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Title: Making a Tennis Court
Author: Walsh, George E.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Making a Tennis Court" ***

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underscores: _italics_.



It is the intention of the publishers to make this series of little
volumes, of which _Making a Tennis Court_ is one, a complete library
of authoritative and well illustrated handbooks dealing with the
activities of the home-maker and amateur gardener. Text, pictures and
diagrams will, in each respective book, aim to make perfectly clear
the possibility of having, and the means of having, some of the more
important features of a modern country or suburban home. Among the
titles already issued or planned for early publication are the
following: _Making a Rose Garden_; _Making a Lawn_; _Making a Garden to
Bloom This Year_; _Making a Fireplace_; _Making Paths and Driveways_;
_Making a Poultry House_; _Making a Garden with Hotbed and Coldframe_;
_Making Built-in Bookcases, Shelves and Seats_; _Making a Rock Garden_;
_Making a Water Garden_; _Making a Perennial Border_; _Making the
Grounds Attractive with Shrubbery_; _Making a Naturalized Bulb Garden_;
with others to be announced later.

[Illustration: There is a great advantage, along the line of
appearances, to be had by making the court an integral part of the
whole landscape scheme]





Published March, 1912



INTRODUCTION                                                1

LOCATION                                                    5

KINDS OF COURTS                                            12

CONSTRUCTING DIRT COURTS                                   19

CONSTRUCTING GRASS COURTS                                  25

SIZES AND MARKING                                          32

BACKSTOPS AND NETS                                         39

CARE OF COURTS                                             47



                                                  FACING PAGE


A TYPICAL DIRT COURT                                       14

A TYPICAL GRASS COURT                                      26

A COURT ENCLOSED BY A RETAINING WALL                       34





Although the game of lawn tennis as played to-day dates back only some
forty to forty-five years, it is in reality one of the oldest of all
existing ball games. The origin of the game is involved in considerable
obscurity, but it has numberless historical associations which make it
of peculiar interest.

Tennis was mentioned in the Arthurian romances, and it was quite
extensively played in Europe in the Middle Ages. It was played upon
open courts in the parks or ditches of the feudal castles of France
and Italy. It was called, in Italy, _giuoco della palla_; in Germany,
_Ballspiel_; in France, _jeu de paume_; and in Spain, _jugar al able_.

The French borrowed it from the Italians, and the modern word "tennis"
was derived from the French exclamation of _Tenez!_ that was employed
in serving the ball. It was a game of kings and nobles. Originally a
cork ball was used, and this was struck with the palm of the hand. A
bank of earth was used instead of a net. The first appearance of the
racket is uncertain, but in the time of Henry VII the hand sometimes
met the racket on the royal courts of Windsor.

Major Walter C. Wingfield, of the British army, practically modernized
and popularized tennis. He patented his game in 1874. It was played on
a court 60 × 30 feet, shaped very much like an hour-glass. In this
early game of tennis, the net was 7 feet high at the ends, but sagged
gradually toward the center to a height of 4 feet 8 inches.

The Marylebone Cricket Club, of Lord's, formulated the first official
laws and rules for governing the game in 1875, and the official name of
"lawn tennis" was then first adopted. This club set the official length
of the court at 78 feet. The width of the court was 30 feet at the
base-lines and 24 feet at the nets, which showed that the hour-glass
formation was still adhered to. The net itself was 4 feet high in the
center and 5 feet at the posts.

From that time to the present, changes have been gradually made, both
in the rules and the formation of the courts. The net was gradually
lowered and made uniform throughout its length, and the old hour-glass
formation was abandoned.

Lawn tennis was brought into this country the same year it appeared in
England, 1874. The first court was laid out at Nahant, near Boston, on
private grounds, and others soon appeared at Newport, Staten Island,
and near Philadelphia. The game grew rapidly in popularity until tens
of thousands of people, young and old, were following it as one of the
most fascinating of outdoor recreations.

To-day it is one of the most popular of our outdoor games for both
sexes, and it has retained its hold upon the public for a good many
years in spite of the introduction of other games and the craze for
novelties. Tennis gives just the right amount of exhilarating exercise
in the open air that one seems to need, and there are hundreds of
thousands of devotees of the game who play it regularly throughout the

But the possibilities of making the tennis court a great social adjunct
to the country place are not always fully appreciated by those who
follow the game. Primarily the courts are laid out for practical use,
but this should not interfere with their artistic development to make
them attractive features of the garden. If one has the land sufficient
for a tennis court, it should be utilized with the idea of making it a
pleasant place for quiet rest and recreation on warm days.

