Racquetball and squash may seem like identical sports on a surface level, but they’re actually 2 different things. Without further ado, read on to learn more about the differences between racquetball and squash.
Squash has been around for longer than racquetball—since 1830, in fact! It spawned from a sport developed by London prisoners called “rackets,” which was in turn a variation of tennis. Students at Harrow School discovered that punctured rackets balls squashed against the wall and bounced back with greater speed and force. They decided to call their creation “squash,” so no, the sport is not named after the fruit.
These faster balls required more skill to hit than regular rackets balls did, so squash grew in popularity. Though it started in England, it quickly spread internationally thanks to the English military. Troops stationed in other countries would play the game, where it was quickly picked up by the residents. Squash is still spreading to new countries, especially in Asia and South America.
Racquetball was invented over 100 years later, in the 1950s. A pro tennis and handball player, Joe Sobek, modified rules from tennis, handball, and squash and created a sport he called “paddle rackets.” As the sport grew in popularity, its name was changed to racquetball. Though racquetball has a decent international following, it remains most popular in North America where it originated. Read more about the history of racquetball.
Racquetball and squash courts are slightly different dimensions. Racquetball courts are 40 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet high. Meanwhile, official squash courts are 32 feet (9.75m) long, 21 feet (6.4m) wide, and 18 feet (5.64m) high. However, many U.S. racquetball courts have been converted to squash courts and retain their original dimensions.
The main difference between racquetball and squash equipment is in the length of the racquet and size of the ball. Squash rackets are 27 inches or shorter, while racquetball racquets have a max length of 22 inches. They are also wider than squash rackets.
Racquetballs are 2.25in (57mm) in diameter, while squash balls are 1.5-1.6in (39.5-40.5mm), so they’re a little smaller. Materials for racquets are similar, and both sports use a rubber ball. However, a racquetball is bouncier.
In both racquetball and squash, protective eyewear is highly recommended but not mandatory. We think it’s a good eye-dea nevertheless—a small rubber ball flying at you from any direction can cause a serious eye injury.
As far as rules go, the most important difference between racquetball and squash is that the ceiling is out of bounds in squash but not racquetball. Squash courts have a marked “out” line around the upper wall.
To serve, squash players must stand in a specific box in the court and serve to the opposite corner. In racquetball, you can stand anywhere in the marked service zone and hit the ball against any part of the front wall. Racquetball players must also bounce the ball once against the floor before serving, while squash players don’t.
In the most common scoring system for squash, known as point-a-rally scoring or PARS, games are played to 11 points. Games are best of 5 and the winner of a rally scores a point whether they served or not. In racquetball, only the server wins points, and pro matches are played to 15 points and best of 3.
There isn’t much data on the current number of racquetball players, but 2017 estimates put the number at 3.5 million in the U.S., down from approximately 14 million at its peak in the 1980s. Meanwhile, squash has an estimated 20 million players worldwide, and is still growing. In other countries, racquetball is played on standard squash courts, and vice versa in the States.
That being said, don’t let the numbers stop you from playing a sport you’d like to try! Courts for both are still fairly commonplace at fitness clubs or gyms, and you can find the necessary gear online or at most sporting goods stores.
We hope you learned something new about the differences between racquetball and squash. Feeling confident in your skills? Grab a friend and be prepared for a good workout!