Learn How to Master Good Dinks

What is a dink and how do you do it?

A dink is a soft pickleball shot that you hit from around your kitchen (the non-volley zone line) that lands inside your opponent’s kitchen. A good, effective dink will arc downward when it crosses the net, which makes it a harder shot for your opponent to return. Learn all about dinks:

  1. Breaking down a proper dink in pickleball
  2. Setting up the perfect dinks
  3. Hitting the perfect dink
  4. Adding spin to your dinks
  5. The best ways to return dinks

Breaking down a proper dink in pickleball

Why bother doing it in the first place?

If you watch a pickleball game, you’ll notice that most of the game consists of slow, soft hits that fly just over the net and bounce on the other side of the court. After a few of these “dinks,” suddenly there’s a flurry of volleying, the pace speeds up until one side makes a fault and ends the rally. Some people claim that 70-80% of the game of pickleball is dinking!

So why do dinks at all? Especially if you can win the point on an aggressive smash or well-placed volley? Here’s what the veterans of pickleball will tell you: Dinking will help you neutralize a hard-pounding opponent. When you dink, you effectively slow the game down, which gives you a chance to start to control the game. With a well-executed dink, your opponent will have virtually no chance of hitting the ball hard from such a low position inside the non-volley zone. And if your opponent tries to return your dink by smashing the ball, the ball will likely go into the net or pop up. If the ball pops up, you are in a fantastic position smash and get the point.

A “well-executed dink”? What’s that? Simply, a good dink is unattackable. Let’s talk about how you can hit a fantastic dink.

How to setup up the perfect dinks

Okay, we’re going to assume that you’re already set up to play the best pickleball game you can play. You’ve picked out the best paddle, the right shoes, comfortable clothes, and an awesome attitude. You are ready to get dinking! Here’s how to setup your grip, arm, and legs.

The right grip

First things first. Let’s talk about the grip. In our opinion, the best way to grip your paddle for dinking is the “continental” grip.

Pretend that you are going to shake hands with the pickleball paddle and the handle is pointing right at you with the paddle faces facing left and right. Grab the handle. When you use a continental grip, you can do basic forehand and backhand strokes without changing your grip. That’s why sometimes this is considered the neutral grip.

Be sure not to hold the handle too tight. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is the lightest grip you can manage without dropping the paddle and 10 is your mega death grip, you probably want to hold the paddle at a grip strength of 3 or 4. A loose grip like this will allow you to feel the ball hitting the paddle. You will have more control over hitting the ball with the right amount of power.

Set up your arm (elbow and wrist)

Keep your wrist firm and in a comfortable position. Your elbow will also be bent in your ready position. You’ll want to hold your paddle slightly in front of your body to avoid hitting the ball from behind you. Prepare yourself to use your shoulder muscles and rotation to dink; if you end up snapping your wrist or elbow to make the dink, you’re likely to cause the ball to pop up into the air, giving your opponent a chance for a return volley.

Position your legs

Loosen your legs and make sure they are bent. A good body position to be in is the “ready” position. When you’re in the “ready” position, your legs should be balanced and shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and torso facing the opposite court. In this position, you move quickly to the appropriate position, whether that is left, right, forward, or back. For most of the game, you’ll probably be standing up front, right behind the kitchen line.

How to hit the perfect dink

To hit the perfect dink, you need to be in the right position and have the right stroke.

Use your legs

From the ready position, it should be relatively straightforward to move into the right position on the court. However, perhaps more importantly, is to remember to use your legs to reach for the low balls. Many pickleball players will instinctively bend at their backs to reach toward the low bounces. Instead, bend your legs to get low. This action might be more natural for tennis players who are becoming pickleball players.

Short, compact strokes

Your swing path should be from low to high. Start your paddle low but in front of your body. Have a very short backswing, making sure the paddle doesn’t go behind you. Then swing towards the ball with the paddle face pointing towards your target. Give a short follow-through toward your target and immediately return to a ready position. Overall, you should feel your body isn’t moving much and your arm is doing a very compact stroke. Make sure you’re not standing up in the middle of your stroke as that will pop your ball up!

