There is a lot of funny terminology in Pickleball. “Dink” is perhaps the best example.
The dink is the punchline of many pickleball stories and the subject of hundreds of campy pickleball t-shirts. But what is a dink?
The dink is a finesse shot, hit with an upward trajectory, that lands just over the net in your opponent’s No Volley Zone. A Dink slows down the game and can force your opponent to move out of position. The ability to hit a good dink shot can be an equalizer when facing a player who is faster or stronger.
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So how do you hit a good dink shot?
Bend Your Knees – It is much easier to hit a dink with your knees bent. You need to get under the ball to hit it properly. You want to lift the ball with your knees. It is also great exercise for your thighs and calves. Keep your wrist and forearm relaxed and simply maneuver the paddle with your shoulder muscles.
Use the Continental Grip– This grip comes from tennis. Imagine you are shaking someone’s hand as you grab the paddle. The handle should touch the heel pad of your hand and your index finger muscle. (See the image below).
The continental is also called “the chopper” in tennis because it is sort of how you would hold an ax. This grip is designed for hitting balls that are low or for underhand hits. That is how you want to hit a dink–underhand.
You also want to have a light grip. Holding the paddle gently will adsorb some of the ball’s energy and cause it to bounce off your paddle more softly.
You can use this grip forehand or backhand. The drawback of this grip style is it’s harder to hit with spin.
Find a Consistent Stroke – You want to hit a dink with a low underhand stroke. Let the ball bounce once, reach it’s apex, and start to fall–then hit it. You need a steady stroke to hit dinks consistently. That is why practicing the dink is so important. We describe how to practice hitting dinks below.
Dinks work great against hard-hitting players. If you have good finesse you can beat a play who is faster or stronger than you. The dink slows things down and forces them out of a fast-paced, hard-hitting rhythm.
Hit into the Kitchen – A dink is designed landed in the “No Volley Zone” or “Kitchen.” This forces your opponent to concentrate on footwork as well. They need to ensure the ball does bounce in the kitchen before stepping into the kitchen to hit the ball. Then they need to focus on stepping back out of the kitchen for the next shot.
If the ball lands in the kitchen your opponent won’t be able to hit a hard return shot. If they try the ball will either go straight into the net or sail over the baseline out-of-bounds.
Give the Net Clearance – A perfect dink goes just over the net. But it is impossible to hit with such accuracy consistently.
Instead, aim a good distance above the net. Give yourself a margin or error. Be patient and let your opponent make the mistakes.
The Cross-Court Dink
The cross court dink gives you more length to work with since the ball is traveling a greater distance, giving in time to drop. This gives you a wider margin of error if the ball is hit high.
If you’re playing doubles hitting cross-court can draw both players towards the net. Getting players out of position can set up other shots such as lobs to the back of the court or slams right at your opponents feet.
How to Practice Dinks
The best way to practice a dink is to find a partner and simply hit dinks back-and-forth over the net to each other. Practice hitting the ball to your partner when you are both on the same side and cross-court with your opponent on the opposite side.
You and your partner should both the standing just outside of the kitchen on opposite sides of the net.
Practice standing outside of the kitchen and stepping into the kitchen to return the ball after the ball bounces. Be sure to step back outside of the kitchen after your shot.
If you have 4 people to practice that is even better. Hit dinks back-and-forth between the four players in a figure-8 pattern. Then switch directions so everyone practices hitting dinks straight over the net and cross-court.
Remember to practice bending your knees. Wait for the ball to bounce, reach it’s peak, and start to fall—then hit it. Strike the ball in an upward direction giving the ball a gentle arc over the net.
5 Top Tips for Hitting Dinks Like a Pro ?
Tip #1: Wait until the ball is about to bounce a second time to hit the dink. This gives you extra time to get in position and assess you opponent’s position.
Tip #2: The “dink” and the “drop” shot are often confused, but they are different shots. A drop shot is similar to a dink, but it’s hit from somewhere in the back end of the court. Getting to know both shots will improve your game.
Tip #3: Dinks are rarely the winning shots in pickleball, instead, they set you up for a winning shot. Dinks force your opponent to hit the ball at an awkward angle, ideally, this gives them a weak return shot that you can use to your advantage.
The main point of the dink shot is to wear your opponent down and into making a mistake, that’s why it takes rhythm and patience. A well-placed dink also prevents a power hit return. Remember you’re controlling the game by aiming for your opponent’s feet and returning the ball with precision aim.
Tip #4: Dinking has to be done softly; otherwise, the ball will pop up too high and give your opponent a chance to slam it back at you. Ignore the urge to rush when you practice dink shots. This will prepare you to master the soft game and place those perfect set-ups.
Tip #5: Don’t be impatient. The dink shot allows you to use a patient steady shot to overcome your opponent. It’s the reason so many seniors are able to outplay their younger counterparts. It’s really the thinking man’s shot in pickleball.
There you have it! We touched on what a dink is, why it is unique to pickleball, and how best to incorporate the dink into your game. Comment below if you have any questions or if we missed something.
Don’t be shy about practicing dink drills. Often I’d rather play pickleball than practice drills. But if you are at all competitive it is worth practicing these finer points. It will really improve your game!