I have been around tennis almost all my life, so I forget that everyone has not experienced different court surfaces. I love it when hard court players come by Seaside Tennis and wonder what the green sand on the court is.
Our courts are made of Har-Tru, a man-made clay of sorts. It’s actually crushed granite that is treated with a bonding agent so that it sticks together when damp. There are many benefits to this surface, especially in our climate. Our courts are HydroCourts, equipped with an underground watering system that runs constantly and allows us to have continuous play. The old aboveground systems sprayed water across the court surface where the wind could blow it away or cause flooding, which then required hours for drying before play could be resumed. Now we sweep the courts early in the morning, and play continues uninterrupted throughout the day.
Clay courts are about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than a hard court in the heat. They are also easier on the body overall. Footing is a bit different as you usually slide a little as you step into each shot. This helps the body because you don’t slam your foot into the hard court each time you take a step or hit a ball. The bounce on clay is also a little slower than that of a hard court, so it is easier to have a long rally. You do need experience playing on clay to feel comfortable with your footing and to understand how to construct the longer points.
Clients often ask me about the “grass court” in the picture of former No.1 Jim Courier and myself with the big Seaside windscreen in the background. In 2005, we turned the croquet lawn into a grandstand grass court! The court had to be rolled and packed down over and over to ensure a relatively true bounce. You see this surface at the prestigious Wimbledon tournament every summer. These courts have to be watered, mowed and rolled similar to a putting green. You don’t see many grass courts anymore simply because they are so hard to maintain. Play on grass courts requires great quickness as the ball doesn’t bounce as high and tends to skid more. Volleys are more prevalent, and pushing off on the grass is tricky as well. But, it is a great surface to experience if you can find a grass court for a match.
Hard courts are and will remain the most used court surface. They are easier to build, cheaper to maintain and more durable. The upcoming U.S. Open is played on a hard court as are most of the tennis tournaments in the amateur circuits. Even this surface has some variety, with some surfaces softer than others depending on the mix of the court material. The bounce is true and the footing is more secure, although it pounds the body more than other surfaces.
Have a good time playing on the various surfaces, and come play with me in the “green sand” sometime. c
Tracy Townsend is a resort tennis expert, and his company 30A Tennis manages Seaside Tennis on behalf of the Seaside Community Development Corp. You can reach him at email@example.com or call (850) 231.2214. For news, events and court conditions, find Seaside Tennis on Facebook.
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