Clear the net

This is probably very obvious but it’s worth repeating. If you dink the ball into the net, that’s a fault and you’ve lost the rally. You really must get the ball over the net to keep playing. Thus, it is very important to get your paddle underneath  the pickleball to prevent yourself from hitting the ball into the net. Using your legs can help you get your paddle lower and face the right angle.

In addition, some people might believe a perfectly executed dink goes juuuust over the net. It’s not necessary at all to focus all that energy on keeping the ball low going over  the net. Give yourself a good margin of space above the net because you’d much rather go higher over the net than risk getting the ball caught in the net. It’s not the height of the dink that matters as much as where the dink lands on the other side.

Land the dink near your opponent’s feet

Ideally, your dink will land low, right toward your opponent’s feet. If your dink lands low and close to your opponent’s body, it makes it much harder for them to attack the ball. Once you get pretty consistent with your dinks, move the dink around your opponents’ kitchen to keep them guessing!

The lefty (left-handed) dink advantage

If you’re a lefty, then you have a dinking advantage! You can hit dinks from either side of the court. When you’re closer to the net you can hit a dink with your backhand (from the right side of the court). You can also hit a dink with your forehand (from the left side of the court). Being able to hit dinks from either side of the court makes it harder for your opponents: it’s harder to defend and your opponent has to cover more of the court. Being a lefty (or being able to hit with your left hand) is awesome. Learn more here:

Adding spin to your dinks

Once your basic dink is consistent, reliable, and feels good, you can take dinks to the next level by adding spin! There are a variety of shots you can add to your dink repertoire: topspin, backspin (or slices), and sidespin.

Check out our guide on how you can Add Spin to Your Dinks!

The best way to return dinks

What should you do if there’s a near-perfect dink coming toward you?

Track the ball

Have you ever watched a pro pickleball game and wondered if that pro had some magic that slowed down time so she could always be in a perfect position? While the dinking part of the game is slower than the volleying part, every split second can help. Keep your eye on the ball to it as it’s coming off the opponent’s paddle. Don’t just track the ball with your eyes, though! Anticipate where the ball is going and start moving your paddle arm simultaneously. You will increase your chances of being ready to hit the ball when the timing is exactly right.

Take the dink out of the air whenever you can

Taking the dink out of the air will take a little practice, especially for new pickleball players, but doing so is a great defensive move. As a beginner pickleball player, it may feel hard to try and take dink out of the air since you are probably worried about hitting a volley while touching the non-volley zone. However, every time you can take the dink out of the air you hit the ball back to your opponent(s) faster, giving them much less time to set up for a return. However, if it’s not the right dink to take out of the air, don’t worry. Let it bounce and wait for the next one.

Practice, practice, practice!

Okay, that’s enough words about dinking. The best way to improve your dinking is to get out there and practice! A great way to get your reps in is to do partner dink drills (find drills online and practice on the courts). Aim to develop a consistent stroke to get a reliable dink. With a consistent and reliable dink, you’ll be able to patiently wait for your opponent to make that pop-up mistake that will help you go for the winning 11-9 score. (Want to learn all about scoring in pickleball? Check out Full Guide: How to Score in Pickleball.) See you on the court!

Not willing to be just a patient dinker?

Perhaps you’re ready to perform fancy carving or slicing on your dink to increase the odds of an opponent’s error? Then it’s time to expand your repertoire from flat dinking to dinking with spin.

Here is excellent dink guidance from Ben Johns, one of the best pickleball players in the world. Plus, some fun rapid-fire Q&A like whether Ben prefers froyo or ice cream.


Dinking is a fundamental skill in pickleball, and a great way to control the pace of the game. Dinking can help you to set up your opponent for an easy put-away, or to put yourself in a better position on the court. It is important to practice dinking so that you can develop a reliable and consistent stroke. With a reliable and consistent dink, you’ll be able to play more challenging opponents and increase your skills (and ratings).

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