Hey David: Great
site, you gave me in one fell swoop, all the construction specs I needed
to know if my property could handle installing a court.... Again, thanks
for any additional info and the site. Christopher D. Bedynek
Guide for Tennis Court Construction
The decision has been made: you want a
tennis court. What comes next? Often the answer is confusion. Suddenly,
you are overwhelmed by the many decisions that face you. You need help
defining your options and making appropriate choices.
The United States Tennis Court & Track Builders Association
http://www.ustctba.com/ can help.
Founded in 1965, the USTC&TBA is the trade association for builders,
consultants and design professionals who specialize in the construction
and maintenance of sports facilities, particularly tennis courts and
running tracks. Manufacturers and suppliers of materials, members of the
trade press and others interested in tennis court and track construction
participate as well. Its membership includes individuals and companies in
the United States and around the world. Its goal is to encourage and to
uphold high standards of tennis court and running track construction. To
this end, the Association offers informative materials to those about to
embark on tennis court and track construction projects. These include
technical and consumer-oriented publications, including a series of
guideline specifications which are regarded as the industry standards for
track and tennis court construction. Information on obtaining these and
other USTC&TBA publications is included with this Buyer's Guide.
Whether you are building a tennis court for residential use, for a private
club, for a resort facility or for a public project, the decisions you
make should not be taken lightly. The investment in a court is
substantial; however, a well-constructed court, properly maintained, can
provide years of playing enjoyment. To get the most out of your
investment, be a smart consumer. Do your homework before you begin
construction. The reward will be the right court at the right price. Here
are some suggested steps.
1. Define your needs.
Long before you begin considering specific surfaces or contacting design
professionals or looking for a qualified contractor, you should develop a
clear definition of the project. Are you building one court or many? Are
you interested in hard courts, cushioned courts or soft courts? Will the
courts be staffed or unattended? How much time and money is available for
court maintenance? Will courts be used for competition or for casual play?
Are you building for year-round or seasonal use? There are many types of
courts available today, and surface technology is constantly changing. No
one type of court is right for every installation. There are tremendous
variances in cost, durability, playing characteristics, maintenance needs,
weather resistance and other factors. What is right for a residential
court may not be right for a private club. What is right for a site in
Arizona may not be right for a project in Maine. As a first step, it is
important for the owner to define the priorities and expectations of the
court to be installed.
2. Develop a budget.
How much can you afford to spend?
Developing a budget may be the most difficult step in the construction
process. You may have to make some concessions, but in order to make
informed choices, you should know what is important to you. Do you need a
completed facility now or can you wait a while for landscaping, court
amenities and other finishing touches? Do you want a first class facility
regardless of cost, or is cost a limiting factor? Are you absolutely
certain about a given surface, or type of fencing, or specific site, or
are you willing to consider substitutions? Once you see the number of
wonderful options available in today's tennis court market, it may be easy
to spend far more than you had in mind. Working within a budget involves
considering various alternatives and making choices, but choices don't
have to mean compromising the end result. A knowledge of what factors are
most important to the court you are planning and a desire to seek creative
solutions can bring the project in at a reasonable cost.
The USTC&TBA can supply a number of publications which can help you learn
about these choices in order to assess your needs. A number of other
professional organizations and trade magazines also can supply answers.
See the reference section of this Buyer's Guide for suggested resources.
