shot is a way of you telling the other player that you want to disadvantage them, so it is revelatory towards your own game as well. When you are in the middle of the game however, you won’t care, it is ultimately your point.

You are telling your opponent what your game play is a little bit here by forcing them to move on your shot a very specific way. It is a very soft approach against almost any player, particularly those that are more aggressive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Dink Shot in Pickleball

What is the main benefit of using the dink shot?

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The main benefit of using the dink shot is obviously to get more points in the game, and to win the game of pickleball. It is a good strategy to use against players that have an aggressive strategy. This is a shot that will slow the game down. It has a tendency to shoot slowly and upwards, and forces the return to do the same.

If you are playing against someone who wants to make a power play, the dink shot will be one that slows your opponent down. That is because it is very difficult to return this shot with power, and that is the main purpose of the dink shot.

Most seasoned players know that there are few choices when you are returning a dink shot, other than another dink shot. So the player sending the dink shot will know that, but so will the opponent. If you are having a problem with your game, the dink shot slows the pace of the game for at least one return, but likely two.

Patience is always mentioned in every lesson where the dink shot is taught, as slow and steady wins the race here.

How does the game play go with a dink shot?

A dink shot is not a serve, it is a shot that is made during the game. So you will start the game with a traditional serve, and then the return of the serve will be made. The player that has received the serve will then usually come towards the net. Here you might start to see dinks and drop shots occur.

A drop shot is similar to a dink shot, but not exactly the same. A dink shot is a great return on a drop shot but every game is going to be varied and will not always go exactly like this. Again, using the dink shot to neutralize the pace of a game is not uncommon.

Is there a specific way to hold the paddle when playing pickleball?

Hold the pickleball paddle like you are shaking hands with it, and control it in a way that enables you to get the paddle underneath the pickleball. Bend your knees and hold the paddle in a way that enables you to see underneath the ball. You are going to lift the paddle so that you lift the ball, using your shoulder to hit the ball, and not your wrist.

Lift with your shoulders and hit with your wrist in a controlled move. It will take some practice but you will find the right connection to perfect the dink shot your way. Keep practicing, keep patient, and teach your body to control the paddle your way.