Basic Racquetball Rules

racquetball game

By learning a few simple racquetball rules, you'll be on your way to playing an exciting, high-speed game that will challenge your hand-eye coordination and agility and really get you moving! You'll discover that racquetball is basically a cross between tennis and paddleball. Team USA Racquetball provides modified rules for players who are in wheelchairs, visually impaired, and deaf.

Racquetball rules

The object of racquetball is to earn points by hitting the ball off of the front wall of the court in such a way that your opponent is not able to return it. It can be played by 2-4 people.

Playing Area

racquetball court

Racquetball is played on a court that's fully enclosed. The standard court is rectangular and measures 40' long, 20' wide, and 20' high. The court is marked with red lines to designate the service and serve receiving areas.

service line is marked across the width of the court 15' from the front wall.

Another line, the short line, crosses the width of the court 20' from the front wall. The short line actually cuts the court in half.

These two lines form a rectangular box known as the service box.

Within the service box there are 2 sets of 5' perpendicular lines that connect the service line to the short line and run parallel to the side walls. 

  • The first of these lines is 18" from the side wall and it marks the doubles box where the non-serving partner in a team of doubles stands during the serve. 
  • The second line is 36" from the side wall and also parallel to it. This line along with the service line and short line mark the area the server is not allowed to enter if she wishes to hit a drive serve between herself and the nearest side wall.

There is a red dashed line that extends the width of the court 5' behind the short line (25' from the front wall) known as the receiving line.

Racquetball rules

In addition to the racquetball court, you need the following equipment to play a game of racquetball:

Racquetball racket 

Stringed racket that looks like a miniature tennis racket. Must be no longer than 22".

raquetball racket


Bouncy rubber ball (2.25" in diameter)

racquetball balls

Safety eyewear

The ball can rebound off of the walls at extremely high speeds which can be dangerous to players if they get hit in the eyes. It's mandatory for players to wear safety glasses during official competition and highly recommended for recreational players to wear them at all times.

racquetball goggles


Many players wear a glove on their racket hand to help give them a better grip on the racket, but it's not required.

racquetball glove

Racquetball rules
Starting Play

Play begins with the server standing in the service box and serving the ball to her opponent. The server gets 2 chances to make a good serve each time she tries to put the ball in play.

The server has to bounce the ball on the floor once and hit it directly off the front wall, making the ball hit the floor beyond the short line.

If the ball fails to do any of these things, the serve counts as a fault.

The ball may touch one side wall, but not two, before it hits the floor. If the serve hits any surface directly other than the front wall, the server immediately loses her serve regardless of whether it was the first or second service attempt.

Service fault - A serve is no good and considered a fault if it:

  • fails to hit the front wall before hitting the floor.
  • lands before passing the short line.
  • hits 2 side walls after the front wall, but before hitting the floor – called a "3-wall serve."
  • hits the front wall so hard that it rebounds off of the back wall without hitting the floor first - called a "long serve."
  • touches the ceiling after the front wall – called a "ceiling serve."
  • is served before the receiver is ready.

Racquetball rules
Playing the Ball

racquetball rules

After the ball bounces past the short line, the ball is in play and the receiver tries to return it. Players then alternate hitting the ball against the front wall.

The player returning the ball may either hit the ball on the fly or after it hits the floor once, but her hit must strike the front wall first before it hits the floor.

A return hit can touch as many walls, including the ceiling, as possible as long as it hits the front wall before touching the floor.


Since the racquetball court is relatively small and the ball travels quickly all over the court, it is common for players to get in the way of each other. If this happens and a player isn't able to get to the ball, either a "hinders" or a "penalty hinders" is called.

hinder results in a replay of the rally, while a penalty hinder causes the player responsible for obstructing play to lose the rally.

There's an important difference between a hinder and a penalty hinder. With a penalty hinder, the player missed out on a clear chance to make a rally-winning shot due to the opponent’s obstruction. In the case of a hinder, it's not absolutely certain the missed opportunity would have led to a rally-winning shot.

There is another kind of hinder known as a "court hinder." In some cases, the ball hits a door frame or handle or some flaw in the floor or walls which interferes with the ball’s bounce. In this case, the ball is replayed.

Here are some common hinders:

  • The ball takes an erratic bounce after hitting some part of the court.
  • Hitting an opponent with the ball accidentally as it’s heading to the front wall.
  • Making contact with an opponent accidentally while trying to make a play on the ball.
  • Blocking the view of the ball.
  • Having the ball pass between a player's legs.

Racquetball rules

Points can only be scored by the serving team. Players earn one point each time they serve successfully and win the rally. The first player or team to earn 15 points wins the game.

A player loses a rally if any of the following things happen:

  • The ball bounces on the floor more than one time before being returned
  • The ball fails to reach the front wall in the air before hitting the ground
  • The ball hits another player and fails to reach the front wall
  • A ball hit by a player strikes that player or her partner
  • A penalty hinder is called
  • A player switches racquet hands during a rally
  • A player doesn't use a racquet wrist-safety cord
  • A player’s body or clothing touches the ball
  • Carrying or slinging the ball off of the racquet

Racquetball rules

Racquetball matches usually consist of winning 2 out of 3 games. The first two games are played to 15 points, and if a third game is necessary, its played to 11 points. According to U.S. rules, players can win with just a 1-point margin; they don't have to win by 2 points.

Racquetball rules
Number of Players

Racquetball games can be played with 2, 3, or 4 players. The most common games are singles and doubles.

Singles = 2 players play 1-on-1

Doubles = 4 players play 2-on-2

Games for 3 Players

There are several fun games to play with 3 players.

"Cut-throat" or "Ironman" = 3 players play 2-on-1.
Each player takes turns serving to the other two who play as a team against the server.

"California" or "In-and-Out" = 2 players play 1-on-1.
The third player remains in the back court out of play while the other two play the rally. The winner of the rally then serves to the player who was sitting out while the loser of the rally sits out.

"Sevens" = 3 players play 2-on-1 up to 7 points.
If the 1-man team gets to 7 first, the game continues to 14. If she reaches 14 first, the game goes to 21. If the 2-man team gets to 7 first, the game is over.

Racquetball in a Nutshell

The game boils down to 3 basic racquetball rules:

  1. The server is the only player who can score points.
  2. The ball can only bounce on the floor one time.
  3. The ball must hit the front wall in the air every time it's hit.

Racquetball rules


If you have access to a racquetball court, try out all of the game variations like Cut-throat, California, and Sevens to keep the game interesting.

You're biggest hindrance to playing racquetball could very well be that you don't have a racquetball court available. Well, not to worry! There are some easy modifications you can make to the basic racquetball rules to fit the skill level of your players and your available equipment and playing area.

Here are some ideas:

  • Find any wall that you can use, and turn it into a 1-wall game.
  • Use tennis rackets, small paddles, ping pong paddles, styrofoam paddles or anything you have available that can be used to strike a ball.
  • Try different types of balls - beach balls, tennis balls, big bouncy balls.
  • Use your hands instead of paddles.
  • Have a mark on the wall that you must hit the ball above - the higher the mark, the easier it will be to return.
  • Give points after every rally instead of just allowing the server to score.
  • Allow the ball to bounce more than one time.
  • Allow the ball to bounce before hitting the front wall.
  • Set up target areas and players can earn points by hittng the ball into certain areas.
  • To make the game more even, allow younger players to earn 2 points when they score while the adults only earn 1 point.

These are just a few easy ways to change up the racquetball rules to fit your needs. Hopefully, they'll give you some ideas for adapting the game to make it more fun for your group.

Check out the rest of our fun kids sports activities that include other games that involving striking balls!

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