3. Consider a consultant.
It may be desirable to employ a consultant to assist in planning, building
or renovating a court facility. Depending on the scope of the project,
employing the services of an expert can actually help control job costs by
better translating the needs of the owner into proper direction for
construction, and by helping to avoid costly mistakes. A professional
architect, engineer or landscape architect, or a knowledgeable contractor,
trained and experienced in tennis court construction, will help you
identify your needs and refine the information to the specific
requirements of your site. A consultant can assist you in determining the
scope of work to be included in the job, in planning the facility, in
determining a realistic budget for the project, in evaluating and
comparing bids, in overseeing the work in progress and in solving any
problems which occur during construction
In employing professional assistance, however, it is important to consider
the experience of your consultant. Tennis court construction is a highly
specialized field which is undergoing constant change. It is important to
employ an individual or firm with extensive current experience in the
field of tennis court construction. How do you locate qualified professionals? One way to do so is by
contacting professional associations such as the U.S. Tennis Court & Track
Builders Association (USTC&TBA), the American Society of Landscape
Architects (ASLA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the
National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). See the reference
section of this Buyer's Guide for addresses of these organizations. Another way to find a qualified professional is by contacting colleagues
who have recently completed similar projects and asking for a
recommendation. In any case, when you contact a prospective design
consultant, be sure to ask questions about the firm's experience in tennis
court design. Ask about completed projects and past clients. Contact
references and visit completed projects. Ask for proposals and compare
them carefully. Be sure you understand what is and what is not included in
the proposed contract. Finally, once you choose a professional consultant,
carefully negotiate fees and services and be sure to secure a signed
letter of agreement or contract which clarifies all aspects of your
4. Choose a site. Where will you
build? Is your proposed site appropriate for a tennis court? Before you
get too far along in planning, be certain that you have an acceptable
site. An experienced contractor or design professional can help you to
assess your proposed site, but the following general considerations should
- For an individual court, the outside
playing dimensions are 36' X 78' for doubles, 27' X 78' for singles.
Outside tennis court dimensions of at least 60' X 120' is strongly recommended. Where space
is limited, the minimum overall dimensions which are acceptable for play
are 56' X 114'. For a battery of courts, a 24' separation between courts
is recommended, while 12' is considered the absolute minimum.
orientation, or direction in which
the court is to be constructed, should be considered at this point.
Generally, the hours of use for the court, and the geographic area in
which it is to be built, will determine its orientation. If the court is
to be used consistently throughout the day, a true north-south
orientation is recommended as the best compromise between the extremes
of early morning and late afternoon solar angles. Geography comes into
the equation because it determines the playing season. Courts in the
northern United States, for example, are generally used from late April
to October, Therefore, northern courts usually are oriented according to
the summer solstice which is approximately mid-season and, therefore, an
average of the varying solar angles during this period. In the southern
United States, the milder climate allows for play year round. For this
reason, southern courts often are oriented according to either the
spring or fall equinox, again an average of the varying solar angles.
More specific orientation is possible, such as is the case with
collegiate facilities, where a substantial amount of play would take
place in the spring, and mostly in the afternoon hours. Should this be
the case, the court should be oriented west of south for the months of
April and May to minimize conflict with the afternoon sun.
- Ground should be reasonably level,
preferably on the same plane or higher than adjacent land, to allow
drainage away from the courts.
- The site should be sheltered from
prevailing winds, away from traffic noise and other distractions, and
devoid of shadows cast by buildings or trees.
- A dark, solid background is desirable.
Light backgrounds, such as white buildings, or moving backgrounds, such
as people or traffic, should be avoided at the ends of the court.
Landscaping or windscreens can be used to screen out inappropriate
Subsoil stability and drainage conditions are important to tennis court
construction. Many sites may not require extensive site investigation. In
some cases, shallow hand dug test pits, auger borings or backhoe
excavation can reveal conditions which may cause potential problems. The
presence of certain conditions, however, mandates more careful site
investigation. These include: 1) peat or organic soils; 2) uncontrolled
fill materials or waste materials; 3) expansive soils; and 4) high ground
water. Special usage of courts, such as conversion to an ice rink over
winter, will also require additional site review.
5. Choose a surface and develop working
specifications. 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
To give you some idea of the number of
choices available to a prospective owner, the USTC&TBA classifies tennis
court surfaces as follows:
Sand-Filled Synthetic Turf Over Porous Base
Reinforced and Post-Tensioned Concrete
Hot Plant Mix Asphalt
Asphalt Penetration Macadam
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. Installation costs range from
$18,000 - $40,000, depending upon the specific construction.
