How to Play Tennis In The Backyard


You don’t need to be a big Wimbledon fan, or have your own private paved court to enjoy a good game of tennis. In fact, you can enjoy this internationally favorite past time in the comfort of your own backyard.

Although modern tennis is played on a hard surfaced court, tennis can be played on a backyard lawn. You can also change the rules and equipment for your own unique spin on the classic game.

Origins of Lawn Tennis

Lawn tennis, aka tennis has a long history stretching back almost a millennia.

The predecessor of tennis, a fun little game called jeu de paulme, (or game of the palm for those of us who’ve forgotten our High School French), was played on grass lawns.

Olympic.org tells the story how Jeu de paulme was invented by monks around the 11th century, who played it during ceremonies with their bare hands.

At some point, and I’m sure after witnessing several sports injuries at the monastery, someone decided to play it with gloves.

Eventually around the 15th century, some dark age entrepreneur invented the ancestor of our modern racket, wood for the frame and guts for the strings.

Hand holding tennis ball and racket

The ball was made from leather and cork, which was great for hitting, but not so great when it came to bouncing.

Shortly thereafter, tennis made its way across the English channel and soon became the favorite sport of kings and queens.

In fact, King Henry the VII and his notorious son King Henry the VIII are said to have made over one thousand courts in England during their reigns.

Of course being royal, their courts were in doors, but the love of the sport spread all across Europe.

Throughout the centuries, the rules of tennis have evolved.

Now, instead of being played in monastery courtyards, it is a worldwide phenomenon with famous celebrities such as Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova making millions of dollars playing it.

How to Set Up a Backyard Tennis Court

Like the monks and kings of old, you too can play tennis on your lawn or backyard surface.

Tennis Court Regulations

According to TennisCompanion.org, a standard sized tennis court is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide, a total of 2,808 square feet.

It is then cut into to halves with baselines, single and double sidelines, center service lines, and a center mark painted out on both sides.

The official height for the net is three feet high.

DIY Tennis Court

Don’t let the official tennis court parameters scare you away from making a court that can be used by you and your family.

There are several options to make a practical, fun version of a traditional court with your own custom dimensions and markings.

Choosing a Court Surface

To make your own court, find a large flat surface devoid of things to trip over.

If you want a more authentic tennis experience, try to find a slap of concrete or hard surface that will allow the ball to bounce.

If you are playing on a grassy area, be aware of the fact that tennis balls do not bounce well on softer surfaces.

Once an adequate location is selected, Decide where the center of your court is located.

Making Your Own Tennis Net

There are many different options when it comes to finding the best net for you backyard tennis court.

Nets can be as simple as a chalk line drawn through the center of the court, or portable nets you can find online.

Here are some DIY ideas to make your own net:

  • Get a clothesline and drape it across the court.
  • Get two poles, one on each side of the center of the court and wrap plastic wrap between them.
  • Find a long rope and tie it to two poles on either side of the center of the court and drape towels or blankets over it.
  • Place thin cardboard boxes, such as cereal boxes along the center line.
  • Mark the center with sidewalk chalk or spray paint.

Determine the Boundries

Once you have marked off the center of the court, make sure that each side has the same amount of playing space without obstacles taking up any area.

Next, determine where the sidelines should go.

These are the lines that run down the length of the court on either side.

Mark the line with chalk or paint.

Once the sidelines are determined and marked, decide where the baselines should go.

These are the lines that mark the outer width of the court.

Make sure each baseline is an equal distance from the net. This can be done with a measuring tape, or by measuring with footsteps or lengths of rope.

Again, mark the baselines with chalk or paint.

Marking Inner Lines

For a basic game of yard tennis, extra lines within the court are seldom used.

However, if you would like to have a more professional layout, mark off a couple foot wide section on each side for the alleys.

With the remaining area divide it in half, the back half for now mans land, and then divide the remaining section into the left and right service boxes.

Tennis racket hitting ball

Lawn Tennis Equipment

Once you have your court set up, it is time to find some suitable equipment.

Unless you are a history buff, you do not have to use rackets made of wood or guts.

Modern tennis rackets come in a variety of different price ranges, from the cheap beginner versions to the pricey professional models.

If you are looking for a tennis racket on a budget, head down to your local thrift shop and see what selections they have.

Racket Alternatives

If you are looking to put a different spin on your tennis game, try using alternative rackets.

Rackets can be made from:

  • Boxes attached to sticks
  • Pool Noodles as a frame with netting or some other form of material for the springs
  • Butterfly nets with the netting tightened around the frame
  • Trashcan lids (played without a handle)
  • Frisbees

Ball Alternatives

If you don’t have a traditional tennis ball, or your afraid of getting hit by one, try some of the following ball alternatives:

  • Beanbags
  • Water balloons
  • Normal balloons
  • Rice filled socks
  • Waded up newspaper
  • Beachballs

Lawn Tennis Rules

Tennis is a game of tradition and rules that can fill up volumes of books on the subject.

However, for the backyard tennis player the rules of the game are quite simple.

There are two sides, either manned by a single individual or by a small team.

Each team has their own side of the court.

The game begins when one player goes to their back baseline, and attempts to hit the ball over the net ( aka serve) to the other teams side.

The other team then tries to hit the ball back over the net without the ball hitting the ground or going out of bounds.

If the server (the original person who tries to hit the ball over the net) misses the net, or hits the ball out of bounds, then their turn is over and the other team gets the ball.

If the original server hits the ball over the net and lands on the other side without the other team hitting it back over, then they have scored a point.

(Note, these rules are different than traditional tennis)

Scoring in Tennis

The traditional way of keeping score in tennis can be a bit confusing for beginners.

A match is made up of two or three sets.

A set is won when a player scores a point.

When a player has zero points, it is called love.

The first point that a player scores is considered a 15.

The second point is considered a 30.

The third point is called a 40.

The last point is called the game point.

Fun Versions of Backyard Tennis

The great thing about creating your own backyard tennis court is that you can change the rules to suite your tastes.

Here are some examples:

  • Instead of using traditional equipment, you can have a fun summertime version by replacing the tennis balls with water balloons.
  • You could also play by throwing a frisbee instead of a racket or a ball.
  • You can make a point system upon where the ball lands in different sections of your opponents area.
  • Using trashcan lids and beachballs, make a giant version of tennis
  • If you can’t find trashcan lids, fold pool noodles into a racket shape and use them to hit beachballs over the net

The possibilities are endless.

Fun for the Entire Family

Tennis isn’t just for the rich and famous, monks, or kings.

It can be for everyone.

Work together as a family and come up with your own version of Wimbledon fun.

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