An Introduction to Outdoor Racquetball
For the most part, when people think of racquetball, they think of a game on an indoor court. And most racquetball is played indoors, but one of the fastest growing segments of the racquetball community has taken the game out of the gym and into the sunshine.
Outdoor racquetball is just as fast-paced and exciting as the indoor variety, but with some key differences that make it a unique and fascinating game in its own right.
Outdoor Racquetball Court Basics
The most obvious difference between indoor and outdoor racquetball is the look of the court. Indoor courts are very uniform. Some courts may have differing back wall heights, but generally speaking, every indoor racquetball court will have the same dimensions and service and receiving lines.
This is not the case when you go outdoors. From city to city and park to park, outdoor racquetball courts look very different from each other. Some have sidewalls that extend the length of the court, some have sidewalls that extend halfway, and some don’t have side walls at all.
How is outdoor racquetball court different?
The only thing that every outdoor racquetball court has in common is that there is no back wall. This means that the back of the court is marked with an out-of-bounds line—and that line is not always in the same place from court to court. Some outdoor courts have the same dimensions as their indoor counterparts, but some are longer.
There are different varieties of outdoor racquetball depending on the number of walls on the court. 3 wall outdoor racquetball is the most common court setup, but, again, the length of the side walls can vary from court to court.
3 wall racquetball
Other outdoor courts only have one wall or have one wall with very short sidewalls that don’t even run to the service box. Whether you play 3 wall racquetball or one-wall will affect your shot selection and the placement of your shots. They force you to change how you might play with angles and can even eliminate the efficacy of some shot types like the Z-shot or the splat.
If you want to branch out to outdoor racquetball, be sure you move around the court during your warm-ups to get used to the size of it. Hit some shots and serves off the walls to get used to any unique surfaces you may find, and practice your shot placement along the boundary lines because you won’t have a wall there to keep your shot in play.
1 wall racquetball
One of the most unique and challenging variants of outdoor racquetball is 1 wall racquetball. As the name implies, in this version of the game you have no side walls and no back wall to use against your opponent.
That means that splats and pinches are not possible, so if you rely heavily on those shots, branching out into 1 wall can help force you to embrace more variety in your game. Practice hitting accurate cross court passing shots and using lobs and drop shots to move your opponent back and forth on the court.
How to play outdoor racquetball
To understand how to play outdoor racquetball, you have to understand the sometimes subtle differences in the rules. The main principles of the game remain the same from indoors to outdoors, but the changes create a fascinating variation in the sport.
Because there are so many different shapes and sizes of outdoor racquetball courts, not every rule change applies to every venue you might play in. For example, if there is a light pole behind the court, and the ball hits it, that ball is considered dead, and the point must be replayed. If your court has no light pole, you don’t need to worry about that rule.
Another interesting rule that can change depending on where you play involves serving. Most outdoor racquetball courts do not have the dotted receiving line that you see on indoor courts. So the rules for where the receiving player can stand to return a serve are a little different.
Outdoor racquetball rules
Outdoor racquetball rules say that, instead of standing behind a receiving line, the receiving player must make sure that their racquet doesn’t cross into the service box when they return the serve.
There are differences, such as only getting one fault on your serve before a side out instead of two faults and rules about stationary vs. moving audience members. Still, the most important rule to remember in order to play outdoor racquetball is that if a ball lands on a boundary line, it is still a live ball.
One of the best parts of playing racquetball, whether you play casually or competitively, is taking part in a tournament—and that’s true when you play racquetball outdoors as well.
Different organizations will put together tournaments, depending on where the courts they use are located. For example, if the outdoor courts are in a public park, the local Parks and Rec office could organize play.
But wherever racquetball is played regularly, a tournament is bound to happen. There are outdoor racquetball tournaments for all levels of play, from novices to pros.
Some of the biggest tournaments in the outdoor racquetball world happen in Huntington Beach, California, and in Waikiki, Hawaii. Many professional indoor racquetball players take part in those tournaments and speak highly of the outdoor game.
Why Should You Play Outdoor Racquetball?
There are a lot of reasons to take your game into the sunshine. For example, if you’re still a bit nervous about playing indoors because of the recent global pandemic, an open air racquetball court can go a long way toward easing your mind.
Another great reason to play outside is to improve your indoor game. A one wall court forces you to work on your passing shot placement without the safety net of sidewalls to add spin or create difficult angles.
Switching the environment, improving the game
One wall racquetball also encourages you to work on drop shots and reduce reliance on splat and pinch shots because without the angles provided by a four or three wall court, you need to find new ways to win your rallies.
No matter what the court looks like, you can practice your accuracy coming off the front wall. If you can consistently get your shots to hit the boundary lines, you can bring that accuracy inside to make your shots land in the worst possible spots for your opponents.
Because you don’t have a ceiling, lob shots become much more reliable offensive weapons outdoors. As you gain more and better control of your lobs, you can mix them into your indoor game as a surprising way to win a point.
Get Out and Show Your Stuff
We’ve all spent way too much time indoors in the last year and a half. Outdoor racquetball gives you the opportunity to expand your racquetball skills by playing a different version of the game while fighting off the claustrophobic cabin fever that so many of us experienced in 2020.
So check to see if there are outdoor racquetball courts in your area. Then get outside and play!