Making a Tennis Court


The site for the tennis court should have a perfectly unobstructed
space of not less than 60 by 120 feet, and its location should be as
conveniently near the house as the topography and landscape
architecture will permit. The game is one that is best played in summer
in semi-négligée attire, and if the courts are within a reasonable
distance of the house there will be no necessity for lockers and
dressing rooms. If possible a broad terrace should come between the
court and the house, or, if it can be connected with the garden by a
broad walk, so much the better. If the country residence is perched on
the top or side of a hill, it may be necessary to make the court some
distance away on account of the lack of sufficient level area. The
architectural features of the house and grounds should in every
instance be carefully considered in designing tennis courts, and if the
latter are made to harmonize with the former the result is very
pleasing to the eye.

The court should be constructed on a site where there is always plenty
of sunlight, but there should never be any very light background. A
light stucco house, for instance, or an Italian terrace of marble,
would make the worst possible backgrounds for a court if located very
near it. A light background confuses the players and often makes it
impossible for the eyes to follow the ball.

[Illustration: It is a mistake to have a background of foliage for the
ends of the courts if it can be avoided. Clear sky as a background
makes the balls more readily seen]

The site of the court should be, so far as possible, level and with
natural drainage, but if these conditions are not present they may be
obtained by careful grading and artificial drainage. They increase the
cost of building the court considerably, and it may therefore be a
question of abandoning an otherwise ideal site for another which is
more level and better drained. A court should never be located in a
hollow where the surrounding land slopes from all directions toward it.
No amount of artificial drainage could keep such a spot dry. A series
of grass terraces leading down to the court need not interfere with its
construction if the land slopes away from the court in other
directions. A blind ditch or drain can be built at the bottom of the
last terrace so that surplus water will be carried away from the court.

The site should be selected also according to the nature of the soil,
other things being equal. A rocky foundation means a good deal of
expense in blasting and hauling of material for the foundation. A very
thick clay soil that holds the water a long time is equally unsuited
for the court, and the expense of construction is increased by hauling
this away and replacing it with a more porous dressing. A natural,
fairly sandy soil that is well drained is the ideal for the court, and
when this is present the cost of construction will be comparatively

But usually the site has to be selected without much regard to the
natural soil conditions. If the site is satisfactory in other
particulars it is probably more economical in the end to choose it and
then attend to the drainage question later. No court will ever amount
to much unless it is well drained and well constructed, and these are
points that will be considered in detail later. The chief
considerations in selecting a site for a court are, therefore, space,
light, and drainage.

A fact not always appreciated by amateurs in laying out tennis courts
is that by laying the courts due north and south, the disadvantage of
playing with the sun in the eyes is avoided. When laid east and west
one player must always face the sun, which, of course, is a handicap.
If the court is laid north and south the sun is never in the way either
morning or afternoon.

The tennis court should not be inclosed by trees on all sides. That is
a mistake commonly made. The trees should be planted only on the west
side of the courts, and not on the north and south side. The foliage of
the trees hampers the players in seeing the ball, especially towards
night. The ball stands out more clearly against a background of blue
sky than a background of green foliage. The trees on the west furnish
shade without thus interfering with the players.

If trees crowd too closely to the court they make the surface damp, and
in wet weather it may be impossible to play for days at a time. If the
court is free from shade on the east side, the morning sun will dry up
the surface after a rain, so that playing can be resumed in the

All of these points in laying out a tennis court may seem simple and
plain to any one when consideration is given to them, but failure to
observe them often causes an endless amount of annoyance. For instance,
one of the best tennis clubs in the country had its courts laid out
running east and west, and the difficulty of playing with the sun in
the eyes caused so much trouble that the courts had to be rebuilt.
There was no reason, except oversight, why they were laid out wrongly
in the first place.

Another club which had its grass courts laid out with a dense growth of
trees a few yards back from the courts, on the east side, finally came
to the conclusion that they either had to rearrange the courts or chop
down some of the trees. The morning shade of the trees kept the courts
from drying up quickly so often that the players became disgusted.
Beautiful mornings would dawn after a rainstorm, and the players would
anticipate fine afternoons of tennis; but the courts were too wet until
very late in the day.

Like everything else, there is a right and wrong way of laying out
courts, and if one is doing it as a permanent fixture of the grounds a
little care and attention to these details will add a hundred per cent.
to the value and increase the comfort of players and spectators.


