In pickleball, there are many types of shots; each perfect for a different scenario.
One of these types of shots is the dink shot. When mastered, the dink can be a great weapon in the arsenal of any pickleball player.
It will allow you to take control of games and decide the pace the game is played.
Below, we will talk about everything ‘Dink Shot’.
What is a dink in pickleball?
The dink is a controlled finesse shot where you hit the ball into the kitchen on your opponent’s side of the court. It is hit with an upward trajectory and it is meant to land just over the net.
So effectively, you are next to the net, in the kitchen on your side of the court, and you are hitting the ball into the kitchen on your opponent’s side of the court.
For the dink, you don’t need power, all you need is control and precision.
A good dink shot should fall to the ground quickly after crossing over the net; giving your opponent no chance to smash the ball back.
Why is it effective?
The dink shot is the ideal response to a well-hit drop shot.
When your opponent plays a good drop shot, the ball will be in the kitchen on your side of the court and it won’t bounce high over the net.
The dink shot is the perfect and most reasonable response to this. If you hit the dink shot at the right angle, you become the person in control of the game.
As well as being an ideal response to a good drop shot, dinks can also be used for offense.
Dink shots allow you to move your opponent around and expose weaknesses.
The longer the dink rally goes on the higher the chance of your opponent missing the dink return or hitting the ball too high; allowing you to hit a put away shot.
This also applies to you, which is why it is very important that you master your dinking and get as consistent with your dink returns as possible.
When to dink in pickleball (and when not to)
As straightforward and easy as it might seem, a lot of pickleball players don’t know when to dink during a pickleball game, and hence do not use the shot altogether.
This is not ideal because there are times in a game when you absolutely need to pull off a dink shot.
A lot of pickleball players have tennis backgrounds and because of that, they are always trying to hit winners.
Trying to hit winners increases your chances of hitting the ball against the net and making an unforced error.
When you are in the kitchen, the goal is to keep dinking until your opponent makes a mistake.
Especially against weaker opponents, the longer you keep dinking, the more likely they are to hit the ball into the net in a bid to end the rally; you are essentially baiting them.
Against better players, the dink shot gives you the opportunity to take control of the point, by determining the speed, angle, and position of the ball.
Although the dink is typically the smartest and most effective shot when all players are at the net, it is not the best strategy when you and your partner are at the net and you have your opponents pinned to the baseline.
You have an advantage at this point and you shouldn’t lose this advantage by bringing your opponents up to the net.
Instead, you should keep your opponents pinned to the baseline and not allow them to get to the net; this increases your chances of winning the point.
What is a good dink
A good dink is one that does not bounce high on your opponent’s side of the court.
If your dink gives your opponent an opportunity to hit a volley, then it is not a good dink. That’s a “dead dink”.
In addition, the ideal dink shot should be angled in a way that makes returning as uncomfortable as possible for your opponent.
You should not put the ball in the middle and let your opponent have all the options in the world for a return. If you do, then that is not a good dink.
This video explains how to dink effectively.
Easy Dinking Drills
- Get a feel of it
Having a proper feel of the paddle and ball is a huge part of dinking.
One way to get the feel of the amount of power and swing you need is to grab a bucket of balls and repeatedly hit the balls over the net with your paddle.
Your goal is to land it softly into your opponent’s kitchen and ensure it bounces low.
Practice this until you become consistent at it.
- Work on your footwork
Footwork is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to get good at dinking.
When dinking, your feet should stay as close to the non-volley zone line as possible. You don’t want to step too far back or let your opponent drive you backward.
For this drill, you will need to create a line about 18 inches behind the non-volley zone line; you could use either cones or schoolyard chalk for this.
You should not go back beyond this line when practicing.
Many players step back from the non-volley zone line to allow the ball to bounce instead of hitting the ball in the air before the bounce.
When dinking, it is important to always hit the ball in front of you, so that you don’t give up your position at the line.
The barrier you create will help you to get used to not moving back and hence improve your footwork and positioning during a dink rally.
- Target practice
For this drill, you will need to put different targets on the other side of the net; put them all inside the kitchen.
Put one very shallow, one in the corner, and another one toward the centerline.
During this drill, you will be attempting to hit the different targets with each dink shot.
Getting used to hitting those spots often will greatly improve your dinking because those are typically the types of areas you will be trying to hit during a match.
What to do to set up the perfect dink
- Bend your knees
Unlike in shows like Game of Thrones, bending the knee here does not mean you are submitting to the opposition.
Your knees need to be bent with your feet apart to prepare yourself for a dink.
Being in this position allows you to have the best reactions possible, which is crucial in a dink rally.
- Get the right grip on the paddle
A relatively loose paddle grip will help you have a better feel when you hit the pickleball.
You should keep the paddle out in front of your body when hitting the ball for more consistency and better shots overall.
- Keep your eyes on the ball
It sounds like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many people take their eyes off the ball when playing.
If you don’t watch the pickleball, there is the possibility that you will mishit it; no amount of planning or positioning matters if you are going to mishit your shot.
Keep your eyes on the ball always!
- Move your feet properly
When dinking, it is important to try and keep yourself parallel to the non-volley zone line.
This puts you in the best position to maintain the dink rally regardless of the dink shot your opponent pulls off.
If you need to reach for a dink shot, take a step to the side with your foot closest to the pickleball, hit the pickleball, and immediately step back and return to your ready position.
This way, you will never be out of position and you will always be ready for the next shot.
- Get under the pickleball when striking
The dink shot has an upward trajectory so it is important to make sure you get under the ball when attempting a dink shot.
This is another reason why it is important to lower your body by bending your knees when preparing for a dink shot; it’s much easier to get under the ball that way.
- Ensure you get the ball over the net
As much as you want to keep your dink shots low and difficult to return, it is important to still respect the net.
You should try and give a little margin of error so you don’t hit the net and take yourself out of the point when attempting a dink shot.
Unforced errors are something you need to reduce to the barest minimum if you ever want to be an elite pickleball player.
The dink shot is a really important shot in pickleball that when mastered, can take your overall game up several notches.
It is for this reason that we thought it was important to have an entire article dedicated to dinking.
If you have never taken dinking seriously and felt like you could play pickleball without it, this is the wake-up call you neededd.
It is a pretty easy skill to learn, and hard to master, but the rewards can make all the difference on the pickleball court. Want to learn another pickleball skill? Learn about stacking in pickleball here.