To date, I’ve never played on a grass tennis court.
I’ve also never played on a clay court either.
All the matches I’ve played over the past few years have been on hard courts.
However, given the choice, I would love to play a game or two on grass
Firstly, for me, grass courts are the most visually stunning courts to look at.
Also, I think it would suit my game, as I love volleying and playing a lot of slice shots on my backhand. Watch any Wimbledon highlights over the years and you’ll see some of the best grass court players are strong at the net, backed up by strong serves and ground strokes e.g. Sampras, Federer, Graf and Navratilova.
Although my garden is far too small for installing a grass tennis court (not to mention the cost of maintaining and building one!), I thought for this article I’d look at how you can make your own grass tennis court.
What type of grass is used to make a tennis court?
There are a couple of different choices of grass seed to use for grass tennis courts
This works best in countries with average temperatures for most of the year. It’s a tough grass seed that can be played on quite a bit before the courts need to be renovated.
Since 2001, Wimbledon has used 100% perennial ryegrass, as the research shows it can withstand more wear and tear over the 2 week period. Providing the grass is cut to a short length (around 8mm), this creates the perfect balance between court speed and keeping the courts in good shape for longer.
Before 2001, the All England Club used a mixture of 70% perennial rye grass and 30% creeping red fescue.
This grass seed works really well in warmer climates. The courts will still need to be maintained on a regular basis and mowed regularly with plenty of new seed required in the winter months.
What is the cost of a grass tennis court?
Unfortunately, grass courts are one of the most expensive types to use. Although the actual surface is cheaper than hard courts and clay (as you just need a lot of top soil and grass seed) the maintenance costs are very high.
You’ll need to mow regularly, replant the grass seed at certain times of the year, water often, and remove weeds. You should be able to install a good one between $25,000 and $75,000. However, just don’t forget the running costs!
However, if you’re on a really tight budget you can do it for a fraction of this cost. This tennis fan from Idaho managed to construct a basic one in his garden with just a few thousand dollars.
Although looking at the video, the tennis ball bounce looks a little dodgy!
How do they grow a grass court at Wimbledon?
Growing a professional grass court is an arduous process. From start to finish, it can take a long time before a new Wimbledon grass court is ready to be played on.
- The ground is prepared and the grass seed planted in April.
- The grass is cut to a length of around 15mm in May (this is done around 3 times a week) The white lines are also painted on, and the grass is rolled once a week.
- During the tournament in June, the grass is cut to a height of 8mm (this is done every other day). The amount of water sprayed onto the courts is also reduced as it helps to keep the soil firmer, which helps the balls bounce better.
- At the end of August/early September, 6 tonnes of soil is placed on each court and levelled in preparation for the next Wimbledon tournament the following year!
How do you make a grass tennis court in your garden?
Measure the space
Although a standard tennis court is 78’ x 27’, you’ll need a bigger surrounding area of around 108’ x 54’. If you have no intention of playing doubles, you can forgo the doubles tramlines and have a total width of around 45’. Ideally the site should face north to south to avoid the low lying sun in the east and west in the mornings and evenings respectively.
Remove debris and obstructions
You can’t play on your dream tennis court with rocks and stones in the way! Make sure you’ve removed all possible obstacles from the ground. Watch out for nearby trees, especially those which have roots which are close to the surface.
Remove existing grass and turn over the soil
This may reveal some other smaller stones and rocks. Remove these aswell. After the whole area is clear, give it a rake and try to make the ground as level as you can.
Flatten the earth
You’ll need to rent a steamroller for this, or you can do it by hand. Flatten the earth and make it as compact as possible. You need the soil to be firm to encourage the balls to bounce when the court is ready
Spread the seed
Choose the right grass seed for your plot depending on where you live (perennial rye grass for temperate climates or Bermuda grass for warm and sunny climates). Give the seed plenty of water to encourage it to germinate.
Mark out the court and paint the lines
The grass needs to be short for grass tennis courts. Around 19mm is ok, but if you can cut it a bit shorter, the court will play better (however, this will require more maintenance on your part in terms of regular mowing and rolling). Mark out the areas of the court very carefully. Start with the perimeter and work your way inwards. You can then paint the lines using spray paint.
Install a net
You can buy one online or in local sports shop. Make sure you install the net posts correctly just outside the tramlines, and you set the net to the right height. You’ll need to dig a big hole for the net posts and hold it in place with some cement. It’ll take a couple of days to dry. After this, you can attach the net.
How do you maintain a grass tennis court?
This is the downside of owning a grass tennis court. If you want it to look nice and play well, you need to constantly maintain it. This means removing weeds, watering the grass regularly, mowing it and rolling it, as well as planting new grass seed from time to time. It’s very time consuming, so make sure you’re prepared for some hard work!
Can you make an artificial grass court instead?
If the think the cost and maintenance requirements for an actual grass court are too much, then why not consider an artificial one instead.
Over at TigerTurf, they talk about this process in more detail, but you would need a sub-base foundation of primary aggregate to help with drainage, with a layer of porous asphalt on top. Only after this is all in place can you add the synthetic grass.
How much does it cost?
For a good synthetic grass court, although the running costs are cheaper than natural grass, the installation costs are still high. It can cost up to $75,000 (with a surrounding fence).