Tennis can be played on almost any smooth, even surface, either indoors
or outdoors, and the question of securing in the best way the most
desirable surface for the courts is one that has attracted a good deal
of expert attention. While a lawn is considered the ideal place for
playing the game on home courts, tennis clubs and associations have
more generally adopted the clay or dirt court. One reason for this is
that the surface is not so easily scarred by the feet of the players,
and its maintenance in perfect condition is easier where its use is
almost continuous throughout the season.

But conditions vary in every country and in parts of our own land, and
ideal turf and clay courts are not always so easy of construction where
needed. Consequently we find many attempts made to build courts of
other materials. In Australia, for instance, they have for years built
courts of cracked bluestone. The great abundance of this material in
that country is responsible for its general use. The foundation of the
court is made of bluestone of considerable size, and the surface was
finished off with very finely cracked bluestone. Such a court is hard
and durable, but it has the disadvantage of being hard on the feet and
upon balls. In fact, many tennis experts refuse to play in tournaments
held on courts constructed of such material.

In England many of the tennis courts were made of brick rubble, which
is really a cheaper substitute for the Australian material of
bluestone. An English court made of this material has the further
disadvantage of being very dirty, and the players dislike it very much.
Cinder is another material that has been used both in England and in
this country for tennis courts, but it has never been popular. It makes
such a gritty surface that the feet of the players become sore after a
few sets.

Along the Jersey shore, tennis is popular, but conditions are
unfavorable for the construction of either a turf or clay court. The
soil consists chiefly of a heavy muck underneath, with a surface of
fine beach sand, or it is composed almost entirely of sand. The
building of clay courts in such localities necessitated the complete
removal of the soil to a depth of nearly two feet, and the importation
of clay from some distance. The fine seashore sand was used as a
top-dressing. This sort of court has rarely proved satisfactory. The
fine seashore sand works loose too easily under the action of the feet
of the players, and the court soon showed unevenness. In order to use
the seashore sand for surfacing, it is necessary to mix it with a large
proportion of clay for a binder. If the proper mixture is obtained the
surface is rendered fairly durable. Usually this proportion must be as
high as two or three parts of clay to one of sand. Any larger
proportion than two to one makes the drainage bad. There is not
sufficient sand to make the surface porous, and water collects, making
the court useless for some time after every rainstorm.

[Illustration: A good dirt court is perhaps more expensive to build in
the first place, but it is more easily kept in first-class condition]

Nevertheless, some very fair courts have been made by using a
foundation of cinders, and top-dressing with three inches of seashore
sand and clay. In selecting the sand for this purpose, the coarsest
found on the seashore should be chosen. The finest sand mixes with the
clay without making it porous.

We have also concrete, cement, and asphalt tennis courts, but few of
them are really satisfactory. They all have the disadvantage of being
hard on the feet and the balls. The concrete and cement courts are,
furthermore, very hard on the eyes. The white glare of the surface on
sunny days frequently causes players to desist after a few games.
Asphalt is not so hard on the eyes, but it is not an ideal material for
tennis courts. It is very expensive, to begin with, and it is too
easily affected by heat and cold. On hot days it sometimes gets too
soft, and even sticky to the feet, for expert playing. In winter it is
liable to crack with the frost, although this may be obviated if it is
properly laid with a foundation of stones and cinders.

There is one other material that has been tried for tennis courts that
is receiving considerable attention. This is wood. Indoor tennis in the
winter season has long been popular among lovers of the game, and
armories and other large buildings have been utilized as shelter. The
courts here are naturally laid out on wooden floors. Fairly good tennis
can be played on these, as there is more give and resiliency to wood
than to concrete or cement, and it is not nearly so hard on the feet or

The popularity of indoor tennis on wooden floors has led to the
construction of wooden courts outdoors for winter playing. A properly
constructed wooden court can be used all through the cold weather. Mud
and water cannot interfere with the players. Snow can be removed, and
the courts are immediately ready for playing.

An outdoor wooden court for winter use is rather an expensive work, for
a solid foundation must be made of broken stones and small pebbles,
topped off with a layer of concrete. Then the wooden floor is laid on
top of this. The wooden courts are in process of evolution for outdoor
use, and the most satisfactory way of building them is still disputed.
One way is to use wooden blocks or squares set up on end, so that the
grain of the wood runs up and down. Wooden pavements have long been
made in this way, and they stand heavy traffic and constant use. There
is no danger then from splinters, and they are very durable. The blocks
are set close together, and the surface smoothed off with a floor
scraper. If the court is worn in places, the surface can be scraped off
at no great cost by a modern floor scraper. But the wooden surface must
be laid on a solid foundation that will not be affected by the frost,
or the wooden blocks will be thrown out of line. Also, the surface must
be raised above the surrounding land so that water will not settle on
the courts. The wooden tennis courts will undoubtedly become more and
more popular for clubs as the demand for winter outdoor playing
increases. Improvements will then be gradually made as experience


