You know all of these right? Squash. Racquetball. Racketball. Squash 57.
You’re probably here because you’re wondering what these are and whether they are any different from one another. Don’t worry, you’re not the first and you definitely won’t be the last.
This isn’t a topic that is very well covered but here, I’ll clear something up already: squash, racquetball and racketball (also known as Squash 57) are actually three different sports. Sometimes a video is worth thousands of words, so let’s provide a few examples.
Squash has been around the longest and is at this point a global game with a standard set of rules. A squash point looks like this:
Racquetball was invented after squash and has a different court. It is played mostly in the US and North America. A point looks like this:
Racketball (Squash 57)
Racketball is a hybrid of squash and racquetball that was invented in the UK. It uses a racket and ball very similar to US racquetball, except it’s played on a standard squash court. UK racketball was later rebranded to Squash 57 to emphasize the connection with squash. Here’s some Racketball / Squash 57 action, funnily enough featuring Nick Matthew, one of the all-time great squash players.
Is squash the same as racquetball?
Squash and racquetball are not the same sport. They use different racquets/rackets (we’ll get there), different balls, different courts and even have different rules.
What’s the difference between squash and racquetball?
The key difference between squash and racquetball is squash uses a narrower, longer racket to hit a smaller, slower ball inside the lines of the court. Racquetball uses a shorter, wider racket to hit a larger, bouncier ball around a far bigger court.
Squash is far older, developed in the 1830s in a posh school in Harrow, England. The history of squash goes even further than that as it came from the game of rackets created in Fleet prison in the early 1700s.
Racquetball was created by American Joe Sobek in 1950. He mixed squash, American handball and tennis amongst other sports to develop the sport as it is played today.
Racket vs racquet
Historically, ‘racquet’ is the old English way of writing the word whereas racket is the modernized version. In Racquetball you will use a racquet, whereas in squash, you often use a squash racket.
A big ‘but’ however because, while I say ‘racquet’ is the old english way of saying it, in England, racquetball is written ‘racketball’ and you use a ‘racket’. Are you confused yet?
I’d use the term ‘racket’ if I were you because that seems to be the way the word is going for both sports.
A squash racket can be no bigger than 27 inches, no wider than 8.46 inches (very specific) and is often about an inch deep. They vary in weight from as little as 90g to around 145g and have a hitting area of up to 500cm2. They can often come in 2 forms, ‘traditional’ which is the rounder style of racket used for control, and ‘teardrop’ which has longer strings for more power.
Racquetball racquets are shorter and wider. They vary between 19 inches and 22 inches in length, 9.5 to 11.5 inches in width and about an inch deep. The racquets are heavier in weight between 150-185g and have a hitting area between 645 and 806cm2.
Squash balls vary in size based on how bouncy you want the ball to be. However, the World Squash Federation generally says competitive squash balls should have a diameter between 39.5 and 40.5 mm and weigh about 23 to 25 grams.
This stays the same for most of the squash balls except improver and beginner balls which do not have a regulated size. However, if you want to get really technical, what changes between the balls is the ‘rebound resilience’ at different temperatures.
The balls in racquetball have a diameter of 57mm and do not change size. That does not stop them having variants! There are black balls which are the slowest, preferred by the wiser elders amongst us.
The most common are the durable blue balls which are used in the amateur level generally. Skip a few odd colors like dual colors and greens (which are more durable purples), and you get to the professional purple ball which is the fastest of the lot and used in tournaments.
What you get in speed though, you lose in durability, so be careful.
The courts that both sports are played in are similar enough that you can play racquetball in a squash court, but they do have some differences officially.
Squash courts are 18.5ft tall, 32ft long and 21ft wide with the short line intersecting at 17.85ft from the front wall. Racquetball courts are generally bigger than squash courts and stand at 20ft tall, 40ft long and 20ft wide with a service box that sits 15ft from the front wall.
On a squash court, you will also find out-of-court lines running along the top of all the walls and a ‘tin’ sitting at the bottom of the front wall. On a racquetball court, we won’t find these.