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; cushioning adds $5,000 - $25,000 to the cost of the court, over
and above the cost of the asphalt or concrete base.
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
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. See
the publications order form included with this brochure for ordering
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.
CLAY TENNIS COURT SURFACE
The HAR-TRU brand
tennis court surfacing is the most popular "HAR-TRU" type tennis court
surface in the United States, and is a standard in the tennis clay court
industry. HAR-TRU tennis court clay is made from billion year old
Pre-Cambrian metabasalt found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
This rock is crushed, screened, and mixed in the precise proportions
necessary to produce a stable surface. LEE Tennis Products' dedication
to quality has made HAR-TRU tennis court clay the number one selling
tennis court surface of its type in the United States. HAR-TRU
tennis court clay can be used for both new tennis court construction or
for top dressing. A layer of these finely crushed, green rock particles
is installed over a porous base of crushed, stone aggregate to produce a
finished surface. A HAR-TRU tennis court can also be built over existing
tennis court clay, asphalt, or concrete tennis courts. Many tennis clubs
have already converted their hard tennis courts to HAR-TRU tennis courts
to satisfy player demand.
History of Har-Tru
Har-Tru® surfacing is the original fast
drying clay-like tennis court surface material. The basic ingredient in
Har-Tru® surfacing originated in the late 1920’s. Tennis court builders
in the U.S. were searching for a surfacing material that could compete
favorably with a European porous court surface that was replacing grass
and clay courts. The answer was a product named “Har-Tru®.” Extensive
experimentation with stone resulted in the optimum particle gradients
for surface stability and porosity. The new surfacing was introduced
with a fast drying quality far superior to its European competitor. By
1932, Har-Tru® tennis courts were already becoming a prominent feature
on the tennis circuit. In 1936 the West Side Tennis Club in Forest
Hills, New York, decided to add Har-Tru® courts to its facility. Again
in 1974, the Har-Tru® Corporation was contracted to build the center
court at Forest Hills, replacing the traditional grass court with its
fast drying surface for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Many other
tournaments have been played on Har-Tru® such as the Canadian Open and
the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Indianapolis; Charlotte and
Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina; and now in Charleston, South
Carolina. Today’s Har-Tru® court is widely recognized as the
finest tennis court surface in the world. With over 60 years of
experience, the Har-Tru® court continues to gain popularity and attract
all levels of tennis players.
Clay at Roland Garros AKA Turbatu
The French Open is the only Grand Slam event to be played on clay. The
bounce of the ball on clay is low and slow compared to surfaces like
grass and Hard Tru, thus favoring a more technical game. Many top
players with power games, such as Pete Sampras, have been stymied at the
The photo at left shows a cross section of the clay court. Below the
clay surface is a 5 cm thick layer of limestone, followed by a layer of
iron ore slag (the remnants of iron extraction). Small stones and gravel
below this allow the surface to remain stable and drain excess water.
Underneath is natural ground treated so as to remain flat. The court
construction was designed by Charles Bouhana, who was originally hired
to maintain the lawn at Roland Garros. Covering the clay surface is a
thin (2 mm) layer of red brick dust. It is placed there for aesthetic
reasons and for the players' comfort: it enables them to see the ball
more easily and to slide on the ground when running for the ball. The
natural color of the brick is gray, but it is colored red to create more
contrast with the yellow ball. Making enough dust for the courts at
Roland Garros is no mean feat: 800kg (1760lbs) of dust are used for each
court every year!
6. Make specific choices regarding amenities
and accessories to be included in your tennis court project.