A properly constructed clay court is usually more expensive than a turf
court, for the ground must be excavated to a depth of eight or ten
inches so that a foundation can be made of stones, cinders, or gravel.
The drainage problem is one of the most important in laying out clay
courts, and, if overlooked, the most promising court will soon become a
place for pools to collect. In time it will settle in spots and need
constant repairs to keep it in any kind of condition. While it may take
a good engineer to build a clay court suitable for professional
playing, a novice can do work that is suitable for all ordinary
purposes. As the cost of building one is largely due to the labor item,
it may be achieved at one-third the total expense through the
coöperation of several members of the family in excavating and hauling
material to the site.

To make a good dirt court it will be necessary first to dig off the
surface to a depth of at least one foot, and level it roughly with a
spirit level. The cost of this excavation in ordinary dirt is not more
than ten or fifteen dollars, but where rocks must be blasted away the
cost may be five or six times as much.

After leveling the foundation, a six-inch layer of trap-rock, such as
is used in macadamizing roads, or any broken stones ranging in size
from a walnut to an egg, should be placed in the excavation. This must
be leveled off also to keep the grade. An uneven tennis court will
never give satisfaction. Before the next layer of gravel is placed on
the trap-rock, provision must be made for drainage. There are several
methods of draining a court, depending greatly upon the nature of the
soil and the preference of the owners.

For ordinary soil a good method is to lay the drain pipe near the net
and at right angles to the courts, dividing them in half. The drain
pipe may consist of terra cotta sewer pipes cut in half or terra cotta
gutters, such as are used on tiled roofs. They are laid parallel with
the net and filled with loose stones. The drains are tilted
sufficiently to carry the water off at the sides or to a receptacle in
the center. Sometimes a barrel is sunk in the middle and filled with
stones, and the drain pipes empty into it.

Another common method is to drain the courts at the end. In this case
the court at the net is two inches higher than at the ends, and on
porous soil this will be sufficient to carry off the water. When the
drain pipe is placed near the net the tilt from the ends toward the
center should be from one to two inches.

We have more difficult drainage problems in very thick loam and clay
soils. Artificial drainage of a more elaborate nature is required here,
or else the courts will be muddy and sticky for days after rainstorms.
Drain pipes must be laid under the courts at various places, and tilted
toward one particular point. The open drain pipes are laid down before
the trap-rock is placed, and filled with broken stones so they will not
clog up with dirt. Two or three of these lines of open pipe should be
placed on either side of the net. They should run from the ends of the
courts toward the net and drain into the gutter that has been placed
under the net. The number of these drain pipes depends upon the sticky
nature of the soil. Four parallel rows of them on either side of the
net should be sufficient for the poorest kind of soil.

When the drain pipes are laid, and the courts properly leveled with the
trap-rock foundation, a three-inch layer of coarse gravel or fine
broken stone should be spread over the surface. This must be pounded
and hammered down and watered. The water will tend to show any weak
places where settling is liable to occur, and the depressions thus
formed must be filled up with fresh material. When this layer of coarse
gravel has been leveled, pounded, and settled, the top layer, of sandy
loam and clay mixed, should be applied. This finishing layer should be
at least three inches thick, and four or five is better. Sandy clay and
loam must be mixed for the top-dressing, but the proportion of each
depends upon the nature of the clay. If the clay is very sticky it will
require more sand. It needs to be sufficiently porous to permit the
water to pass through easily, and yet not so porous that the surface is
too soft. If there is not sufficient sand the surface will be sticky
after a rainstorm. For ordinary purposes one part of fine sand to four
parts of clay make an ideal finishing surface, but sometimes one and a
half parts of sand have to be used.

When the finishing surface is laid it should be leveled off and rolled
repeatedly. Watering is also essential, but a good rain will do wonders
to settle the surface. Faults and depressions will then develop, and
they can be corrected by filling in with new material. Also, if the
surface is found to be too sticky, add a little more sand to the top
and work and roll it down. It may take several weeks to perfect the top
surface of the court so that it is rain-proof.


For garden and home purposes where tennis is played only by members of
the household and their friends, the grass court is of course the most
artistic and beautiful. The dirt or clay court is more satisfactory for
clubs where constant use is apt to wear off the turf. If the green is
large enough for shifting the court frequently so that the wear will
not all come in certain spots, the turf court may answer all purposes
for clubs and parks.

