If you're building a tennis court (or multiple courts) for your community recreation center or club, you may be unsure about what type of surface to install. Read on to learn more about the four basic types of tennis court surfaces and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Carpet

Carpet tennis surfaces are used for indoor courts only. The name carpet is misleading; carpet courts are really a rubbery synthetic material laid over cement or wood. Most major tournaments have moved away from carpet courts for uniformity, though they are what you find in a lot of indoor tennis centers.

Carpet courts are considered a "fast" surface and produce low-bouncing balls. Carpet courts are popular with rec centers that use the tennis court for multiple purposes, so the same surface can be utilized.

Grass

Most people think of Wimbledon when they think of grass courts. This surface is rarely put into new facilities anymore because of its heavy upkeep. It must be regularly reseeded, watered, and mowed, and it wears down very quickly with play. This makes it expensive in the long run, though not to install.

Grass is the fastest of all surfaces, and it favors a "serve-and-volley" style of play, with hard serves, fast rushes to the net, and rapidly scored points. The bounce of the ball is somewhat unpredictable on a grass court and is based on the length and condition of the grass. It is a lovely, old-fashioned court surface probably best for light residential use and very affluent communities.

Clay

The opposite of grass on the speed spectrum is clay. Clay courts are made of a mixture of stone or brick with crushed shale. Like grass, clay needs constant maintenance, as it must be frequently watered, rolled, and brushed.

Clay is used at Roland Garros in Paris for the French Open, and it produces very slow-moving, high-bouncing balls. For this reason, players who play a baseline game with long rallies like this surface. It also favors seniors and people just learning to play, as it gives them time to move into position and set up their shots. Referees like it, because it makes it easy to see whether a ball landed in or out of the court lines.

Asphalt

Asphalt  (AKA "hard" court) is popular with many communities for several reasons. First, it is in between grass and clay in terms of speed of play, so it's a good compromise for most players. It gives a very predictable bounce to the ball, which is helpful for novice tennis players.

The asphalt on the court is covered with a thin synthetic surface for some cushioning, then topped with a mixture of paint and sand. The higher the sand content, the slower the court. Asphalt courts are very easy to maintain, only needing occasional cleaning and repainting of the lines.

While asphalt can be pricier to install, communities save money down the line with reduced maintenance costs. Furthermore, many municipalities already work with local asphalt paving companies, like Phend & Brown, so they may be able to get a price break by bundling the court with other projects.

Just because asphalt is overall a more economical choice doesn't mean it's any less well thought of. Both the US and Australian Open tournaments are played on asphalt courts.

There are many things to think about when installing tennis courts, including drainage, storage for equipment, lighting, windscreens, backboards, scoreboards, bleachers, fencing and the sun angle. Hopefully, by reading the points above, the choice of surface will be an easy one for you and your community!

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