What Is A Dink In Pickleball?: The Complete Guide

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The term “dink” is synonymous with the game of pickleball. I bet you can’t go 20 minutes on the courts without hearing someone reference a dink shot. What is a dink in pickleball and why is it so important in pickleball?

Note this is a basic intro to the dinking. If you’re looking for a more advanced article check out Dink Shot Mastery

We’re here to answer all your questions about this pesky little shot, so get your drinking caps on and let’s dive right in.

animated image of a pickleball going over a net.

Check Out: Essential Pickleball Tips For Beginners

What is a Dink Shot?

The definition of a dink shot is a soft, controlled drop shot (off the volley or bounce) that you hit from the non-volley line into your opponent’s non-volley zone.

Keep in mind the dink shot is easy to explain in theory, but in practice, it can be very frustrating.

Purpose of a Dink Shot

The dink is the most underestimated shot in pickleball. The purpose of a dink shot is to completely change the tempo of the set.

By hitting a soft shot that just makes it over the net with a low bounce, your opponent has no other option but to dink it right back to you. The dink neutralizes power. 

You cannot return a well-placed dink shot with a powerful return. If you try, it’s either going to hit the net, or go too high and out of bounds. 

A dinking rally shifts the game from who is the most athletic, to who has the most control at the net.

A well-executed dink forces your opponent to hit the ball low until your opponent (or you) hit the ball back just a little too high for a putaway shot.

When To Use A Dink Shot

There are many scenarios when a well-placed dink can come into play in a pickleball set. Here are some key giveaways that I try to keep a look out for,

  • Your opponents are playing back
  • One, or both of your opponents are far from the center line.
  • They have trouble executing drop shots or dinks.

I like to use them when I know I’m playing against opponents who come from a tennis background. Chances are they have better control, placement, and power for long drives.

If they a drive at my body or my feet, there’s not much I can do.

However. when it comes to touch and control, I may have a better chance. That’s when I’ll execute a dink shot, and sure enough, someone will hit it a little too high and that’s when I drive it at their feet.

5 Basic Tips For Dinking

#1. Bend at the Knees

By bending at your knees rather than your waist you stay in that athletic foundational stance with your weight evenly distributed in your feet. Furthermore, bending at your knees keeps your paddle in an optimal position at a 45-degree angle. The image below is a great example of Riley Newman getting a low dink.

Professional Pickleball Association tournament screen shot showing Riley Newman hitting a dink shot in with his knees bent.
Image Credit: PPA Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/PPAtour

#2. It’s All in The Shoulder 

When executing a dink shot you want your elbow and wrist to be relatively locked in place. The shoulder is going to be your main pivot point that controls the motion of the dink. 

ben johns demonstrating how to use your shoulder to execute a dink shot
Image Courtesy of Franklin Pickleball Youtube Channel.

#3. Contact is Key

Keep your eye on the ball until it makes contact with the pickleball paddle. A dink requires a lot of feel and finesse, so ensuring that you’re hitting the shot in the sweet spot, ensures consistency. 

Dinks that are hit off the edge of the paddle won’t react the way you expect and could hit the net. 

#4. Stability

Having a wide (little more than shoulder-width) base is critical when dinking. It lowers your center of gravity and gives you a nice base so you can easily shuffle to get the return and then get back in position for the next shot. 

#5. Placement 

The center of a pickleball net is 2 inches lower than the posts. There’s less risk if you just dink the ball over the net every time. However, the point is to force your opponent to make a mistake. 

In order to do this, you should be trying to place the ball as close to their non-volley zone line as possible. The deeper the dink, the less reaction time your opponent has to think about if they’re going to let the ball bounce or volley it. 

Once you can hit the ball deep, try experimenting with a cross-court dink. The idea is to have your opponent constantly moving and having very little time to react. That’s when they’re going to hit one a little too high to you, or they hit a dink into the net.

court animation showing that you should place your dink shots deep and across the court.

Wrapping Up

The dink shot is the most underrated and underutilized shot in pickleball. If you want to be an advanced-level player, there are certain shots you have to master. The dink shot and the drop shot is two of the most lethal shots when utilized correctly.

Dinks can shift the control and the tempo of the rally and increase the likelihood of winning. Do whatever you can to practice and perfect your dink strategy until it’s rock solid. 

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