Pickleball Dink Shot Basics: Types, Goals, and Beginner Tips

Est. Reading: 8 minutes

Dinking in pickleball makes it unique from other paddle sports. Although dink is also a shot in tennis, it goes differently in pickleball. As a beginner in the sport, you might think it's a difficult shot and only professionals can do it.

Well, I beg to disagree. A dink shot is for any pickleball player who wants to take advantage of the game, regardless of their skill level. So, if you're a beginner and already know some pickleball basics, here's a guide on how to dink like a pro.

What is a Dink Shot in Pickleball?

In pickleball, a dink is a soft shot where you make the ball bounce on your opponent's non-volley zone, also called the kitchen. Ideally, if you're playing doubles, you, your partner, and your opponents are all near the kitchen line during this shot. After dinking,  your opponents are likely to dink, too. There's no rule on how often players can dink, so it looks boring at first. But for the solid fans, it's a step closer to the most exciting part.

Dink vs Drop Shot: What's the Difference?

Some coaches and players say a dink is similar to a drop shot. Well, it's true. These two shots are identical when it comes to the target landing spot - the non-volley zone. The main difference between a dink and a drop shot is where you are while doing them. Unlike in the dink shot, a drop shot is done while you are in or near the baseline and requires more skills. If you want to know more, read our Pickleball Third Shot Drop Tips.

What is the Purpose of Dinking?

The dink in pickleball can either be a defensive or offensive shot. If you're aware of the pickleball kitchen rules, you know that players are not allowed to volley in the kitchen. Since a dink shot is slow, the ball will also bounce low. Therefore, dinking is an excellent strategy to prevent your opponents from making a strong shot while you are near the kitchen line. Simply put, the purpose of a dink shot is to neutralize the rally.

At the same time, you can also use the dink shot to pressure your opponent to make a mistake. How? If your opponent's dink causes the ball to bounce high and far, this is your chance to smash the ball and possibly win the rally. In pickleball, around 75% of all rallies are won or lost due to unforced errors. Although most of them are in the baseline, mistakes during the kitchen rallies should not be ignored, especially for beginners.

Types of Pickleball Dink Shots

There are six types of dink shots in pickleball. They all have the same purposes but differ in how you perform them and where you should drop the ball. Some are easy to master, while others are not. Although you may be a beginner, it’s better that you each type so we can prepare yourself. Here they are:

#1 Forehand Dink

The forehand dink is the most common and is played by simply pushing the ball gently upwards. Your paddle must be low enough, with its hitting face facing your opponent. Keep your wrist locked and move your arm back and forth while hitting the ball. Make sure the force is consistent so that the apex is always the same. You also want to land the ball in different kitchen areas, hoping your opponent will hit it high.

#2 Backhand Dink

The principle and movements for a backhand dink are the same as with the forehand. But since you will use the backside of your paddle, it may initially feel unnatural. The main challenge here is to have a perfect apex and landing spot for the ball. Since dink shots are slow, you can mix it with a forehand dink or do both alternately. After all, you'll need it once you're in an awkward position to do a forehand dink.

#3 Straight Dink

Also called the down-the-line dink, a straight dink is done by hitting the ball and ensuring it will land in front of your opponent. Although not popular, it's usually used to force your opponent to move more toward the kitchen line, especially if they are out of position. Therefore, it is considered a deceptive shot and can be mixed with cross-court dinks. In doing so, your opponent will move around, and you can now control the rally.

#4 Cross-Court Dink

As the name suggests, this type of dink requires you to make the ball travel diagonally toward your opponent's kitchen. Unlike the straight dink, a cross-court dink increases your opponent's chance of committing an error. Because of the wider space, they should move to go after the ball. Also, your margin of error increases because the ball will cross over in the middle of the net, which is 2 inches lower than the two ends. 

#5 Backspin Dink

Adding a backspin to your dink forces the ball to bounce back toward the net rather than your opponent, making it harder for them to smash the ball. A backspin dink is also ideal if you are out of position because the slower motion gives you more time to move. But since you're adding a variable to your dink, you will need a lot of practice and patience to master it, especially if you are a complete beginner. 

#6 Topspin Dink

A dink with topspin is done by hitting the ball to make it spin forward in the air. Here, the ball goes faster into the kitchen compared to dink with no spin and a backspin dink. Your opponent will be forced to be on their defensive foot since the ball will speed up as it touches the ground. They will move outside their comfort zone and find it hard to make a perfect return unless you're playing against a well-experienced opponent. 

When is the Best Time to Dink?

