Racquetball Scoring Rules

racquetball scoring

Racquetball Scoring Rules

When it gets too hot or too cold outside, people gravitate towards indoor sports, as they can be played comfortably year round. One of the more popular indoor sports that you can play at many gyms or community centers is racquetball.

It only takes two to play racquetball, so if you’ve got a workout buddy or a friend who’s up for a friendly game, it’s a great way to blow off some steam. If you haven’t got anyone to play with, you can likely pop up to your local gym and find a pick-up game. 

Just learn some racquetball scoring and gameplay rules, and you can start enjoying this fast-paced game for yourself.

Basic racquetball gameplay

If you’re nervous about learning to play a new sport, don’t be. Racquetball is a fairly simple and straightforward game to play, making it ideal for players of all ages and skill levels. That said, there are some rules you need to understand to get started. Once you get the hang of the court layout and the gameplay, you’ll be good to go. Let’s look at some basic racquetball rules and scoring instructions.

Starting a game

At the start of the game, players will flip a coin, draw straws, or perform some other fair way of determining which team will serve first. This is an important aspect of racquetball scoring, as only the serving team can score points. Winning the serve means you have a better chance of getting on the board first.

Serving

When it is your turn to serve, you must hit a valid serve for the rally to begin. If you commit a fault on your serve, you get one more try. If you fault on your second serve, it’s considered a side out, and the opposing player or team becomes the server. In a valid serve, the serve must hit the front wall first and may hit one side wall before landing between the short line and the back wall. 

Faults

A fault can occur via many methods. Once you understand the basic concepts surrounding illegal serves, it’s easy to see what other types of serve will result in a fault. Some examples of faults include: 

  • A server or their partner’s foot is outside of the service area during a serve
  • The ball bounces more than once, or it bounces outside of the service box prior to the serve 
  • The ball hits more than one sidewall on the serve
  • The ball hits the back wall without bouncing on the floor
  • The server blocks the view of the ball or gets in the way, preventing a return

This is an incomplete list, but it’s a helpful way to understand the type of things that result in a fault. There are other circumstances that result in a fault, so review them before your first serve.

The rally

Once a valid serve has been completed, the rally begins. Each team will take turns returning the ball, making sure it bounces on the floor no more than once before striking it. All walls and the ceiling are legal to play off of, but a returned ball must hit the front wall and must not strike the floor before getting there.

If the returning team fails to legally return the ball, the serving team gets a point. If the serving team fails to return a ball at any point in a rally after a valid serve, it is side out, and the returning team takes over the serve.

This process is repeated until someone has won the game. Now that we’ve covered some basic racquetball rules, scoring is the next thing you’ll need to know.

How does racquetball scoring work?

Scoring in racquetball is a fairly simple process. In standard racquetball scoring, points are accrued when the returning team allows the ball to bounce twice or fails to reach the front wall without hitting the floor on their return. Only the serving team can score. The game is over as soon as one team reaches 15 points.

So, how long does a racquetball match last? It depends. Most matches are played as a best of three series. If one person or team wins both of the first two games, the match is finished. If the match is tied after two games, a third tiebreaker game will be played to determine the winner of the match. The tiebreaker is typically played to 11.

Scoring variations

Racquetball scoring most commonly ends when a player reaches 15 points. Sometimes players choose to play to a different number, like 11 or 21, but racquetball tournament scoring nearly always ends at 15. If you want to play to some other number, each player must agree to the change before gameplay begins.

Rally scoring

Rally scoring has become a popular variation on racquetball scoring over the past few years, and the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) has even switched to rally scoring, beginning in the 2022 season. 

With rally scoring, anyone who returns an unreturnable ball is awarded a point, regardless of which team served. It makes the game go faster, since a point is scored on every rally, but feelings are mixed on this scoring rules change. 

Winning by 2

In Canada, players must win by two points. It is uncommon outside of Canada, but some friendly games are played this way, depending on player preferences. However, nearly all professional racquetball match play ends when a player or team hits the designated number of points, no matter what score the opposing team has.

Types of games

Racquetball can be played by anywhere from 2 to 4 players. You can play one on one in singles, two on two in doubles, or a cut throat game where each of three players individually compete against the other two. In all variations, racquetball scoring rules are the same.

Some people like to play different variations, like 2 on 1 when one player is more skilled than the other two, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the three most common variations of the game.

Singles 

The simplest way to put a game together is to grab one other person and play a one on one game. A singles game is very straightforward, and each player takes turns serving and scoring until one of them hits the predetermined number in their racquetball scoring system. Singles is probably the most popular way to play.

Doubles 

Doubles is played much in the same way singles is, but there are a few differences. First, when a player is serving, their teammate must stand in one of the service boxes, with their back to the wall until the serve passes the short line.

When the team that serves first gets its first side out, the serve is passed to the other team. Either player may serve first, and on their first side out, the serve goes to their teammate. Any time the serve transfers from one team to the other, each teammate gets to serve before the opposing team serves again.

Cut throat 

If you’ve got three players, you can still involve everyone in your racquetball matches. In cut throat, each player is on their own, competing against the other two, creating three teams. Whenever there is a side out, the serve transfers in a rotation to the other players.

Since a cut throat game involves more teams, it can take much longer to reach 15 points, so many people choose to play to 7 instead.

Getting started with racquetball

Once you’ve got a good sense of the racquetball scoring instructions and gameplay, you’re ready to play. Get yourself a racquet, some comfortable clothes and shoes, and protective eyewear. Protective eyewear is particularly important in racquetball since it is a fast paced game where racquets and balls can come quickly out of nowhere. Regular glasses aren’t suitable protection, so if you rely on glasses, it’s best to get a pair of sports glasses that provide protection from impact.

Once you’ve got all your gear, it’s time to find a place to play. Many gyms and community centers in North America have courts, and they are becoming increasingly popular in gyms around the globe.

Improve your skills

The more you play, the more you will come to understand the nuances of the game. Getting comfortable with stroke strength and angles will make you a force to be reckoned with. Racquetball scoring can be complicated when you’re playing a tough opponent. Turning yourself into a tough opponent is the best way to counter this.

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