They say that 10,000 hours of practice is all it takes to master any skill. Maybe that’s okay for the pros like Andy Murray and Roger Federer, but if you’re just an amateur with the tennis bug, getting in all that court time to hone your serve can be a real challenge. Perhaps there’s a court at your local park twenty minutes away, or maybe you have to drive to a tennis club on the other side of town. Wouldn’t it be easier just to have a court at the bottom of your garden?
Well, yes. It would.
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The first question is just how much space you’re going to need: how many feet is a tennis court? Well, the minimum recommended size for a court that can host either singles or doubles matches is 120 ft. by 60 ft. That gives you space for the court itself, as well as room for players to overrun at the sides or serve from the baseline. If you want to do this all properly and have a tournament style court, with room for judges and linesmen, add another 10 ft to each measurement.
If you’ve got some experience with construction, then building a basic concrete court might be within your abilities, but most people are going to want to find a reliable specialist contractor. The first thing to do is perform the groundwork. This will involve a little excavation if the site isn’t entirely flat, then proper drainage needs to be installed. You don’t want your nice new court to crack as the ground shifts underneath it, so you may well need to add an under-layer, depending on the type of soil you’re building on.
Now you get to the surface itself. Traditionally, you would use either grass, clay, or concrete (for a hard court), but synthetic materials are increasingly popular, as well as being considerably easier to maintain. After the surface, you will need to install the relevant infrastructure; net posts, windbreakers, a surrounding fence, and so on. Finally, the lines are painted on and then you’re done. All of this will take you from four to eight weeks, depending on the weather.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind. Before you begin, make sure that there is good access to the site. Suppliers estimate that a new tennis court will require at least 200 tonnes of high-quality material to be shipped in, so make sure there’s somewhere for all the trucks to park. Secondly, make sure that you have the necessary planning permissions before you start. If you’re building in your garden, the court itself probably won’t need any permissions, but if you intend to erect a fence around the court (and you probably should) then you very likely will.
Clay is often thought of as advantageous for the recreational tennis player because the softer surface is kinder on the joints, but that subtlety comes with added complications. Making your own clay tennis court follows roughly the same process as a normal tennis court, but it’s unfortunately rather more involved than just picking your preferred colour of clay.
While building a standard outdoor court might be within the realms of possibility as a DIY project, building a clay court really isn’t. To give you a quick idea, the sort of traditional clay court used at the French Open is built up from five separate layers of material! There’s a base layer, topped by strata of stone, slag, limestone and red brick, before we even get to that signature red clay. Synthetic clay is a little easier, with just a pavement layer underneath, but it’s still a harder challenge.
So, you’re excited by the idea and you have the space. How much is this actually going to set you back? Well, the answer to that depends on the type of court that you want to build, and how you want to build it. A traditional French Open-style clay court with floodlights, set into the side of a hill, is going to cost you considerably more than a standard artificial hard surface without any bells and whistles. However, if you’re looking for a nice court with a quality artificial surface, $30k / £22k would be a reasonable ballpark figure (pun intended).
If you’re looking for the look and feel of a clay tennis court, but aren’t totally wedded to the thought of having real clay, then you can have one installed for something in the region of $55k / £40k. Of course, those costs will go up if you want to build in a difficult area or wish to install everything to the absolute highest specification.
On the other hand, if you’re longing for the sort of traditional clay court that will make Rafael Nadal swoon, then you can expect to pay north of $70k / £50k
If you already have the empty space, then building an indoor tennis court won’t cost much more or less that we’ve discussed above. You won’t need to worry about drainage, of course, but you’ll definitely need those lights! The more difficult estimate is how much it would cost if you wanted a purpose-built extension with a tennis court inside. In that situation you’re talking serious money, and probably need to chat with an architect.
If you have the space and you have the money, the advantages to building your own court are obvious. Whether you’re planning to set up your own tennis club, or just fancy having a personal court outside your kitchen door, it’s not as complicated as you