The best time to do a dink shot depends on several factors. Again, you can dink to defend your court or plan to attack your opponent. And although you can always dink if there's a chance, here are some situations where you might want to hit a dink shot:

#1 After the Third Shot Drop

Ideally, you would like to do a dink shot after receiving a third shot drop. You cannot make an offensive shot since this shot results in a low bounce. Therefore, dinking can be the safest defensive tactic. 

#2 When Your Opponent is Dinking

If your opponent is dinking, the best response is to do the same. Both of you will patiently wait for the right time to attack. If you have been watching pro pickleball matches, you'll notice that some players dink back and forth multiple times.

#3 When Facing Against Aggressive Opponents

If your opponent is becoming aggressive or hard-hitting and is pressuring you, you should dink to slow down the game. In doing so, you are forcing them to go slower and return a dink. Not to mention, you can also control the rally.

#4 When You're in the Kitchen

Since you're not allowed to volley in the kitchen, the next best thing to do is to hit a low dink. But then, make sure to get out immediately and stand just outside the kitchen line. Remember, your opponent may attack at any moment, so you should be ready.

Pickleball Dink Tips for Beginners

Dinking is a pretty easy shot, but several strategies exist to do it effectively. You should ensure it is unattackable and an excellent preparation to launch an attack. So, without further ado, here are some solid tips for hitting a successful dink if you're still a beginner:

Be in a Ready Position

As with the other shots, being in a ready position is the first step to a successful dink. Once you hit the ball, it would be best to stay low to make it low. Slightly bend your knees and position your weight forward on the balls of your feet, but a bit lower than you do in the third shot drop. More importantly, keep your paddle in front of you.

Use a Light Grip

The Continental grip is ideal for dinking since it makes you feel comfortable to do a short swing to your paddle. If you don't know how to do it, read our Pickleball Paddle Grips Guide. You also want a light grip so your arm is relaxed as you hit the ball upward. Otherwise, the ball will get higher than expected, and your opponent will smash it.

Watch out for the Ball

Keep an eye on the ball as it approaches you. This will help you decide which dink type to use and determine whether you need to move your feet. If the ball lands near your feet, you will be caught off guard and may react slowly. Knowing the trajectory of the incoming ball also helps you know when to hit it and where you want to drop it.

Find the Right Timing

Finding the right timing is a significant factor for a perfect dink. Should you dink in the air or let the ball bounce once before hitting it? Remember, the two-bounce rule only applies to the serve and return of serve. Quite similarly, the double-bounce rule states that allowing the ball to bounce more than once on your side before hitting it is a fault. 

Lift the Ball Gently

Lifting the ball gently is another crucial part of dinking and can be challenging to beginners. To help maintain a controlled motion, use your shoulder instead of your elbow and wrist. A successful dink requires the right amount of force, which will depend on the height of the ball when you hit it. This technique takes a lot of practice, though.

Avoid the Net

A ball touching the net and landing on your opponent's kitchen is a continuous play. However, there's a bigger chance that it will land on your side, and you will lose the rally. Therefore, you must aim a little over the net and let your opponent make mistakes. Your swinging motion should also be consistent during the entire dink battle.

Keep the Bounce Apex Low

The apex is the highest point the ball can reach before it goes down. While you must make the ball higher than the net, you may also want a low bounce apex. The purpose is to force your opponent to hit the ball upward, which you can attain by letting the ball go slow. But be watchful; your opponent might hit the ball as it crosses the net. 

Go Back to the Ready Position

Regardless of your dink strategies, you can still lose the rally if you don't return to your ready position. So, make it a part of your dinking routine. It may slightly change if the ball goes in a different direction, but the basics are always the same. Stay closer to the kitchen line during the exchanges of dinks and be ready for your next move.

Practice Adding Spin

As mentioned earlier, adding spin to dinks requires mastering special skills. But as a beginner, you can start practicing it. To make it easier, have an experienced player act as your opponent. Also, practice dinking in doubles and watch closely how the spinning should be done. There's a steep learning curve, so don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Final Thoughts

Dinking is slow and relaxing, which some people dislike in pickleball. But as a player, it's like playing chess that needs mental sharpness. Every dink you do is a baby step toward attacking your opponent without ignoring the possibility of losing your queen. So go ahead and practice dinking to level up your skills. After all, it's also fun to dink.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Reading

Go To Blog
About Us
Picklepow started when a group of friends came together over a shared bond – Pickleball! After playing for years, they created a resource to teach others and connect them to courts across the country. Need a new hobby? You might've just found it!
© 2024 Picklepow – All Rights Reserved
Affiliate Disclaimer
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram