Tennis Court Buyers Guide
As tennis court builders, we have over 40 experience of tennis court construction across Australia. With an A.S. Lodge Tennis Court, you will enjoy a well-designed and well-built tennis court that will stay in good shape and be a pleasure to play on for years to come.
At A.S. Lodge, we can advise about layout on your chosen site, design and build times for your tennis court. Our buyer’s guide to tennis courts will help you on your way, read each section below, or download the entire buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page
Advice & Planning
It is always good advice to speak to qualified consultants and tennis court users. Such advice can be sought from experienced qualified contractors, Sports and Play Industry Association or State or National Tennis Body. (Tennis Victoria, Tennis Australia, Tennis New Zealand).
The standard questions you need to have answered are:
• Best position of court;
• Impact on surrounds;
• Compliance with State Planning Laws;
• Requirements for Permits;
• Appropriateness of desired surface;
• Quality and qualifications of court builder.
You will need to establish a tight budget.
Factors that may affect this budget are:
• Volume of civil works (including adjacent areas)
• Necessity for retaining walls
• Base specification (related to your site)
• Court surfacing
• Level of lighting
• Extent of fencing
• Further amenities on and off your court and adjacent landscaping
The only way you can obtain this budget figure is to fully define your specific needs… remember few courts or court users are ever the same. The right planning decisions at this stage will give you years of pleasure and add value to your property.
Site Location & Orientation
The first question to ask is… will it fit?
The court playing dimensions are set at 23.77 metres long by 10.973 metres wide. However, the fencing dimensions can vary. It is recommended not to build a court smaller than 30 metres by 15 metres, with a desirable domestic court being 33.5 metres by 16.2 metres. Occasionally courts of 36.5 metres by 18.2 metres are built to reach international dimensions (see centre pages). As the sun’s path varies throughout the year there is no perfect position. Although it is often suggested a court be built ‘True North / True South’ this does not eliminate ‘sun-in-eyes’ problems. In fact, in Southern Australia during winter months, in the middle of the day, the sun is in the northern hemisphere and rather low in the northern sky. This results in the sun being a potential problem for players at the southern end of your court. It is far more important to design a court layout that will compliment your swimming pool, entertainment areas, views and outlooks, existing and future vegetation, gazebo, existing levels and landscaping to mention a few factors.
The construction of your tennis court subbase is a civil engineering project, therefore there are several long-established engineering principles that should be followed particularly pertaining to soil compaction, drainage and consequential stability. You may wish to consult a qualified civil engineer at this stage to gain further instructions specific to your site.
SAPIA has a printed set of construction guidelines that set out minimum standards of construction. This can be obtained from your local State office.
The Cement and Concrete Association similarly prints standard minimum specifications, ie. 100mm of concrete reinforced with welded reinforcing mesh correctly placed on ‘bar chairs’ to gain maximum strength. Do not deviate from time proven methods of construction. Again, ‘remember you get what you pay for’… The fence posts should be soundly embedded in concrete footings designed to meet the requirements of the existing soil conditions. Similarly, if light poles are required, a suitable foundation design will be necessary to allow for wind loading, overall torque and the weight of the fitting.
Over the past 40 or so years, synthetic playing surfaces have taken over from the old high maintenance type courts of natural grass and loose granular products. You must now prioritise your requirements for your court. A purist tennis player may choose an international surface like Plexicushion or Acrylic, or even a short pile (13mm) tightly bound synthetic grass. These types of surface offer excellent ball response (spin, slice, bounce) however they can be hard on the legs and body and often do not offer great versatility in a domestic setting.
Sand filled synthetic grass, whilst being extremely aesthetically pleasing, offers very good playing conditions for tennis, plus adds the versatility of allowing other sports to be played on it, such as basketball, netball, volleyball, bike riding, roller blading, cricket, golf and many others.
When choosing a specific surface, you must now take extreme care to investigate the features and advantages of each product. For instance, the Plexicushion surface used at the National Tennis Centre Melbourne has been imitated but not copied, therefore ‘similar’ surfaces may not have the same resilience, bounce, spin or foot grip. Similarly, Acrylic surfaces vary greatly depending on the size and quantity of the mineral filler and even on the installation technique.
The American Har Tru self-watering courts are able to offer international standard clay surface without the maintenance of water. Although an expensive option, clubs which desire the best surface without too much maintenance are choosing Har Tru.
Ask your contractor whether he squeegee finishes the surface or uses a non-slip ‘broom’ finish. Synthetic grass surfacing becomes even more complicated with different weights and measures, different heights, different yarn thickness, different yarn sources and even different types of yarn.
Below are some basic definitions:
Pile Height: The height from top of the primary backing to the tips of the yarn.
Denier: The weight in grams of 9000 linear metres of yarn. Over recent years it has been shown that 10,000 denier products have greater ‘wear life’. (Note the metric conversion of denier is to Decitex which is the weight in grams of 10,000 metres of yarn).
Yarn Thickness: The actual thickness of each blade of yarn. This is usually between 50 and 100 microns with the latter being preferred for overall strength
Weights: The same products can be described using several different definitions.
i) Product or Backed weight: The weight of 1m2 of the finished product, this includes primary backing all yarn and secondary backing.
ii) Unbacked weight: The weight of 1m2 of product prior to secondary backing.
iii) Yarn weight: The weight of 1m2 of all yarn used in the product.
iv) Face weight: The weight of 1m2 of all yarn above the primary backing. As you can see it can be very confusing comparing product specifications.
