What is a Dink or Drop Shot in Pickleball

January 18, 2024

Diving into the world of pickleball, two shots stand out as game-changers: the mysterious “dink” and the cunning “drop shot.” Ever heard someone casually toss these terms around during a game and felt like you’ve missed a secret memo? Well, let’s demystify these techniques. Imagine this: you’re in the heat of the game, and there’s a moment when a gentle flick of the wrist sends the ball just over the net, landing softly in the opponent’s territory. That, my friend, is the dink shot. It’s not just a move; it’s an art form, a tactical whisper in a world of loud smashes. It’s about finesse over force, placing the ball in the non-volley zone (affectionately known as the kitchen) and setting the stage for your next masterstroke.

Now, let’s talk about its crafty cousin, the drop shot. Picture yourself outwitting your opponent with a stroke that’s as sly as a fox. The ball, spinning back, barely clears the net and then plummets, daring your opponent to sprint forward for a hasty reply. The drop shot is your secret weapon, your unexpected plot twist in a thrilling pickleball narrative. It’s a strategic ploy, used to catch your opponent off-balance, turning the court into a chessboard where every move counts. These shots aren’t just techniques; they’re your aces in the hole, turning a casual rally into an enthralling game of skill and wits. So, ready to spice up your game with these two stealthy moves?

The Difference Between a Dink and Drop Shot

Welcome to the intriguing world of pickleball, where mastering the subtle art of shot selection can elevate your game to new heights. You might have heard the terms “dink shot” and “drop shot” buzzing around the court, often used interchangeably by enthusiasts. However, these are two distinct shots, each with its unique charm and tactical advantage. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of what sets these two apart and when to deploy them to outsmart your opponent.

Dink Shot

Picture yourself at the brink of the non-volley zone (NVZ), the tension palpable. Here, the dink shot is your silent warrior. It’s a soft, strategic shot, skillfully played close to the NVZ line. The beauty of the dink shot lies in its subtlety – it barely skims over the net, landing with a tantalizing slowness in your opponent’s NVZ. The dink is not about power; it’s about precision and patience. It’s a chess move, not a checkers play. By executing this shot from within the NVZ, you’re not just hitting a ball; you’re carefully placing it in a spot that challenges your opponent, often leading them to stretch, scramble, and hopefully, falter.

Drop Shot

Now, let’s spotlight the drop shot, a master of disguise from the back half of the court. Imagine it as a stealthy move, where the ball, with a gentle arc, sails over the net and then plummets gracefully into your opponent’s NVZ. This shot is all about catching your adversary off guard, transforming a routine rally into a tactical duel. It’s a soft, calculated lob that, when executed with finesse, can shift the game’s momentum in your favor. However, precision is key. A misjudged drop shot can turn the tables, giving your opponent an easy opening to attack. So, practice this crafty shot to perfect its deceptive charm, making it a vital tool in your pickleball arsenal.

The Strategy and Tactics of Pickleball

Offensive Strategies

Offensively, both the dink and drop shots are indispensable in pickleball, offering a strategic edge to score points. The dink shot, known for its subtlety, is a softly-played gem that gently lands over the net into the opponent’s non-volley zone. Its purpose is tactical brilliance – forcing the opponent to return the ball in an upward motion, limiting their power and aggressive potential. Mastering the dink shot means having control over various aspects of the play: the ball’s placement, the pressure you apply, the angle of your stroke, the arc it creates, and the depth of its landing. Consistency is crucial here, as is the element of surprise. By varying your shots, you keep your opponent constantly on their toes, unable to predict your next move.

Defensive Tactics

Defensively, when facing a dink shot, agility and anticipation become your best allies. Quick movement and strategic positioning are essential to intercept these low, stealthy shots. Especially in doubles, effective communication and court coverage with your partner are critical to form a robust defense. There are several tactics to counter a dink shot. Blocking is a subtle art, requiring a soft stroke to return the ball gently over the net. Lobbing, on the other hand, is about sending the ball high and deep, pushing your opponent backwards. Driving is a more aggressive approach, where a hard, flat hit puts the opponent on the back foot, switching the game’s flow to your favor.

