15 Pickleball Shots and Strokes Every Player Should Master

Est. Reading: 8 minutes

Like in other paddle sports, pickleball players don't just hold their paddles and hit the ball. Aside from the rules, there are different pickleball shots that every player should know. If you are still a beginner, you should start learning them.

While reading this guide, you might think some shots seem impossible to master. But don't worry; you don't have to do all of them in every game. Each shot depends on many factors, primarily your position on the court and your opponent's movements.

Let's begin.

Shots and Strokes in Pickleball: What's the Difference?

Many players use the terms' shot' and 'stroke' interchangeably, and it's not a crime to refer one to the other. But in reality, they mean different things. A stroke is how your body functions once you apply action to the ball, while a shot is the result after you hit it. Simply put, strokes are somehow in a broader sense, and shots are more specific.

3 Strokes in Pickleball

Pickleball has three basic strokes - the groundstroke, the dink, and the volley. Each of these has different principles and purposes. Let's dissect them one by one:


As the name suggests, a groundstroke is any shot you make after the ball bounces. But remember, you are allowed to let the ball bounce only once before hitting it. Otherwise, you will be violating the double bounce rule. Although similar to dinking, a groundstroke is usually done when a player is near or at the baseline. 

Groundstrokes are very powerful and can be forehand or backhand. Although the latter seems unnatural, it is ideal if the ball comes at you fast. If you are a beginner, hitting a two-hand groundstroke can be challenging. But as you go along, you'll realize it can be better than using a forehand. You can also check our Groundstrokes Guide.


A dink is when you are at the kitchen line and hit the ball upward and softly until it crosses just above the net and lands on the other side of the kitchen. Since dinking slows the game, some people not into pickleball may find it tedious to watch. However, it is a very effective defensive strategy against aggressive opponents. 

Yet, engaging in a dink battle can also be an offensive strategy. If done correctly, you can persuade your opponent to commit a mistake while preparing to attack. However, proper positioning, patience, and agility are critical to successful dinking. Don't let your opponent attack you first. For detailed tips, read our Dinking Guide.


A volley is done by simply hitting the ball before it bounces to the ground. You can hit a volley anywhere on the court except in the non-volley zone, hence the name. Note that any item that touches you while volleying, including your momentum, should not also land in the kitchen. For complete information, read our Kitchen Rules Guide.

Since opposing players or teams should let the ball bounce once on their side on a serve and return of serve, volleying should only start on the fourth shot. Although it can be advantageous for the serving player or team, the receiving side can also use it to win the rally. To help you learn more, read our Volleying Guide and Tips for Beginners.

Pickleball Shots (Basic and Advanced)

The shots in pickleball can be divided into two categories: basic and advanced. The first half of this list is considered essential, which means beginners and intermediate players can learn them fast. The second half is for advanced and experienced players and needs months of practice and a truckload of patience. 

Therefore, I suggest understanding them carefully so you can start practicing them. 

#1 Serve

As you guessed, the serve is the first shot of every game. But unlike in other paddle or racquet sports, the goal of serving the ball in pickleball is simply to start a rally and let it land on the opposite side of the court. In short, you don't need extra effort to serve the ball. However, there are strict rules in serving that every player should follow.

The main rule is that the served ball should not land on the opponent's non-volley zone. Otherwise, the server commits a fault. The opposing players should also be in their proper positions. There are also two types of legal serves - volley and drop. Check out our Serve Rules Guide and Tips to help you understand these and the rules.

#2 Return of Serve

The primary purpose of a serve return shot is to return the ball, not to win points. Since the ball should be served diagonally, the receiver must be on the right side if the server is on the right and the left side if the server is on the left. The 2-bounce rule also states that the receiver should let the ball bounce once before returning it.

As opposed to serving, you are allowed to make the ball land in your opponent's kitchen. However, this is not a good idea since they can go to the kitchen line ahead of you. If that happens, they will have a better chance of winning the rally. Instead, you must return deep. You can learn more tips on our Return of Serve Tips and Tricks.

#3 Third Shot Drop

The serving team always hits the third shot drop, which is a very effective strategy. Since they should let the ball bounce before hitting it, this type of shot is usually done from the baseline. At this point, the receiving team is likely at the kitchen line. Therefore, the goal of a third shot drop is to prevent your opponent from controlling the game. 

But to be honest, mastering the third shot drop is not easy. It requires you to swing less and loosen your drip so the ball will not go out of bounds. If you're new to pickleball, it may take you weeks (or even months) of continuous practice to hit a perfect third shot drop. To help you, we have some valuable tips on how to master the third shot drop.

#4 Lob

A lob shot is when you hit the ball deep and high so that it will go over your opponent's head. The main purpose is to drive them away from the kitchen line or move backward to their baseline. Doing so, you buy time to prepare for an attack at the kitchen line. This shot also creates panic in your opponent, increasing their risk of committing errors.

