How to Play Racquetball: Beginner Rules

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Are you looking to possibly learn how to play racquetball as a fun hobby to get into? Awesome! So what exactly IS racquetball? Well, imagine the “bouncy ball” elements of a huge pinball machine combined with a tennis court with no net, similar scoring rules of a volleyball game, and the childish attitude we get to hit things when we get a stick in our hand.!

Enter the awesome, wacky, racket sport of Racquetball! Let’s learn how to play this fun racket game!

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Racquetball is an indoor/outdoor hybrid racket sport that has roots in Handball and Paddleball that is extremely fun to play, relatively inexpensive, and easy to learn. If you’ve ever sailed a tennis ball straight into the net, or high above the fence into the baseball field next door, Racquetball might just be a perfect hobby to learn.

The reason why this game is great? Every wall, ceiling, and floor are playable surfaces and important to the game!

Racquetball Equipment Required

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How to Play Racquetball: The Basics

To understand how to play racquetball, you’ll need to understand the court it’s played on. Racquetball courts are the central component to how the game is played, as this sport has no “out of bounds”, net, or goal to hit the ball into.

Racquetball Court Elements

  • Front Wall
  • Back Wall
  • Service Line
  • Receiving Line
  • Short Line
  • Service Zone
Racquetballcourtdimensions

How A Game of Racquetball is Played

The game of racquetball is basically one big game of “keep away”. You hit the racquetball, a small rubber ball, with the intention to not allowing the opposing player to return the ball before it touches the floor twice.

Each player must hit the ball with the intent of hitting the “front wall” with the racquetball before the ball strikes the floor twi. The sidewalls, back wall, and ceiling can all be used to accomplish this, as long as the ball does not hit the floor before the front wall.

After a player touches the front wall with the ball, the opposite racquetball player is allowed once bounce of the ball on the floor, before they must hit it towards the front wall again. The player can also play the ball in the air without it touching the ground.

The player that is unable to get the ball to touch the front wall before it hits the floor, or allows the ball to bounce twice before returning the ball with their racket, loses the point.

Only the racquetball player who serves the volley can “win the point”. If they do not win the point, they surrender the serve.

Racquetball Scoring Rules

  • The first person to 15 or 11 points wins the game.
  • An official racquetball match is a best of 3 games (15, 15, 11)
  • Only the serving player is eligible to gain a point

A racquetball match usually consists of 3 games between 2 or more players. The first two games, winning players must reach 15 points first. If a 3rd game is necessary to break a tie, the first player to 11 points wins the racquetball match.

Racquetball Volley Sequence – An Example

Rhonda Rajsich at 2006 World Racquetball Championships

A racquetball sequence of play may look something like this:

  1. Player 1 serves the ball by bouncing the racquetball once on the floor and then hitting it towards the front wall first without it touching the floor. 
  2. After hitting the front wall with the serve, the racquetball must travel beyond the “receiving line” to be hit by 2nd player.
  3. Player 2 hits the ball with the intent of ensuring the ball touches the front wall.
  4. Once hitting the front wall, Player 1 will hit the ball with the same intent of hitting the front wall. 
  5. Player 2 hits the racquetball, but it touches the ground before the front wall.
  6. Player 1 wins the point.

How to Serve

Josée Grand'Maître at 2006 World Racquetball Championships

Much like it’s tennis counterpart – serving the ball in racquetball is arguably one of the most important aspects of the game. Having a decent serve shot will set you up for success throughout the games you’re playing.

Easier said than done, of course!

Much like other racket games such as tennis, racquetball has very specific rules for how to serve. 

When a player serves the racquetball to begin a point, there are various rules that must be followed. If a serve fails, it’s called  “fault” and the server must try again.

I’ve collected this list of serving rules from the official racquetball rules PDF. Learning how to serve in racquetball is important and is one of the best ways to improve your game-play.

A Valid Serve:

  • The ball must bounce on the floor once.
  • The ball must hit the front wall first
  • The ball must pass the “short line”
  • After hitting the front wall, the ball may strike one side wall.
  • The player serving receives two opportunities to make a successful serve.
  • If both serves are unsuccessful, the serve goes to the next player.
  • An “ace” is achieved by the server, when the returning player does not hit the ball back to the front wall before the ball bounces on the floor twice.
Vincent Gagnon at 2007 US Open Racquetball Championships

Invalid Racquetball Serves, AKA “Faults”

  • “Short Serve” – Ball is served against the front wall and lands in front of the “short line”.
  • “Long Serve” – After the served ball hits the front wall, it is not allowed to hit the back wall, before striking the floor. 
  • “Foot Fault” – When the serving players foot or racket touches completely crosses out of the service zone.
  • “No Bounce Serve” – Serving the ball without allowing the ball to bounce first
  • “Ceiling Serve” – Any served ball that hits the front wall and then touches the ceiling (with or without touching a side wall).
  • “Three Wall Serve” – A served ball that hits both side walls AFTER hitting the front wall.
  • “Serving before Receiver is Ready” – Serving before or not allowing the receiving player to be ready results in a fault.
  • “Fake or Baulk” – When the server attempts to deceive the receiving player into thinking they are about to serve.

Racquetball Serving Strategies and Tips

As racquetball allows two serves, there can be strategies employed by a player to try and make their serves as effective as possible.

Serves can be classified into two categories. Aggressive serves and defensive serves.

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Aggressive and Offensive Minded Racquetball Serves

These serves are typically used on the first serve attempt by a player. Because they are aggressive, the chance the serve may fail is higher and may warrant another serve attempt.

Many times these serves are made in an attempt to gain an “Ace”, or the ability to win the point by not allowing the player to make a return on the ball.

There are several types of offensive serves. Below are just a couple to get you started.

Offensive Serve Strategy #1 – Drive Serve

The idea behind the drive serve is to hit the ball extremely hard and as low as possible. This will make it extremely difficult to be returned by the opposing player and will gather two bounces rather quickly.

Difficulty: Hard

Offensive Serve Strategy #2 – The “Z” Shot

Imagine hitting the ball and it follows a “Z” pattern, and you have an effective serve that is meant to confuse the opponent returning the ball.

Using this method will challenge the opponent to anticipate the ball more and makes the spin of the ball less predictable.

To achieve this type of serve, you’ll use a sidewall to get the ball to travel in odd and unpredictable pattern that will stress the returning player into mistakes and a harder shot.

Difficulty: Easy / Medium

Defensive Serving

As you may have guessed, these racquetball serves are considered defensive in nature and are usually taken on a players second serve attempt.

This helps ensure the ball gets put into play by the serving player and reduces the risk of failing both serves and giving up the point.

When attempting a more defensive minded serve, the idea is to hit the ball softer and try to “lob” the ball near the back side of the court.

To make the serve even more effective, try hitting a side wall or putting the ball in a corner, similar to the “Z shot” above. This will make the ball more difficult to return by the opposing player.

Racquetball Hinder Rules

Naturally, due to the small space the game takes place, there are instances where the ball is played in an area that is currently occupied by both players.

The reason this is an issue is it affects the ability to play the ball from one player to the next. Most of the time, this happens coincidently and the point is replayed like it never happened.

History of Racquetball


The modern game of Racquetball was invented in 1949 by Greenwich, CT resident Joseph G. Sobek (1918 – 1998). In the 1940s, Sobek, a Tennis Pro, Squash and Handball player, was dissatisfied with the indoor court sports available and sought a way to make Handball easier on his hands. He designed the first short strung paddle and with a partner, invented a game in he called “Paddle Rackets”, which combined the rules of Squash and Handball.
Paddle Rackets was a faster paced game that was easy to learn and became an overnight success. The sport quickly became popular with everyone except for die-hard Handball players who resented Paddle Racket players taking over their courts. By 1952, Sobek founded the Paddle Rackets Association, codified a set of rules and sent out promotional kits to YMCAs and other sporting organizations to promote the sport.


Per Aaronembry.com:

Frequently Asked Questions

Just like all hobbies and sports, racquetball has a variety of questions that get raised all the time.

Where to Play Racquetball?

Racquetball courts are typically found in fitness gyms, such as a local YMCA or other similar facilities. Search google below to find a racquetball court near you:

Is Racquetball a Good Workout?

According to healthfitnessrevolution, a player will run more than two miles and burn between 600-800 calories when playing for an hour (60 minutes).

Playing racquetball regularly as a hobby has many health benefits, as most physical activities and sports do. These can include some of the following:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Weight management
  • Bone and Muscle Strengthening
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Mental Agility
  • Stress Reliever (who doesn’t like to hit things for fun, right?)
  • Fun!

What is the Difference Between Squash and Racquetball?

  • Racket size
  • Ball types
  • Serving Styles
  • “Out of bounds areas”
Squashketsjer

The biggest difference between these two racket sports is the size of the rackets used, as well as the ball used during play. Racquetball rackets allow a maximum length of 22 inches, while squash allows up to 27 inches.

Additionally, a racquetball ball has much more bounce and needs considerably less strength to strike. Where as a squash ball has much less bounce and uses more strength and accuracy.

Can You Play with More than Two Players?

Yes you can!

You can play 3 or 4 players versions of racquetball.

4 players is considered a doubles match, with a set of two players playing against another set of two players.

3 player games can be played in a variety of ways, generally with all three players playing against each other.

You could also have two players playing against one player.

Who Are The Best Racquetball Players?

Check out the International Singles Ranking for a complete list of the top racquetball players around the globe.

Racquetball Resources and Tips

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