Whether playing singles or doubles, the key lies in harmonizing your offensive strategies with defensive tactics. The dink and drop shots aren’t just techniques; they’re strategic weapons in your pickleball arsenal. By mastering these, and knowing how to counter them, you set yourself up not just to play the game, but to excel at it, point by point.

Executing the Dink Shot

Mastering the dink shot in pickleball is a blend of finesse, control, and strategy. It’s not just a shot; it’s a nuanced craft that can elevate your game significantly. In this section, let’s break down the essentials of executing the perfect dink shot, focusing on technique, grip, positioning, footwork, timing, and rhythm.

Technique and Grip

The foundation of a good dink shot lies in the grip. The continental grip reigns supreme here, offering the perfect balance between control and flexibility. With this grip, your paddle face stays open, allowing for a more nuanced and controlled shot. When you’re about to execute a dink, ensure that your paddle is angled slightly downwards. This positioning is crucial as it softens the shot, ensuring the ball gently arcs over the net into the opponent’s non-volley zone.

Positioning and Footwork

Positioning and footwork are the dance steps to the rhythm of pickleball. To execute an effective dink shot, your stance and movement are pivotal. Adopt the ready position – an athletic stance that keeps you agile and prepared for any move. This stance is your launchpad, enabling quick, responsive movements and a solid base for your shot.

Timing and Rhythm

In pickleball, as in music, timing and rhythm are everything. The key to a successful dink shot lies in waiting for the ball to bounce. This pause allows you to assess, position, and execute with precision. Your movement towards the ball should be smooth and purposeful, and your stroke, a fluid motion that gently nudges the ball over the net.

Steps to Execute the Dink Shot

  1. Start in the ready position, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. As the ball approaches, maintain your focus and prepare to move.
  3. Wait for the ball to bounce – this is your cue.
  4. Move towards the ball with deliberate, controlled steps.
  5. As you reach the ball, use your continental grip to softly tap it, angling the paddle face downwards.
  6. Follow through with your shot, ensuring a gentle arc over the net.
  7. Quickly reset to the ready position, staying alert for your opponent’s return.

Remember, the dink shot is more than just a technique; it’s a strategic tool. It requires practice, patience, and a keen sense of the game’s rhythm. As you refine your dink shot, you’ll find it becoming a vital part of your pickleball arsenal, a shot that can subtly shift the game’s momentum in your favor.

Executing the Drop Shot

Executing the drop shot in pickleball is an art that combines precision, timing, and strategic insight. This shot, when performed correctly, can be a game-changer, shifting the dynamics of play and catching your opponent off-guard. Let’s delve into the essentials of executing the perfect drop shot, focusing on technique, grip, positioning, footwork, timing, and rhythm.

Technique and Grip

The drop shot technique hinges on the ability to impart gentle backspin and control. Here, the continental grip once again proves effective, offering the balance needed for this delicate shot. The grip allows for a semi-open paddle face, essential for creating the backspin that characterizes a good drop shot. When executing the drop shot, your focus should be on hitting the ball softly with a slight underspin, ensuring it clears the net but drops quickly into the opponent’s non-volley zone.

Positioning and Footwork

Positioning for a drop shot is a bit different from the dink shot. Since the drop shot is typically executed from the back half of the court, you need to be positioned well behind the baseline. Your footwork is crucial – it should be quick and light, allowing you to move into position and execute the shot with precision. Adopt a balanced stance, ensuring you are ready to spring forward or move laterally as needed.

Timing and Rhythm

Timing is critical for a successful drop shot. The goal is to strike the ball just after its peak, imparting enough energy to clear the net but not so much that it fails to drop quickly. The rhythm of the drop shot is more about gentle finesse rather than force; think of it as a smooth, controlled stroke that floats the ball over the net.

