The single most important choice in planning a tennis court is the type of surface. Today, there are many choices. There is no right surface, but there may be a right surface for you, given your financial resources, level of usage, preferred style of play, location, and maintenance capability. Learning about prospective surfacing systems and choosing the best system for your circumstances are the keys to long term satisfaction.
Classification of Tennis Court Surfaces
To give you some idea of the number of choices available to a prospective owner, the USTC&TBA classifies tennis court surfaces as follows:
- Fast Dry
- Natural Grass
- Sand-Filled Synthetic Turf Over Porous Base
- Porous Asphalt
- Porous Concrete
Non-Porous Construction (Non-Cushioned)
- Reinforced and Post-Tensioned Concrete
- Hot Plant Mix Asphalt
- Asphalt Penetration Macadam
Non-Porous Construction (Cushioned)
- Polymer Bound Systems
- Sand-Filled Synthetic Turf Over Non-Porous Base
Within each classification, there are additional choices for the owner — brand names, court speed, etc. Each type of surface has advantages and disadvantages. The choice of surface should be made carefully.
Tennis players, however, more commonly classify tennis courts as "hard courts" or "soft courts".
A hard court is one made of asphalt or concrete, usually covered with an acrylic coating. The coating protects the court from the elements, enhances its appearance, and affects the playing characteristics of the court. Generally, a hard court yields what is known as a 'fast' game, meaning that a tennis ball bounces off the court surface at a low angle. The speed and angle of the tennis ball coming off a bounce are determined by the power and spin of the hit and are relatively unaffected by the surface of the court. This speed, however, can be adjusted depending on the amount, type and size of sand used in the color coating. "Slow" playing, textured surfaces are available. Properly installed, hard courts are generally considered to be durable and to require relatively low maintenance.
When a resilient layer (or layers) of cushioning material is applied over an asphalt or concrete court, a cushioned court results. Cushioned courts usually have excellent playing characteristics and an all-weather surface for year round play. These attributes make them popular with players but such courts are considerably more expensive than hard courts.
Soft courts, including clay, fast dry, grass and sand-filled synthetic turf, are entirely different from their hard counterparts. They are quite popular with players because they are easy on feet, back and legs. They generally provide a cool, glare-free surface. With the exception of grass and synthetic turf, they produce 'slow' play which lends itself to a strategy game which many club players enjoy. Grass and synthetic turf produce a fast game and, according to some experts, lend themselves to the largest variety of tennis strokes. In some areas, fast dry, clay and grass courts are less expensive to construct than hard courts, but they require daily care and, for clay and fast dry courts, annual repair and/or resurfacing. Soft courts are easily damaged, but also easily repaired. These courts usually must be closed for the winter in colder climates.
Once a surface is chosen, you should draft specifications. The more specific and detailed your specifications, the more likely that prospective builders will submit comparable bids. Specifications should outline the scope of work, including the subbase and base preparation, materials and hardware to be provided. Be sure to make clear in your specifications whether particular materials are required, or whether substitutions or equivalents are acceptable. Specifications also should detail the amounts of materials to be used. The USTC&TBA can provide guidelines for use in drafting specifications for a project. For larger projects, it may be advisable to utilize a design professional or consultant to assist in developing specifications.
The USTC&TBA can supply a number of publications which provide additional information on tennis court surfaces, their specific playing characteristics, approximate cost and maintenance considerations. For More Info: www.ustctba.com.