A fine tennis court begins with a well-built base and a quality surface,
but it doesn't end there. Even a very well-built facility may still lack
the features that make it a pleasure for players to use. Tennis court
accessories are those items, not part of the actual court construction,
which are necessary or highly desirable for the use or maintenance of
the court. They include net posts and nets, lighting, fencing,
windscreens, divider curtains and maintenance equipment. When a court is
used for serious competition, a number of additional items of equipment
are required or desirable. Tennis court amenities are those items that
set a tennis court apart from the ordinary and make it really
comfortable and pleasurable to use. Amenities include items like
benches, back boards, drinking fountains, spectator seating,
landscaping, etc. Which of these items will be included in your
construction project? You may choose to contract out for a "turnkey"
project, or you may act as your own general contractor, choosing various
companies to supply parts of the project: base construction, surface,
fencing, lighting, etc. Before you seek bids, you need to carefully
define the scope of the project and develop a clear set of construction
7. Hire a qualified contractor.
Choosing the right contractor can determine the ultimate success of your
tennis facility. A knowledgeable and experienced contractor can help
you, the owner, make the right decisions resulting in a quality project.
Tennis court construction is a highly specialized field within the
construction industry. It is vital that the contractor you choose be
familiar with the current marketplace, as well as with the type of
surface you intend to install.
How do you find a qualified contractor? One way is to contact the USTC&TBA.
As the trade association for tennis court builders, the USTC&TBA can
provide a directory of its member contractors. In addition, the USTC&TBA
conducts a certified builder program. Experienced contractors earn the
Certified Tennis Court Builder (CTCB) designation by completing a number
of projects and by passing a certification examination. CTCBs must
recertify every three years. The Association also conducts an inquiry
program, requesting information on your behalf from contractors and
suppliers who have the answers to your questions.
Another way to locate such specialists is by consulting tennis clubs,
municipal facilities and schools, as well as individuals, who have
recently completed tennis court projects. Ask whether or not they would
recommend their contractor and, further, ask some specific questions.
Was the job completed on time? Did it meet the owner's expectations?
Were there any hidden costs? Was the contractor able to solve any
problems which arose during construction? If there have been any
post-construction problems, was the builder responsive in taking care of
them? How does the court look? How does it play? Remember, both
experience and reliability of the prospective builder are important.
From a study of weather
and playing conditions in our country it has been determined that, in
general, courts built south of the 38th degree parallel, a line which
runs approximately through Louisville, Kentucky, are playable on a
twelve month year-around basis. Courts north of the 38th degree parallel
are considered non-playable for approximately four to five winter months
of the year due to cold weather. Therefore, because of the summer sun
angle during standard time, at approximately 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., outdoor
courts north of the 38th degree parallel can be oriented directly true
north-south. This will allow good playing conditions during the summer
months from mid to late afternoon.
Outdoor courts built south of the 38th
degree parallel, however, are considered generally good for play all
year around. By a careful analysis of sun angles at both equinox times
in mid-March and mid-September, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., when it is
assumed that most tennis is played, and taking into account the fact
that about 85% of the players are right-handed, it has been determined
that the most comfortable angle for court setting is 22 degrees
south-east and north-west for the length of the court off true
north-south. This can even be increased to 30 degrees off north-south
for courts built in the extreme southern areas of the United States.
The first courts known to be oriented 22
degrees south-east and north-west were constructed in Houston about 35
years ago. Observation of these and other courts south of the 38th
parallel at both equinox times show no shadow of the net on either side
of the court between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., which indicates that each side
of the court has equal sun angles, which is assumed to be the ideal
outdoor playing condition with respect to sun glare affecting either
side of the court more than the other.
As the sun moves lower (south) in the
winter months and higher (north) in the mid-summer months, the sun glare
angle will be slightly more on the respective sides of the courts, but
not enough to materially produce excessive glare.
On the other hand, if an outdoor court
were laid out exactly north-south in the southern part of the United
States, the intense glare from the sun in the mid-winter months between
3 p.m. and 4 p.m. would seriously affect right-handed players on the
north court by their having to look directly into the suns rays as they
face the south court, and would make playing conditions extremely
The final orientation of the tennis court
is also affected by the cost of construction relative to the substantial
slope of the land, zoning requirements and/or the owner's wishes. The
need to orient a tennis court in a predominant east - west direction may
exist in order to fulfill the construction criteria for the tennis
facility, but it should be recognized that a predominant east-west
orientation may substantially impair the useability of the facility.