If the natural sod of the site selected for a grass court is luxuriant
and the soil favorable for rapid growth, the expense of construction
may be very slight. If the natural sod is poor, and the soil thin, it
will be necessary to import good soil and purchase rich grass sod from
some farm or meadow. If the grass is very patchy, but the soil rich, it
may be satisfactory in the end, and certainly cheaper, to remove all
the sod and sow down to grass in the late summer, and repeat it early
in spring. It would hardly be advisable, however, to use the court much
the first year, for the young grass would soon be worn off unless a
firm sod was obtained.

A grass court is the best to play on in warm weather. The green of the
lawn is pleasing and restful to the eyes, and the soft turf is cooling
and soft to the feet. The sweet aroma of the green grass adds to the
pleasure of the pastime, and the restful slopes and terraces invite one
to lounge on the greensward after or before a game. Dirt courts,
concrete, and asphalt, and even wooden courts, may appeal to the
enthusiasts intent only upon playing the fastest game, but their
glaring whiteness and hard, unyielding surface do not bring the
pleasure that grass courts do. For these reasons the turf courts should
always be chosen for the summer or country place, and they should be
constructed and developed with an eye to their harmony with the
surrounding landscape and architecture of the residence.

[Illustration: Grass courts are certainly more attractive features of
the home surroundings, but for really serious play they need constant

The construction of a grass court is less difficult than that of a clay
court, but if the soil is very thick and heavy, some sort of foundation
must be provided to drain the under-soil. On very unfavorable soil,
tile drains are sometimes placed down before the turf is replaced. A
layer of stones six inches beneath the sod is sometimes resorted to;
but usually no such provision for underground drainage is required for
the grass court. If side and end drainage is provided, and the soil is
not too heavy, water will not collect and remain on the court to any
great extent.

The construction of a grass court is simple when no attempt is made to
drain it. The first thing to do is to lift the grass sod as carefully
as possible and lay it aside for later use. The sod should be cut down
as nearly to six inches depth as possible, and should be lifted in
squares of fifteen to eighteen inches. Pile the sod carefully on one
side and keep moist and partly protected from the hot sun. When the sod
has all been removed spade up the soil to a depth of eighteen inches,
removing all stones, roots, and obstructions. Rake over carefully and
roll down to a level, watering frequently and filling in all
depressions. When a perfect level has been obtained replace the grass

These must be put down carefully so that the edges meet snugly. Open
cracks and seams must be filled in with smaller pieces of sod. Roll,
water, and level the surface until all is satisfactory. Fresh sods may
have to be cut and placed wherever thin places appear during the first
season. In the spring of the year fresh grass seed may be sown.

If the turf or grass is poor it will be better to omit sodding entirely
and sow the surface with seed. It is better in such a case to make the
grass court in the fall of the year. The winter storms will settle it
thoroughly and reveal weak spots. In the middle of March rake up the
surface, level, sow the seed, and roll carefully. It should be sowed
twice from different directions, so that an even catch is obtained.
Sowing can be made in the fall or spring. About five bushels of grass
seed will be needed for the full-size court. Do not use clover seeds in
the sowing, nor guano for fertilizers. When the grass is high enough to
cut use the scythe or sickle first, and keep the lawn-mower for later
cutting. Remove weeds as fast as they appear, uprooting them, or, if
the roots persist, rub salt on them. When the grass is tall enough for
regular cutting, use the mower at least once a week, and oftener in wet

In many localities worms are very numerous and destructive to tennis
courts. By working up to the surface they form little mounds and holes
which permit water to trickle through and cause depressions. In regions
where the worms are a great nuisance, a layer of finely sifted cinders
is placed on the stone foundation of the dirt court or at the bottom of
the excavation of a grass court. These cinders will keep the worms from
working up, but if placed on the grass court the cinder layer must be
at a depth of a foot or more below the surface, so as not to interfere
with the grass roots.

One should remember that grass courts wear out more rapidly and require
more care than those of dirt, especially when they are subjected to
constant usage.

The cost of making tennis courts will vary considerably, as one may
readily see. As much as $200 and $300 is sometimes paid for making
tennis courts, but others are made at no greater cost than $25 where
conditions are favorable and one is willing to do some of the work. The
hardest courts to make are dirt ones laid on rocky foundations where
blasting is necessary. Grass courts that are nearly level can sometimes
be made by removing only a part of the sod and replacing it after
digging out some of the under soil. This may cost only a few dollars.


