ASTM F1953-10(2018): Grass Tennis Courts

Grass tennis court adhering to requirements in ASTM F1953-10(2018).

Throughout tennis history, different types of surfaces have been used to create a tennis court, including clay, grass, hard, and carpet. Each surface affects the playing style of the game; for instance, on some surfaces the ball moves fast, while on the others it moves slowly. Grass is the fastest surface in tennis. The slippery surface allows the ball to generate speed, and the softness of the grass means a lower bounce, keeping the ball close to the ground. ASTM F1953-10(2018): Standard Guide For Construction And Maintenance Of Grass Tennis Courts covers guidance for the construction and maintenance of grass tennis courts.

What Is ASTM F1953?

ASTM F1953-10(2018) covers techniques that are appropriate for the construction and maintenance of grass tennis courts. It details that the aim of a grass tennis court is to provide a relatively uniform, high quality playing surface as it relates to footing and ball bounce. Undulations, rough surface, bare spots, weeds, and wet spots detract from good play. Further, playing surface quality is largely affected by construction and maintenance procedures, and this standard addresses those procedures for:

  1. The selection of soil systems and turfgrass species in court construction
  2. The selection of management practices that will maintain an acceptable playing surface

The standard specifies that decisions in selecting construction and maintenance techniques are influenced by existing soil types, climatic factors, adaptation of grass species, level of play anticipated, intensity of use, budget, equipment, and training and ability of the turf management personnel. Those who are responsible for the design, construction, or maintenance, or a combination thereof, of tennis courts will benefit from the guidance in ASTM F1953-10(2018) .

The Origins of Tennis

As far back as the 8th century, tennis got its start as a game called ‘La Soule’ played by Christian Monks. The Monks would hit a ball back and forth indoors and against courtyard walls using their hands or a stick. They would hand ball around the cloisters of monasteries. The game gradually evolved to the game of Real Tennis, the precursor of the modern game, and became very popular with the French and British nobility.

Henry VIII was an avid player and had the original Real Tennis court built at his Palace at Hampton Court. In the 17th c., Charles II later re-modelled the court that exists today. That court is the oldest in Britain. Real Tennis was played on hard surfaces—wood or stone. In the late 18th century “Field Tennis” or “Long Tennis” began to evolve on grass courts. In the Victorian era (~mid to late 19th c) the game of Lawn Tennis (that we know today as tennis) became popular. Major Walter Clopton Wingfield patented his version of the game in 1873. His design of the court was much the same as it is today in terms of marking. The shape of the court, however, was in an hourglass design and was modified in 1875 to today’s rectangular design. At this time, Marylebone Cricket Club came up with the rules of tennis.  Wimbledon’s All England Croquet Club adopted the sport in 1880 and subsequently changed its name to the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships.

Until the early 1970s, the majority of tennis tournaments were played on grass, including three out of the four Grand Slams – Wimbledon Championships, Australian Open, and the US Open. Wimbledon is now the only Grand Slam event played on grass, while the majority of professional tennis events played on grass take place in England.

Tennis players playing on a grass tennis court.

Construction of a Grass Tennis Court

ASTM F1953-10(2018) maintains that during construction, consideration should be given to factors, such as:

  • Soil physical and chemical properties
  • Freedom of large stones and debris in the soil
  • Surface and internal drainage
  • Grass species selection
  • Orientation of the court
  • Provisions for distributing wear on the playing surface
  • Maintenance practices that influence the playability of the surface (e.g., mowing height, mowing frequency, rolling, irrigation, fertilization, weed control, disease and insect control, cultivation, thatch control, topdressing, and overseeding)

ASTM F1953-10(2018): Standard Guide For Construction And Maintenance Of Grass Tennis Courts is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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