Choosing the Right Racquet

As often is the case, whether your
a racquetball newbie,
a player coming back from a long layoff
or a veteran looking for an edge
...sooner or later, you'll be in the market to buy A NEW RACQUET.

While it seems every major racquetball racquet manufacturer has some new patented high-tech development, finding the right racquet for you is really just a matter of personal preference. You should be considering several points before putting out big bucks for a racquet that "looks nice" or is the "latest rave". Racquet preference is always a hot topic on the Racquetball Newsgroup and here are a few things to think about (with associated comments from players from all over the world) when considering to buy a new racquet.

Racquets have come a long way from when Joe Sobek invented "paddlerackets" in 1949. Those wooded racquets were 17-18" in length, weighed over 300 grams and had a cross-sectional hitting area of only about 50-55 square inches. By the 80's the material racquets were made of had evolved from the early oval wood composites to aluminum to fiberglass to graphite composites. Racquet weight and length, head size and head shape had also evolved to around 230-270 grams, 19" long, 65-70 hitting area and a rectangular head shape.

Today's popular racquets have taken yet another evolutionary leap to what's known as midsized and fullsized designs. Being generally 22" long and with a hitting area of 94-108, today's hot styles include teardrop, quadriform and modified quadriform head shapes and can weigh from an ultralite 175 grams to a powerful 245 grams.

Head Size

Playing Style

Demo, Demo, Demo

Grip Size

Ask your Club Pro

Head Shape

Balance Point

Racquet Weight

Frame Stiffness

Head Size

Head size refers to the cross-sectional square inch hitting surface of a racquet.
In general, "larger headsize = more power the racquet will generate"

However, in today's fast-paced style of play, a racquet with a large head will be less manueverable if not weighted and balanced properly. When considering buying some of the racquets with 104+ hitting areas, try several racquets of this type to see which one is best balanced and comfortable. Trying different racquets is the only way to see what difference head size makes in your game.

Subject: Re: Choosing a new racquet...
From: Kurt Ault

A new racquet will have a huge affect on your game if you're upgrading from a small racquet. You not only will have more surface area on the head which will be more forgiving for some of those off center shots but you will also have a longer racquet length which will give you longer reach and added "leverage" on your swing which will equate to added power.

The more you spend *usually* the lighter the racquet becomes which means added quickness which is needed in more advanced level of play. However, just because a racquet is quick doesn't *necessarily* mean that it'll be powerful - Newton's second law of motion rules here (force = mass x acceleration) - i.e. to apply the same force to the ball with a lighter racquet you'll have to swing the racquet faster. The point is that there is usually trade offs between light and heavy racquets and you'll have to decide for yourself which best suites your playing style. Kurt Ault

Playing Style

Are you a power player or one who relies more on strategy and control...or both? Identifying your playing style is essential toward selecting the appropriate racquet for you. Once you do this you can narrow the types of racquets that would best enhance your game. Ask yourself these questions:

Is my playing style based on POWER?
If the answer is want a racquet with the following characteristics:

Do you rely more on control and precise shot execution (but still want some power)?
Go for the following:

This will result in a lighter racquet with greater manueverability and control.

Maybe you're just an occassional player who plays for fun and exercise and just want some competitive edge over friends and playing partners?

If this is the case look for a racquet with a large hitting surface (>102 for easy hitting and effortless power. In other words, consider how often you play and your relative talents in addition to your playing style.

Demo, Demo, Demo

Try different racquets any chance you get. Several large sports and mail-order retail stores as well as many racquetball clubs often have a good selection of demo racquets you can rent or borrow. Many times, the rental fee can be applied to a future purchase. Try to experiment as many racquets as possible that fall into your playing style category. Also consider the different headshapes and headsizes available.