The playing surface of a tennis court for singles is 27 × 78 feet, and
for doubles 36 × 78 feet; but as a double court contains all the lines
for singles it is usual to mark out for doubles at the beginning. Back
of the outer line there must be a space of from 15 to 20 feet to the
stop-nets, and at the sides there should be at least 6 feet, preferably
10 or 12 feet, beyond the line of the double court. This permits free
access to the courts on either side of the net, and also allows room
for players when volleying. This is the reason why a space of 60 × 120
is generally considered necessary for a good tennis site.

[Illustration: The standard dimensions for a double court are given. A
convenient method of laying these dimensions out is given in the
accompanying text]

The marking of a court must be exact. First determine the position of
your net in the middle of the site, and then lay out the single court.
Place two pegs temporarily in the ground 27 feet apart and make a line
there to represent the net. Then measure off two lengths of string--one
39 feet long, and the other 47 feet 5 inches. With these two lengths
you can make your courts exactly right.

Lay the shorter length of string on the ground approximately at right
angles to one of the net pegs; then start the longer string from the
opposite peg and run it diagonally across until it reaches the end of
the 39-foot string. At that point drive in a corner peg. You have a
right-angled triangle that is absolutely exact. Repeat this operation
to get the other corner, and then obtain the corners for the other side
of the net in a similar way. With the corner pegs in place, proceed
then to measure off from the net peg 21 feet on the 39-foot line. That
point marks the end of the service line, and a straight line drawn
across it will intersect in the middle the diagonal lines.

[Illustration: A space of 60 × 120 ft. is usually considered necessary
for a good tennis court, and it is occasionally necessary to enclose
this area with a low retaining wall of masonry]

For the double courts prolong the net line 4 feet 6 inches, and join
this to the points at the end to form alleys. The double courts are
then finished except for the central line. This is obtained by
measuring off the middle of the service lines and connecting them with
a straight line through the center.

As there is quite a little bother in measuring off the courts, it is
quite essential that the corner points be made permanent. Small stakes
or pegs should be driven into the ground at the corners deep enough so
they will not trip players. Nearly every heavy rainstorm washes away
the lines so that remarking is required. On clay courts white paint is
sometimes used for marking, as this will last longer than whitewash,
but at the best, remarking must be done quite frequently. Paint is not
suitable for grass courts on account of the injury caused to the grass
roots. Portable white marking tape is sometimes used. This is held down
by staples and double-pointed pins, but there is always the danger of
the tape tripping a player.

Markers have been devised for facilitating the lining out of tennis
courts. These consist for the most part of an iron or tin receptacle on
wheels, with a marking wheel in front on which the contents are sprayed
continually. Marble dust or slaked lime can be used in these markers.
They give a uniform width, and one can mark off the lines as fast as he
can walk. Home-made markers can be made by inverting a tin can and
closing the mouth except for a tiny hole through which the liquid can
flow. An ordinary wheel with a flat rim one inch in width is made to
revolve in front of the mouth of the can so it will catch the drippings
of the liquid. Mounted on an axle with handles this contrivance is
pushed before the operator.

On a grass court none of these methods of marking are equal to grass
itself. At the time the seed is sown on the court, plant freely in some
part of the garden the seed of the crested dogtail grass. This grass is
yellow green to white, and if sown very thickly it will serve to mark
the courts. When the grass on the court is high enough for cutting
transplant the crested dogtail grass to the lines marked out.

Mark out the courts exactly with tape or string, and then cut out on
one side of it a strip of sod two and a half inches wide. This strip is
then filled with the sods of the dogtail grass raised in the garden for
this purpose. The sod should be patted down firmly in place, and a few
seeds of the dogtail grass sown in with it. In this way you have the
courts marked out permanently by grass, and the contrast in color is
sufficient for all playing purposes. The effect, of course, is very
striking, and far ahead of the courts that have to be whitewashed after
every rainstorm.

The dogtail grass is a hardy grower, and it will, if not controlled,
spread out into the court itself. This, however, can be prevented by an
occasional weeding. It must be kept in its narrow strip even if roots
have to be pulled up at times. If the spreading roots crowd out the
green grass, the latter can be renewed by planting a little sod from
some other part of the garden.


A great variety of backstops may be introduced on the tennis courts,
and their decorative effects should always be considered in laying out
the grounds. The backstop nets should be at least 15 feet back of the
court line, but 21 feet is considered the standard distance where
tournaments are held. Many expert players refuse to take part in
tournaments where the regulation distances are not maintained. The wire
backstop nets should be not less than 10 feet high, and 15 feet is
considered the most suitable height.