To launch a successful lob shot, you should hit the ball high, deep, and with minimal backswing. When done correctly, it can also reset the game's momentum and is effective when your opponent is on the advantage side. On the other hand, your opponent can return an overhead smash, so be prepared to make a counter-attack.

#5 Overhead Smash

An overhead smash is a counter-attack shot that beginners can learn with practice. You can use it against a lob or when the ball is coming above your head. You must keep your elbow straight upward as you hit the ball and aim at your opponent's foot. In doing so, they will be forced to move backward and likely to commit an unforced error. 

However, a successful overhead smash requires you to shuffle your feet backward or sideways quickly. The most common mistake among players (especially beginners) while making this shot is backpedaling. Crossing your feet while moving backward could cause you to lose your balance and fall, resulting in an unexpected injury.

#6 Drive

Depending on the court position, a drive can be a volley or groundstroke. It can be an ideal shot when your opponent hits a short and high return. In this scenario, a third shot drive is typically more effective than a third shot drive. You must hit the ball with a full swing and as hard as possible so it will go over the net at a low trajectory.

Although hitting a forehand drive can pressure your opponent to move backward, it should not be your main winning strategy. Remember, pickleball courts are relatively small, and highly experienced players can quickly advance. Hence, drive shots take a lot of practice with a player as your opponent to learn the right timing and techniques.

#7 Cross-Court Dink

As the name implies, a cross-court dink is when you dink to send the ball diagonally, as you do during a serve. Whether the game is in singles or doubles, redirecting the ball in a cross-court pattern is a common strategy to reset the point. At the same time, it allows you to study your opponent's weaknesses.

Cross-cross dinking can be more effective than a straight dink since the pickleball net is at its lowest point in the middle. Although it seems easy, beginners may fight it challenging because it requires precision and patience. If you hit the ball too high, your opponent can easily hit a drive shot. Extended dinking battles can also hurt your back. 

#8 Backhand Slice Dink

Once you have mastered the art of dinking, you can elevate your game by adding aggressive backspin to your dinks. A backhand slice dink is a very effective strategy for stopping your opponent from targeting your backhand. It also creates deception because your opponent expects a softer shot and is, therefore, harder to return.

Like other dinks, you should always keep the ball as low as possible, which is the hardest part. Aside from the usual ready position, you must step your right foot a bit backward if you're on the right side of the court. It allows you to maneuver quickly and aim in a wider space. But again, this is an advanced shot and requires a lot of practice.

#9 Fake Dink

Yes, you read it correctly. You can fake a dink shot and surprise your opponent with a powerful drive. This deceptive shot requires some acting skills, but you don't have to be Robert de Niro to do that. To work effectively, disguise your intention as realistic as possible. It includes proper positioning, finding the right timing, and faster hand speed.

To do this trick, position yourself like you're about to do a cross-court dink. Keep your paddle before your body and maintain a consistent grip during the dinking battle. Then, accelerate forward toward and add spin to the ball. Just make sure it's high enough to cross over the net. Fake dinks are advanced shots, but you can start practicing them.

#10 Erne

An Erne is an aggressive shot named after Erne Perry, an exceptional pickleball pro player who first used it at the 2010 USAPA National Tournament. While we all know that volleying is not allowed in the kitchen, an Erne shot is a volley while the player jumps over the non-volley zone and lands outside the sideline. So yes, it's a 100% legal shot.

If you visualize how an Erne shot is done, you'll agree that it is tough to do it perfectly. It requires special skills and is definitely for advanced players only. As it is a very powerful volley, the defensive player should also be highly skilled to return the ball without committing a fault. Therefore, mastering an Erne is not for the impatient.

#11 Bert

Since there's an Erne shot, there should be a Bert. But no, this shot was not named after a pro player. Instead, a Bert shot is an Erne with some twists and is more complex. Like in an Erne, a Bert is done by leaping over the kitchen, hitting the ball mid-air, and landing on the opposite side of the court. Obviously, this is also an advanced shot.

But unlike in Erne, the player will cross into their partner's side of the court to do a Bert shot. In short, it is also called a poach shot with a more advanced technique. An effective Bert shot doesn't only require speed and accuracy; it also involves good communication among partners. Like other advanced shots, it requires a lot of practice.

#12 Around-the-Post 

Section 11.M of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook states, "A player may return the ball around the outside of the net post." The ball also does not need to travel back over the net, and there's no height requirement for the return. However, Section 11.L.3 states that any item that touches a player must not touch the opponent's court.

Therefore, these rules confirm that an around-the-post (ATP) shot is perfectly legal. Yet, the name alone tells us that this shot is indeed for advanced players only. This shot is usually possible when a player chases a ball traveling off the court and returns it around the net post. Some people call the ATP an impossible shot, but really, it's about timing.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the basic shots are pretty easy to learn, while the advanced ones seem impossible to master. But again, you don't need to use them all the time. The key is to practice a lot; don't be afraid to try them if given a chance. If you fail, analyze what went wrong, and don't stop improving yourself. If you need a coach to help you, hire one.

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