Subject: Re: Choosing a new racquet...demos
From: Kurt Ault

Some Proshops and sports retail stores have demo programs which will allow you to check racquets out for a couple days, best thing is try a few racquets out until you find one that feels best to you. But if there aren't any demo programs in your area all of these racquets will be bigger in size and will probably weigh less that what you're currently using and, as I mentioned before, any one of them will contribute significantly to your game. Kurt Ault

Subject: Re: Choosing a new racquet...demos
From: Racquetball Central

My suggestion as always is to try to demo whatever racquets you can do this is several ways.

  • First, see if you Sports "superstore" has a demo program.

  • Second, you could visit a neighborhod RB club and see if they have any type of

    racquet demo programs...without having to join.

  • Third, you could see what you're friends are using and ask them if they'd let you try out their racquets.
    There are alot of new racquets out there in all different price ranges. If you don't want to spend over $100 you can look at Wilson, Ektelon, Spaulding, Head, ProKennex lines. RC

    From: Stephen Trapani
    Subject: The Fallacy of Try before you Buy

    The familiar refrain to someone wanting to buy a new racquet is "Demo" or "Try a lot of racquets until you find one that you like" or some such thing.

    Now I'm not arguing with this approach. I agree it is often a very important part of finding a good racquet, but at the same time I think some of us may be forgetting something.

    If you are looking for the best racquet for your own game "finding a racquet you like" can lead you astray:

    (1) For most racquetball players, performance varies significantly from day to day. Trying a particular racquet on an up day or down day will skew one's perspective.

    (2) Racquets require time to adjust to if they vary significantly from one's current racquet; therefore, if one is currently using a racquet that is bad for their game and they demo two racquets, one varying greatly (and perhaps better for their game) compared to their current racquet, and one much like their current racquet, they might actually "like the feel" of and play better in the short term with the more similar racquet which is worse for their game. If they went ahead with the differing racquet, they would likely eventually be better off.

    (3) Racquets are strung differently from the factory then might be best for one's own game. A given racquet may play very differently with 18g strings than it does with the 16g factory strings. One might be, say, demoing a ultralight racquet and like it's quickness, but think it lacking in power, and so reject it, when one could have the best of both worlds with an ultralight strung with smaller more powerful strings.

    (4) Many players demo racquets by hitting with them without playing with them. Often players have different mechanics when just hitting compared to when playing, and so will be lead astray by their demo.

    Factors such as these make demoing racquets a dicey method of finding the best racquet for one's game. One ought to understand something about one's game and the properties of racquets and combine this with one's discoveries from demoing if one wishes to find the best racquet for one's game.


    From: Robert Tarrall
    Subject: Re: The Fallacy of Try before you Buy

    These are good points. When I'm demoing racquets I first warm up with my regular racquet, then start trying the other racquets. I generally try each for 10-20 minutes and eliminate any that clearly aren't going to work - e.g. too heavy.

    I'll then play matches with the remaining racquets for at least a couple of hours each; more if it feels like I still have some adjusting to do. I've found that as my skills improve my ability to adjust to any racquet quickly has improved as well, which helps. This may not be true for everyone, though...

    (referring to point #3 in the above post)
    This is a very good point. Many factory string jobs seem pretty bad to me, and the general consensus around here is "if it's a factory string job, it sucks". Which would suggest that manufacturers aren't too worried about people selecting their racquets based on a demo...

    (referring to point #4 in the above post)
    Personally, I've never found a racquet that worked well for me in a match but didn't work for drills... so I can safely rule out racquets with just basic drills. But before making a final selection it's absolutely necessary to play for at least one and preferably several nights' worth of serious matches, so you can tell how quickly you fatigue with this racquet, how well it plays when you're tired, and whether it causes you any arm injuries...

    Stephen - sounds like you're a theoretician. :-) I'm an experimentalist... if I try playing with a racquet for a while and just can't get enough power (or control, or comfort) out of it, I don't give a darn if the sales literature and all my friends swear up and down it's better than the one I've got now.

    I do agree with you that one must devote a lot of time and thought to demoing; I often find that I drive every shot into the floor (or 3' high) when I first pick up a new racquet but that's just a calibration issue rather than a fault in the racquet. But I'd hate to see anyone buy a racquet that doesn't work for them just because the numbers say it should.