One simple method is to:
i) Determine the denier;
ii) Measure the pile height;
iii) Measure gap between tuft rows;
iv) Count the number of stitches per 10cm.
Many countries around the world produce synthetic yarn for tennis courts, from Australia, North America, Italy, Scotland, Holland and others. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is fairly true. The Polypropylene yarns from the USA appear to be superior to the old Australian made products yet slightly dearer.
Further, the Polyethylene products, although dearer again, show far superior play and endurance qualities to any other yarn available today. When looking at comparing products don’t be content to merely compare small samples. Remember you don’t play on ‘mock-ups’ or samples. Ask you contractor to show well ’played in’ courts of 3 or more years old. (Take your racquet and have a hit)!
Tennis Court lighting has advanced greatly over the past 60 or so years from little more than household incandescent lamps, to fluorescent side lighting, to high level Tungsten Halogen, through to Metal Halide ‘down lights’ and now the state of the art LED.
The aim of the Metal halide light is three-fold:
i) Gain good (high) light levels on the court;
ii) Maintain uniformity of lighting on the court;
iii) Restrict light spillage outside the court so as not to diminish the surrounding amenity.
The initial down lights or ‘shoe box’ fittings gave reasonable light levels on the court, however tended to fall down on points ii) & iii). This led to a redesign of the reflectors within the fittings. More recent development of the reflectors has meant an asymmetric fitting can throw greater light over more of the court (thus more even levels) whilst limiting the spill outside the fenced area.
LED lights have advanced to a point where a hi level of uniformity can be achieved whilst the cost of running the lights is greatly reduced. The longevity of these fittings will be related to both the quality of the diode (LED) and the and quality of the drive gear. Be careful not to fall for non-tested imported low-quality components. These LED lights have created a huge advancement on the older and cheaper metal halides. The latest and better LED fittings have taken much of the old design qualities of the Metal Halides and increased the output whilst reducing the energy usage greatly. The initial costs are higher, but the running costs and maintenance costs are far less than previous fittings.
These days we use an advanced graphical software package to produce easy to read lighting designs. The flexibility of this software allows accurate printouts to be produced in several formats and views including 3D. Indicating the actual luminaire positions and statistical areas on a drawing that can also include dimensions, text and other relevant information.
When planning your new tennis court take a step back and evaluate what the whole project entails. Do you want to use the court for other activities, such as basketball, netball or golf, etc. If you believe your court will be of greater value if one or more of these alternative sports are utilised it may be necessary to plan this prior to court commencement. These areas adjacent to the tennis court are often as important as the court, when planning entertainment. Again prior to commencement of site works, discuss the final adjacencies desired, i.e. should you be planning a gazebo, pool or paved outdoor area, now is the time to discuss timing etc. to avoid ‘double handling’ or ‘land locking’.
Choosing A Contractor
Tennis court construction is a highly technical civil engineering discipline. Choosing the correct contractor may in fact determine the overall success of the project / investment. Determining factors in choosing the right company:
1. The contractor should be a member of an accepted and recognised professional body, e.g. SAPIA.
2. The contractor should have extensive experience in constructing the type of court you want and in the area you want.
3. The contractor should be aware of state and local laws relating to the construction of tennis courts and subsequent lighting.
4. The contractor should hold all insurances to protect the client including- WorkCare, Public Liability, Product Liability and Whole of Works. If you are not sure ask your contractors to show evidence of the same.
5. The contractor should provide sufficient guarantees for all work and products. Ask your contractor to explain who backs the guarantee and what will be done in the event of a claim being necessary.
6. The contractor should be licensed to carry out the appropriate works. Ask your contractor to show his relevant registration card.
7. Has the contractor won any industry awards for similar works?
8. What projects has the contractor constructed in the past?
9. Be certain that the contractor you choose is fully responsible for the entire project. Remember if the contractor suggests you handle any section or pay a sub-contractor directly, then responsibility for the court’s integrity may finish with you.
*Refer to checklist to assist in contractor choice.
The best piece of advice that we can offer is to check all aspects of the court contractor before you buy.
To you assist with checking all aspects, download this printable PDF checklist (1Mb). Print off several copies, and as you enquire, mark off each point to satisfy yourself as to the suitability of each bidding contractor.
About The Author
This booklet was compiled by Sandy Lodge as a result of years of enquiries for an independent guide to designing a court and evaluating proposals.
Sandy has worked in the industry for over 40 years on local projects and around the world. He has held the position of President of the Tennis Court Builders Association on many occasions and has been called to mediate on contract disputes that may well have been avoidable if the correct advice was sought and given originally.
Sandy trusts that this booklet, together with any verbal advice he can give, will assist you in obtaining the finished product you require.
If you would like this Buyers Guide in printed booklet format, please contact A.S. Lodge and request a copy be mailed to you or you can download the pdf by clicking above.
Still not convinced? Then listen to our satisfied customers...
I feel that the resultant court is superbly constructed and know that it is superb to play on.
I was very impressed with the speed with which you dealt with the minor hiccups throughout the project.
Everyone at AS Lodge were always helpful and willing to assist with any concerns we may have had.
Your integrity and control of yesterday's situation was most reassuring that I had made the correct decision in choosing your company.