[Illustration: Where the court is entirely enclosed by the stop-nets
the over-all dimensions may well be those given, but they should not be
smaller than 60 × 120 ft.]

While the usual backstop is made of hollow iron posts sunk in the
ground at intervals of 10 or 15 feet, with chicken or fence wire
stretched taut between them, it is not unusual to-day to find more
elaborate affairs of genuine architectural worth to harmonize with the
residence and other buildings. Pergola effects are thus used. The posts
of solid wood are sunk in the ground, and then wrapped with wire
netting to hold the stucco. The latter is applied in the usual way and
finished off in white, cream-white, or gray. The wire net must be
stretched from post to post before the stucco is applied. Wooden beams
join the tops of the stucco columns, and a foot molding, with sometimes
a railing, connects the posts from base to base. The rather elaborate
character of such tennis backstops cannot always be worked out by a
novice, although a good carpenter or mason can do the work if the plans
are sketched carefully in advance.

[Illustration: The simplest form of backstop is the frame of iron pipe
forms, which are now made especially for that purpose, covered with the
ordinary wire netting]

[Illustration: A saving of stop-nets is frequently made by leaving open
spaces at the sides]

The plain backstop of wire net and iron posts does not enhance the
beauty of the lawn, and consequently many experiments have been made to
eliminate, so far as possible, their ugly appearance. Painting the
whole affair a grass green so as to render it as inconspicuous as
possible, is one way of partly achieving the desired results. Another
simple and more satisfactory method of hiding the plain backstops is to
utilize the things which nature furnishes so lavishly for us. These may
be growing in our garden or found rampant in the fields and woods,
climbing over hedges and fences and reaching to the tops of trees.

[Illustration: The most economical form of stop-net is here shown,
although it will not, of course, stop all stray balls]

For instance the wire net erected at either end back of the courts can
be converted into screens of living green by planting vines on the
outside, or, if one prefers, it can be covered with the climbing roses
to make it a glorious color effect. Better even than the ordinary wire
net, an artistic screen of lattice work or trellis can be erected. This
can be covered on the back with almost any of the climbing vines.
Roses, honeysuckle, clematis, trumpet vine, or moon flower are all
suitable for this purpose. With a little pruning and training, the
screen can, within a season or two, be converted into a beautiful
garden ornament.

A grass tennis court with back nets to keep the balls from going too
far, covered with climbing vines or flowers, adds so much to the
appearance of a garden that other improvements are sure to follow. A
series of rustic benches for spectators should be arranged on the west
side, so that they can watch the afternoon game without having the sun
in their eyes. If the land is rolling and hilly, the benches should be
placed on a terrace at one side.

A tea house of suitable character is a great addition to a tennis
court. This may be nothing more than a rustic covering to protect the
heads of the spectators, with seats and a rustic table for serving the
tea. If it is built on a terrace on the west side of the court visitors
can watch the game under the most comfortable circumstances.

Nets of a great variety, from plain, machine-made twine to the
hand-made, double-knitted cotton ones, canvas-bound at top and bottom,
and reinforced at the corners and middle, may be had to-day. A strong,
durable net is the cheapest in the end, and there will be less trouble
from shrinking and stretching. For single courts the nets are 27 feet
long and 3 feet high, and for double courts they run from 36 to 42 feet
in length.

The most serviceable posts for holding the nets in position are those
made with anchor sockets, which are permanently driven in the ground.
These spade-shaped iron sockets hold the posts firmly in an upright
position without the use of guy ropes. When the posts are removed from
the sockets a wooden plug is inserted to keep dirt from collecting in
them. In addition to this the iron posts are supplied with tennis-net
reels that tighten or loosen the net as demanded. The reels
automatically lock to hold the net firmly in position, and they are
instantly released by moving the handle.

Other varieties of tennis posts can be used if needed, but the wooden
poles supported by guy ropes and pegs are the least satisfactory. The
pegs are constantly pulling out and destroying the sod. Straight iron
anchor posts are better than these. They are driven in the ground, and
by means of triple claw clutches they are held rigid. In place of the
iron center forks for holding the middle of the net at the regulation
three-foot height, canvas center straps are now preferred. The canvas
straps do not chafe the net, and cannot cause the ball to glance off
and strike out of court. Another method sometimes used for holding the
top line of the net straight is to use galvanized steel cable top
cords. These cords are a quarter of an inch thick, with metal loops at
the ends and manila rope ends to fasten to the posts. They keep the net
from sagging in the middle. Canvas-bound nets are also designed to keep
the top firm.