    Grip Size

    Normally, the more expensive and high-tech racquets will come in more than one grip size. Grip size can come in:

    • super small (3 11/16")

    • extra small (3 15/16")

    • flared option

    Make sure you try different grip sizes to find the one which feels the best for you. Grab the racquet like your shaking hands with it (forehand grip). Now wrap your fingers around the handle so your middle finger almost touches the palm of your hand. Normally, the smaller the grip, the more wrist snap you can generate which translates into a more powerful stroke.

    Subject: Re: Choosing a new racquet...grip size
    From: Kurt Ault

    Grip size is also personal preference. In tennis, grip size is usually proportional to hand size but this ISN'T the case in racquetball. Typically the smaller the grip size the better wrist snap you'll have. I wear a large RB glove size but prefer a "super small" grip. Again, personal preference - try different sizes out for yourself and determine what feels best for you. Kurt Ault

    Subject: Grip size
    From: Gary L. Smith

    ... a racquetball racket grip needs to be smaller than a tennis racket grip for the same hand. I wear a size L racquetball glove (the glove, BTW, adds size, assuming you wear one), the span from the base of my palm to the tip of my middle finger is about 7", and I got the Xtra Small grip size on my Ektelon racket. I have one layer of tape on it. Basically, as long as your fingers aren't crowding and digging into your palm, it's not too small.

    The reason for this (as it's always been explained to me) is that the racquetball swing is far more "wristy" than the tennis swing. The larger your grip is, the more restricted your wrist snap is. I have never really tested this fully, i.e. by playing two copies of the same racket with different grips, but it makes sense. And if it doesn't, we'll have another thread here shortly to take the place of the string tension discussion!

    Ask your club pro

    A certified racquetball instructor can personally lead you in the right direction and be able to evaluate what your game needs in improvement and suggest some general types of racquets.


    Headshape is a racquet feature which is closely related to your playing style. Here are the major haedshapes available and their advantages:

    • Teardrop - less power potential but has more rounded head area/wider hitting. zone (sweet spot) thereby being more forgiving on off-center hits.

    • Quadriform - produces more power due to elongated main strings and longer string bed.






    Racquet Weight

    Racquet weights are given in grams with the today's popular racquets ranging from an ultralite 175 grams to 245 grams. These weights usually represent the racquet without strings and grip which together add about 15 grams to the weight.

    A lighter racquet will generally be more manueverable and quick but it'll take more acceleration to generate the same power as with a heavier racquet. Arm weariness is also important and again dependent on the players playing style in that because a lighter racquet must be swung faster to generate similar power, it may tire you faster whereas a heavier racquet will tire you more just because of it's weight. The balance point becomes a very important factor when looking at racquets at the heavy and light weight extremes.

    Balance Point

    The balance point of a racquet is a rough measurement of how head-heavy or head-light a racquet is. The balance point can be determined by balancing the racquet on a sharp-sided object (old record album cover) and measuring this point from the bottom of the handle. Simply put, today's racquets are 21" long so any racquet that has a balance point greater than 10.5" is head-heavy and any racquet with a balance point less than 10.5" from the bottom of the handle is head-light. A head-heavy racquet will normally generate more power with less swing acceleration than a head-light racquet eventhough their overall weights are the same.

    Frame Stiffness

    Frame stiffness is usually overlooked when trying different racquets but will certainly affect the power generated by a racquet.

    "A stiffer racquet always offers more power than a more flexible racquet. This is true because when a racquet impacts a ball with a certain amount of energy, this energy can either be transferred to the ball or go into bending the racquet. Any energy used to bend the racquet cannot be transferred to the ball and is lost. A stiffer racquet bends less on impact and transfers more of it's energy to the ball. Therefore, the stiffer the racquet the more powerful the racquet!"
    Brian Feeny

    Racquetball Central


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