This is a brief summary of squash rules & scoring — just enough detail to get you playing!
If you plan on participating in squash leagues or tournaments, or just find yourself becoming more involved with squash, you should read the complete rulebook.
Download the complete rules: Squash Singles Rules [PDF]
Squash Scoring Rules
The scoring rules are pretty simple. Usually a match will be in a “best-of-five” games format. So to win a squash match, you must win three games.
Each game is played to 11 points. The first player to 11 wins the game. If the game becomes tied at 10-10, it’s “win by 2”. The first person to go ahead by 2 points wins the game.
Squash is point-a-rally (or PAR), which means you win a point every time you win a rally (unlike, say volleyball where you must be serving to win a point). Squash used to be played to 9 points and you could only win a point on your serve, but at this stage the game has moved entirely to PAR scoring.
Warmup / Before the Match
Before you begin a match, make sure to warm up the ball. The players stand on either side of the court and hit cross-courts to each other. Mix in some drop shots or rails on your side of the court, but don’t hog the ball for more than 2 or 3 shots. After a couple minutes, switch sides with your opponent to warm up on the other wall.
The official squash rules provide up to 5 minutes for the warm-up (2 1/2 minutes on each side), but for casual matches you can take a little extra time. Make sure you warm yourself up properly!
After the warm-up, spin a racquet to decide who will serve first. One person spins the racquet while the other guesses “up” or “down”. Use the logo on the butt of the grip to figure out if it landed up or down!
Squash Serve Rules
Each point starts with a serve, and then the players alternate hitting the ball until someone wins the point.
If you’re serving, pick one of the service boxes to serve from. Give your opponent time to position herself on the other side of the court, closer to the back wall.
To serve, give the ball a little toss and hit it cross-court to your opponent. For it to be a valid serve you must:
- Keep one foot in the service box while serving
- Hit the front wall first
- Hit the ball above the service line (the ball can’t touch the line; it has to be completely above)
- Land the ball in the opposite back quarter of the court (unless your opponent volleys the ball first)
- Keep the ball within the out of bounds lines
You only get one serve attempt, and if you don’t hit a good serve your opponent wins the point immediately.
- You can hit the serve forehand or backhand, underhand or overhand
- The serve can hit the side or back walls on the fly, so long as it bounces in the opposite back quarter of the court (if the opponent chooses to let it bounce)
- If you serve and win consecutive points, then you alternate service boxes
- If your opponent wins the ensuing rally, they get to serve, and they choose which service box to start from
Squash Serve Return Rules
- You’re allowed to volley the return or let it bounce
- Your return must reach the front wall at some point, but it can hit off other walls first
- The ball can never go out of court or hit the tin
Playing a Point
After the serve, the players alternate shots until someone wins the point. Either player can win the point — you don’t have to be serving.
To make a good shot and keep the rally going, you have to hit the ball before it bounces twice, and your shot must reach the front wall. You can hit the ball off the side or back walls first, as long as it eventually touches the front wall. Your shot must always stay in-bounds and above the tin, which is the strip of metal or wood along the bottom of the front wall.
If the server wins the rally, she wins a point and serves from the other service box. She keeps alternating service boxes until her opponent wins a point.
If the returner wins the rally, he wins a point. He now gets to serve, and can choose which service box to start serving from.
One of the unique aspects of squash is you and your opponent share the same space on the court. What happens if it’s your shot but your opponent is blocking you from getting to the ball? You can either play through the interference, or you can stop play by calling out “let”. There are three possible outcomes:
- If you had no chance to retrieve the ball, you lose the point. This is called a “no let”.
- If you had a realistic chance to retrieve the ball, the point is played over. This is called a “let”.
- If you were ready to hit the ball but your opponent was blocking the front wall or your swing path, you win the point outright. This is called a “stroke”.
These situations can often be ambiguous. In a tournament match, a referee would determine whether it’s a no let, let, or stroke.
But in a casual match, both players have to agree on the call. If both players don’t agree, you play a let. Sometimes, this can get a bit contentious, so just remember to keep an open mind and do your best to make fair calls!
This YouTube video from SquashSkills gives a quick overview on what to do if there is interference: