Master the Rules of Racquetball

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Basic Equipment

To play racquetball, you need safety goggles–to protect your eyes–and a racquetball racket. The racquetball racket is a compact, short-handled version of a tennis racket. Don’t even think of taking a tennis racket into the racquetball court; the long handle will turn you into a menace.

Most players dress in shorts and a shirt that let them move freely. Expect to sweat; racquetball is an extremely demanding sport. You might also be required to wear court shoes–trainers that have never been worn outside–to avoid marring the floor.

The Court

The racquetball court is a fully enclosed room with a 20-foot high ceiling. The back wall is often made of transparent material so that spectators can watch the action inside the court. The front and back walls measure 20 feet across, and the side walls are 20 feet long.

The three lines painted or taped across the floor only matter when the ball is served. The solid middle line, straight across the middle of the court, is called the short line. The solid line in front of this is the serve line, and the dashed line behind the short line marks the safety zone.

The Serve

To serve the ball, stand between the short line and the serve line. Bounce the ball once on the floor, then hit it against the front wall. The ball must hit the front wall before it hits the floor, ceiling or side wall. On the way back from the front wall, the ball may hit the ceiling or a side wall only once–if at all–before hitting the floor. It must touch down between the short line and the back wall. If you miss the ball entirely when you first try to hit it, hit the ball but miss the front wall entirely, or hit yourself with the ball, you lose the serve and your opponent gets a turn. Most other bad serves–such as hitting multiple side walls or hitting a side wall and the ceiling before the ball bounces, are considered a “fault.” You get another chance to serve. But if you get two faults in a row, your opponent gets the serve.

The Rally

Your opponent must return the ball before it bounces twice on the floor. When your opponent returns the served ball, he must be far enough back in the court that his racket doesn’t cross the dashed safety line. A good return will hit the front wall before it hits the floor. There is no limit on how many times it can hit the back wall, side walls or ceiling on the way. Once your opponent’s return hits the front wall, it’s your turn to return the ball. Play continues in a tennis-style rally until someone loses the rally by either hitting an illegal shot or letting the ball bounce twice before returning it.

Keeping Score and Hinders

If you served and you win the rally, you get one point. You also get to make the next serve. If your opponent served but you win the rally, you don’t get a point–but you do get to make the next serve, which means you have the next scoring opportunity. The first player to 15 points, by any margin, wins.

If there is a safety hazard or problem with play, you may call “Hinder!” and replay the point. Valid reasons to call a hinder include:

  • The ball hits a court surface, like a light or door handle, and bounces erratically
  • Continuing play would cause you to collide with your opponent or hit him with your racket
  • The ball bounces or flies between your legs
  • You accidentally hit your opponent with the ball on the return.

Now that you’ve got a solid grasp on racquetball rules, try doing it without the racquet.