I always look forward to my weekly run out on the tennis courts. But as I play outdoors, the weather is a big factor, especially playing in the UK. Very rarely do I play in ideal tennis conditions; blue skies, warm and no wind.
At the moment, I only have the option of playing on hard courts, and although I sometimes play when the courts are a bit wet, I’ll certainly avoid tennis if it’s raining heavily or too windy. While wet hard courts are risky to play on, as you can slip and fall over, grass and clay courts actually need watering regularly to ensure they are well maintained.
In this article, let’s take a look at why you should water clay and grass tennis courts, as well as how it should be done and the various ways you can do it.
For grass tennis courts, you need to water all year round to help the grass grow and keep it healthy. However, you can ensure they play firmer if you water less before a match or tournament. This will help the balls bounce a bit higher.
For clay courts, watering the surface ensures the court remains stable, firm and with less chance of erosion. Furthermore, as the water evaporates during the day it helps keeps the players cool.
Why should you water tennis courts?
Here are some more in depth reasons why you should water both grass and clay courts on a regular basis.
Grass courts need watering on a regular basis to help the grass mature and grow. As you know with your garden lawn, without water, grass will change into a brown/yellow colour with a straw-like texture. You may also find some bare patches where the grass has died off.
In the summer, you should aim to water grass tennis courts early in the morning, before the sun comes up. If you do it during a hot day, the heat from the sun will result in the water evaporating too quickly and not getting down into the roots of the grass.
You should also avoid watering in the evenings. This is because any excess water won’t evaporate, which can lead to disease. If watering at this time is your only option, make sure you don’t do it too much as you will be left with some standing puddles.
You also need to water clay courts regularly. The clay acts as a sponge absorbing the water which slowly evaporates during the day. This helps keep the players cool during a match.
Furthermore, it keeps the surface in better condition which reduces your long-term maintenance costs, such as resurfacing. Another reason to water clay tennis courts is it provides players with better grip, and you get fewer bad bounces from the surface.
Finally, regular watering also helps with drainage underneath the surface and it means you’ll have less downtime in between matches.
Unlike grass tennis courts, you can irrigate clay at night and maybe once during the day.
How do you water clay and grass tennis courts?
There are only two systems for watering a tennis court; one above ground and one just beneath the surface.
For clay courts, and in particular Har-Tru tennis courts, one of the best watering systems is one just beneath the surface which releases moisture throughout the day.
A HydroCourt is one such watering system. It works in tandem with Har-Tru tennis courts and it basically consists of a water table that lies just beneath the court.
You can control how much moisture is released to the surface which keeps the court well maintained, providing ideal playing conditions for tennis. There are 6 individual cells that are individually controlled so you can make certain areas of the court wetter than others.
The advantage of a subsurface watering system is that it’s easier to get uniform wetness across the whole court. It’s also cheaper than a sprinkler system as it’s easier to control how much water you need to keep the court moist. You also don’t need to have any downtime between matches.
Finally, while there are obvious costs for installing a sub-surface irrigation system, you can save money in the long term on resurfacing as it should help maintain the quality of the court for long.
The other option is to have something above ground, which involves installing sprinklers. You can opt for this on clay and Har-Tru courts if you prefer it to a sub-surface system, but for grass courts, it’s the only option. Placed around the court, these sprinklers can rise up under pressure and saturate the court with water. Depending on the design and with the right placement, it may only take a couple of minutes to cover a court in enough water.
There are different types of sprinklers too. Some will spray water in a 180-degree arc, which is ideal along the side of the court, and some will spray in a 90-degree arch, which you can use in the corners. For grass tennis courts, you can get automatic controllers that will ensure the courts are watered early in the morning before any matches.
Is it ok to play on a wet tennis court?
You can do, but it depends how wet the surface is and what surface you’re playing on. For clay it’s usually ok, on hard courts it’s not advisable but on grass you should never play when it’s wet.