So you would like to know how to play squash or how to play racquetball? I won’t write out the entire rule book of each sport for you, not exactly thrilling reading. I’ll be honest, not many players have actually read the full rule book anyway so I’ll give you the brief run down of each sport.
In the squash rules, you win a point a rally (or PAR for short) and you get this by either hitting a shot so brilliant it bounces twice before your opponent gets it, or even better have it rolling out of the nick. You also get a point if your opponent hits the ball out of the court either above the lines on the walls or below the tin.
You can hit the ball either off the first bounce or while it is in the air. The person who wins the point serves and has to have at least one foot in the small service box and hit the ball from out of their hand above the service line on the front wall, and into the larger box on the other side of the court. If you win the point again, you serve from the other side.
Keep doing this until either you win by getting to 11 points first or your opponent wins a point, in which case they serve. The first person to win 3 games wins the match.
Racquetball, on the other hand, is scored up to 15 points and the winner has to win 2 games. Similar to squash, the player continues to serve until they lose the point when the other player starts serving.
Each person must hit the ball at the front wall before it bounces twice. As in squash again, the ball can be hit in the air or after it has bounced once. The key difference, however, is the ball can hit anywhere on the walls and even the ceiling, whereas in squash it must stay in the lines and never hit the ceiling.
So to be able to play either one of these all you need is the right gear. Once you’re suited and booted (in the right clothes and shoes of course), the other squash gear you need is a few balls, a racket for each of your players and someone else to play!
If you want to be extra safe, some goggles can be useful to protect your eyes. These are often mandatory for children so they could be a useful investment.
You can find squash courts at most leisure or sports centres and there are often squash clubs in their own right to play at.
For racquetball, all you need is a racquetball racket, which are wider and shorter don’t forget, and your choice of colored ball and a racquetball or even a squash court.
Goggles, once again, are always a safe bet when you’re playing to keep your eyes protected. Then make sure you’ve got someone to play and somewhere to play, and away you go!
Let’s move on to some FAQ’s!
Which is more popular squash or racquetball?
Sorry racquetball, squash is played in around 185 counties by about 20 million people. In the US, the number of people playing squash is increasing and this is the same for a few countries around the world.
Racquetball on the other hand is played in 95 countries by around 5.6 million players. Don’t let this put you off though, many clubs in the UK, for example, are taking up racketball / Squash 57 (basically racquetball on a squash court) and it is steadily growing!
Which is faster squash or racquetball?
Depending on how you measure ‘fastness’ this one could entirely depend on how fast you fancy running yourself. However, one thing we can measure is how fast the ball goes.
The ball in racquetball can go on average around 150-160mph. The hardest-hit serve was 190mph. On the other hand, the ball in squash can often go around 100mph with the hardest recorded hit from Cameron Pilley being 176mph.
Racquetball could be faster after all!
Which is harder squash or racquetball?
As with everything in life to do with how hard something is for us, let’s measure it in calories. Clearly, this depends on how much you weigh, how long you play and what time you play, so take this as a vague estimate.
For about 30 minutes of squash, you can burn between 420 and 550 calories depending on how much you weigh. On the other hand, the average person burns about 250-345 calories every 30 minutes playing racquetball.
Squash could be harder on you physically. Squash is also considered more difficult skill-wise. It has a smaller ball, smaller racket and requires more skill to hit. Racquetball makes up for this though by being easier to get started playing.
Can you play squash and racquetball on the same court?
In the US, you cannot play squash on a racquetball court or play racquetball on a squash court. They are simply two very different courts. Of course, if you want to mess around and have fun, then by all means make up your own game, but the official court dimensions are quite different.
In England it’s a bit different. As mentioned earlier, squash and racketball (Squash 57) are both played on a squash court. In that case, the only difference between squash and racketball is in the rackets and balls.
Squash vs racquetball: Which should you play?
If you’re a bit older and wiser and would just like to hit a rubber ball around a room for fun, then you can’t go wrong with racquetball.
Likewise, if you’re young and want a fast-paced and frantic game then a purple ball in a racquetball court will suit you too! If you would like more of a skill-based challenge and a real physical workout no matter your age then squash is the way to go.
Squash or racquetball, a tough choice, but both are fantastic games in their own right. Go play one!