[Illustration: It is strange that more people do not make the backstops
a real architectural feature as for this court on Mr. Gage E. Tarbell's
estate, Nassau Boulevard, L.I., Oswald C. Hering, architect]


A well made court, whether of clay or turf, is an achievement to be
proud of, and it will give more satisfaction than any other one thing;
but it is essential that it should be kept in prime condition all the
time. Constant watchfulness and attention are the price we pay for the
proper maintenance of a first-class tennis court. The clay court will
degenerate as rapidly as a macadam road, without proper repairs, and
the turf court will lose its beauty and usefulness much faster than a
green lawn if not attended to. A little intelligent care given to the
court each week will preserve it from utter ruin, which must inevitably
result if damages are not repaired at once.

The clay or dirt court must be gone over about every second day to fill
in and roll down depressions made by the feet of the players. On courts
where playing is almost continuous, the rule is to make repairs every
day or after every ten sets have been played on them. The simplest and
most effective way to keep a clay court in repair is to take a straight
log or thick piece of wood, five to eight feet in length, and nail to
it coarse bagging or jute cloth. If the edges are frayed out, so much
the better. Attach ropes to either end of this log, and drag it across
the court several times. The ragged edges of the cloth will smooth out
the surface and work the dirt into holes or depressions. If hard ridges
or lumps still exist these must be loosened by hand or a hoe.

After the drag has smoothed out the surface, it should be watered, in
dry weather, and then rolled. A good hand roller is almost essential to
the preservation of the court. The operator should always walk in front
of the roller and not behind it. The rolling should continue until the
surface is rendered entirely smooth. After the rolling the wet surface
should be allowed to dry before the courts are marked out again.

The care of the grass court must depend a good deal upon how much it is
used and the condition of the weather. In very wet seasons, the turf is
soft and spongy, and the heels of the players cut deeper into it. This
produces slight depressions that may in time increase, so as to ruin
the surface if not attended to at once. On the other hand, in very dry
weather, the grass is more easily scoured and killed, and there must be
frequent wetting to keep the turf in good condition.

The grass courts should always be watered at night after the play. Any
time after the last game will do, although about sun-down is a good
time. Cutting should be done early in the morning after the watering,
and then the roller should be applied. This puts the court in fine
condition for playing. If the grass is cut in the morning without
previous watering at night, it may be injured by the hot sun,
especially if the heavy roller is applied. The simple rule is: water at
night, cut in the morning, and then roll.

All bare strips of grass should be replaced as soon as possible with
fresh sod. Cut out the old sod evenly and put down good new sod with
edges fitting snugly. Sometimes new seed sown occasionally will answer
the purpose, but not in the spots where the feet of the players work
the greatest damage. If many deep depressions have been made by the
feet of the players in wet weather, they should be filled in with more
dirt and fresh sod planted and tamped down firmly.

[Illustration: There is opportunity at the side of the court for some
feature in the way of a shelter or seats for the spectators]

Every spring the grass court needs special attention. In March or
February all extensive repairs should be made to the damaged turf. New
sod should be put down wherever the grass is poor or worn, and if
fitted snugly in place, new seed sown, and a good top-dressing of
manure supplied, the court should be in fine condition by playing time.
Of course regular manuring should be done in the fall of the year, the
same as for the lawn, and in the spring it should be raked off and the
surface rolled. Before rolling, however, the grass should be swept.
Sweeping is much better than raking even through the summer season, for
the tines of the rake are apt to dig up the grass roots.

Sweeping is also good for worm casts, which spoil a good many courts.
The broom scatters the little mounds caused by the worms, and then the
roller smooths the surface so that no irregularities are apparent. Some
sprinkle lime water over the places where the worms are numerous, and
as this brings them squirming to the surface they are swept away and

It goes without saying that all tennis players should be required to
wear rubber-soled shoes without heels. The damage to the court from
shoes with heels is sometimes so great when the turf is soft that it
will take half a season to repair it. Where tennis courts are a part of
the general lawn a horse machine may be used for cutting the grass. In
such cases the hoofs of the horses should be padded to prevent leaving
sharp imprints in the turf.

If these directions for keeping a tennis court in good condition are
faithfully followed there is no reason why a first-class court cannot
be maintained indefinitely at little expense. It may be, in addition to
this care, that a little work in exterminating weeds will be called for
through the growing season. Obnoxious weeds must never be allowed to
spread and get a foothold, or they will crowd out and kill the finer
grass. They must be pulled or dug up by the roots as fast as they
appear, and never be allowed to go to seed.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Making a Tennis Court" ***

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