Racquetball Basics (How-to-Play, Rules, Scoring, Court,…)

You may have been at your gym and walked by a big court with a glass wall. Racquets in hand, players are trading off hitting a small rubber ball on all four walls, the floor, and even the ceiling! Fast-paced and hectic, Raquetball may be hard to follow, but knowing the rules of the game will make you want to jump onto the court for the next round!

Racquetball basically consists of at least two players on an enclosed court hitting a rubber ball from a specific zone onto the front wall and having the other player return the ball onto the same front wall while allowing only one-floor bounce.

With specific lines and walls to adhere to, let this be your one-stop in learning and mastering the rules of racquetball. Once you have got them under your belt, bring a friend to the court and try it for yourself!

If you’re more of a visual learner, we suggest you take a look at the following clip.

Video Source: TheWorldGames / YouTube

The Object of Racquetball

Racquetball may seem a little intimidating with the enclosed space, various lines on the floor, and the fast-paced action! But once you are familiar with the rules, racquetball is a very straightforward and fun game to play.

The object of racquetball is to outscore your opponent by bouncing the ball off of the front wall and making it difficult for the other player to return the ball to that same wall.

Understanding the lines and walls on the court are critical before you can effectively play the game.

Racquetball Court

Six Playing Surfaces

There are six playing surfaces on a racquetball court: Front Wall, Side Walls (2), Rear Wall, Ceiling, and Floor.

3 Must-Know Lines

There are also 3 important lines on the court: Service Line, Short Line, and Receiving Line.

The service line and short line create the service box, which is where the serving player must start the ball from. The receiving line serves as a marker for where the player who is not serving must stand until the ball has crossed the plane of the line or has bounced beyond it.

The game is typically played in singles (one vs. one ) or doubles (two per team). One player is designated as the server, and the other is the receiver. A server must stand inside the “Service Zone” and is not allowed to leave until the ball has bounced past the short line.

Racquetball: Rules & Scoring

Racquetball is played up to three games to determine the winner of a match. The first two games are played to 15 points.

The third game, a tie-breaker if needed, is played to 11 points. The object of racquetball is to be the first player to win two games.

The Server and the Receiver

One can only score a point if they are serving.

If a receiver successfully ends a rally and “wins” the point, no point is rewarded, and the receiver then becomes the server. This is known as a “side out,” and allows the receiver to now play for a point.

A server has specific rules they must abide by:

  • The ball must be bounced once in the service zone before hitting it directly against the front wall
  • The ball must travel from the front wall and bounce beyond the short line
  • The ball cannot be hit directly from the front wall to the rear wall without a bounce
  • The server may not leave the service zone until the ball crosses the short line

Failure to meet these requirements results in a “fault.” Similar to other racket sports like tennis, you are given two chances to complete a serve successfully.

Once the ball has been returned, both players switch off hitting the ball to the front wall while only allowing one bounce if needed. The ball can hit other walls as long as the ball makes it back to the front wall on each turn.

The receiver’s primary rule on a serve involves staying behind the receiving line until the ball crosses the plane of the line or bounces beyond it. If the player steps beyond this line beforehand, a point is automatically given to the server. This rule is meant to protect the server as they are likely in the line of contact and cannot move fast enough.

Hinders

Beyond the general rules, scoring is also dependent on “hinders.” A hinder occurs when one player obstructs the ability of the other player to return the ball.

Because it is a small court and the ball is moving so quickly, it can sometimes become difficult to allow the other player to complete their return successfully.

There are three types of hinders in racquetball:

  • Standard Hinders
  • Penalty Hinders
  • Court Hinders

A standard hinder occurs when a player is unable to return a ball due to the other player’s obstruction of the play in an unavoidable manner. In other words, if a player can’t get out of the way on an unclear scoring opportunity, it is a general hinder. This results in replaying the point.

A penalty hinder occurs when a player is not able to complete a clear scoring opportunity due to the other player’s obstruction. This results in a rally win for the team that was obstructed.

A court hinder occurs when the ball hits something that causes the ball to bounce differently from the natural angle or bounce that would typically happen when hitting the walls or floor. This often happens if there is a spot on the floor or wall that has a flaw, or the ball hits a handle on the glass door of the court. This results in replaying the point.

Basics Strategies in Racquetball

Using strategy in serves and returns, players vary the speed and ball placement to force the opponent to make a mistake. Shots are often divided into offensive and defensive. The former refers to shots that aim to hit the wall low and force multiple bounces. On the other hand, a defensive strategy consists in hitting the front wall higher, in a safer manner, in order to ensure a completed return.

Variations of Racquetball

Racquetball is fairly consistent across the board but can vary in both the number of players, scoring practices, and equipment.

Three players

Games are typically played in singles or doubles as mentioned above, but it can also be played with three people on a court. This style is referred to as “cutthroat.” All three players are competing at the same time.

The server is playing against the other two players who are on the same team. Once a server loses the rally, they will switch with an outside player (now the server) and become teammates with the other player.

Rules Variations

Racquetball is an international sport with various levels of competition. This ranges from recreational and competitive leagues to national teams and professional tours. There are variations in rules depending on the country and level you play at.

This article describes the rules of the most common racquetball rules, which happen to originate in the United States. For international competitions, rules abide by the American standard of rules listed in the previous section.

For example, international scoring rules only require a team to win by one point, while Canadian Racquetball requires a team to win by two points. So, if the match is being held between two countries, they will follow the international rules that only require a one-point win.

For men’s and women’s pro tours, five games are played in a match to 11 points. The team must win by a margin of two points.

In some elite-level competitions, servers are only given one opportunity to complete a “good service.” Unlike the standard rules where a player is given a fault and then a second chance, the player does not receive this second opportunity, and the receiving player becomes the server.

Equipment

The equipment also varies based on the level at which you play. While you really only need a court, a racquet, and a ball to play with your friends, specific shoes, gloves, and protective eyewear are also required at competitive levels.

This is to ensure fairness among equipment as well as safety. A small ball flying at your eye is the last thing you want while playing!

There are also different options for the ball being used:

  • Blue (standard speed)
  • Green (faster)
  • Purple (faster)
  • Red (fastest)
  • Black (slowest)

The main difference between the balls is the speed at which they travel. Different levels of competition use specific balls. Most players use blue or green balls, both at a recreational and organized level.

The International Pro Tours use purple balls. World Outdoor Racquetball uses red balls exclusively, while black balls are often used by senior players.

While these variations are important for varying calibers of players, with a court, a racquet, a ball, and a desire to get active, racquetball is a great game for all levels!

Last Word

Once you understand these rules and practice your technique in hitting the ball, you will start to develop different strategies to outsmart and beat your opponent. Whether you are just playing for fun or competitively, use this guide to make sure your game is fun and fair!