Steps to Execute the Drop Shot

  1. Start in a balanced stance, ready to move forward or laterally.
  2. As the ball comes to you, prepare to strike after its peak bounce.
  3. Step towards the ball with controlled footwork.
  4. Using the continental grip, gently stroke the ball with a semi-open paddle face to create a subtle backspin.
  5. Focus on softly clearing the net while ensuring the ball drops swiftly into the opponent’s non-volley zone.
  6. Follow through with your stroke, maintaining control and precision.
  7. Quickly reset to your base position, ready for the next play.

Mastering the drop shot in pickleball requires practice and a nuanced understanding of the game’s flow. This shot, with its deceptive simplicity and strategic depth, can be an invaluable part of your toolkit, adding a layer of sophistication to your gameplay. As you hone this skill, you’ll find the drop shot becoming a key component in your strategy, enabling you to outmaneuver and outplay your opponents.

Advanced Pickleball Shots

As an experienced pickleball player, expanding your skill set with advanced shots can elevate your game to new heights. Two such shots that can add depth and versatility to your play are the third shot drop and the lob/overhead. These shots require a higher level of skill and practice but can be incredibly effective when used in the right situations.

Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop is a tactical masterpiece in pickleball, often used as the crucial third shot after the serve and return. The essence of this shot is to transition from defense to offense, allowing you to move up to the net. The execution involves hitting the ball with an arc and trajectory that enables it to land softly in the opponent’s kitchen, the area close to the net. This shot is about finesse, not power. It requires a shorter backswing compared to a regular groundstroke and a controlled, low follow-through. The objective is to make the ball drop just over the net into the non-volley zone, limiting your opponent’s offensive options and giving you time to position yourself at the net.

Lobs and Overheads

Lobs and overheads are the high-flying acrobats of pickleball shots. They come into play when you want to push your opponent back from the net or take advantage of their poor positioning.

  • Lob: The lob is a strategic shot, aimed high and deep over your opponent’s head, especially effective when they are positioned at the net. To execute a lob, employ an upward trajectory with a lot of arc. This shot calls for a full backswing and a high, controlled follow-through. The goal is to send the ball soaring over your opponent, forcing them to retreat and switch to a defensive stance.
  • Overhead: The overhead is your power play. It’s used to assert dominance when the ball is high and within your strike zone. To execute an overhead, strike the ball with a downward trajectory and significant power. This shot demands a high backswing and a low, controlled follow-through. The overhead is a chance to finish the point with a decisive, powerful smash.

Both the third shot drop and the lob/overhead shots require more refined skills and strategic thinking. They are not just about physical execution but also about reading the game, understanding your opponent’s position, and choosing the right moment to strike. While these shots carry a higher risk, their effective use can significantly disrupt your opponent’s game plan and give you a considerable advantage. With dedicated practice and strategic application, these advanced shots can become powerful weapons in your pickleball arsenal.


It’s clear that mastering both the dink and drop shots is crucial for any player aspiring to excel in the sport. These shots are not mere strokes; they are the essence of strategy, requiring a blend of finesse, timing, and spatial awareness. By perfecting these techniques, you transform your gameplay from basic rallies to a chess-like match, where each move is calculated and every shot has a purpose. The journey to mastering these shots is as rewarding as it is challenging, offering a deeper insight into the tactical richness of pickleball.

Furthermore, incorporating these advanced techniques broadens your horizon in the game, fostering a more comprehensive and strategic approach. The dink and drop shots, along with the third shot drop and lobs/overheads, compel players to think beyond mere power and speed, delving into the realms of precision, control, and psychological play. As you integrate these skills into your practice, you’ll find yourself not just playing but outthinking your opponents, turning the court into a stage for showcasing skill, strategy, and sportsmanship. This journey is one of continuous learning and enjoyment, elevating not just your skill set but also your love and understanding of the game.