If the owner's desires are for evening or
night play, orientation does not become an extremely important concern.
Refer to the outdoor lighting section for further information.
This court orientation has been
officially approved by the United States Tennis Association and the U.S.
Tennis Court and Track Builder's Association.
Tennis Court Orientation
Orientation Relative to Sun Angle
A tennis court should be laid out to minimize players
looking into the sun when serving or when following the flight of a
ball. A tennis court also should be laid out to avoid distracting shadow
lines and patterns on the court surface.
Theoretically, the best possible layout would be to
orient the longitudinal axis of the court perpendicular to the azimuth
of the sun -- the angular measurement of the horizontal location of the
sun in relation to true north. Since the azimuth of the sun constantly
shifts according to the time of day, the season of the year and the
latitude in which it is observed, it is difficult to generalize about an
Suggested Orientation Diagram for Courts South
of 42 Degrees N. Latitude (No Scale)
It is not unusual to orient a tennis court to match a
specific season. Courts in the northern United States, for example, are
generally used from late April to October. Therefore, northern courts
usually are oriented according to the summer solstice which is
approximately mid-season and, therefore, an average of the varying solar
angles during this period. In the southern United States, the milder
climate allows for play year round. For this reason, southern courts
often are oriented according to either the spring or fall equinox, again
an average of varying solar angles.
Orientation can be more specific. If a court is to be
used most often in the afternoon hours during the spring, as is the case
with many collegiate facilities, the court should be oriented west of
north for the months of April and May to minimize conflict with the
afternoon sun. If the court is to be used for a specific tournament held
at the same time each year, the court can be oriented properly for the
actual hours of play of the final match.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the
orientation of the court should be in relation to true north, not to
magnetic north. The angular difference between true north and magnetic
north is referred to as the "deviation of magnetic north." This
deviation changes according to the geographic location. Information
relating to the deviation of magnetic north from true north can be
easily obtained from a local surveyor or airport facility OTOH,
this error diminishes toward the equator.
Orientation Relative to Other Factors
Orientation also should take into consideration other
structures and features on the site, neighboring property, vehicle and
pedestrian traffic and prevailing winds. Property lines, zoning
requirements, topography of the site and efficient site utilization
should be considered as well.
Assuming flat land, what is the cost of building a clay court , storage
area for maintainance stuff for court and how much should I budget
annually for maintainance??? There are no clay courts in my area so I
will probably have to train someone how to maintain same Chris
I prefer playing tennis on clay (Har-Tru), but
haven't built a clay court since Kenny Rogers'
www.signaturelandscapes.com/horsefarm.htm because they cost
considerably more more than hard courts, (30-50%) depending on how far a
qualified contractor would have to travel, and shipping cost.
Building a single hard court is more expensive than multiple courts,
so building a single clay court would be toward the low end of the
Please see my best guesses about
construction costs on my tennis page
www.signaturelandscapes.com/tennis.htm Other than geographic
location, lighting is one of the widest variables. Environmental lights
cost at least 2x the typcial parking lot lights. . Unless you are
building several courts, and want a sweeping machine, there is no
storage requirement, because brushes and brooms are typically hung on
If you find a tennis court contractor who
is qualified to build a clay court, they will most likely maintain their
courts as needed. Clay courts aren't suited to city parks, due
to vandalism. Daily maintenance is pretty simple, with cooperation
from your country club members. Watering clay courts can be semi
automatic, with moisture sensors. Brushing is normally done by the
members after each set. Replacing clay is periodic, as needed. Other
than wear and tear, the most common problems result from neglect: Too
much or too little water, accumlating leaves and/or snow, and tree root
Hope this helps!
david at signaturelandscapes.com