When you’ve played squash for a few years, you’ll be familiar with the common questions that come up time and again with new players. One of those is how to choose a ball, so today we’re going to go into all the details about what a squash player needs to know when selecting balls to play.
What Do Squash Ball Colours And Dots Mean?
The coloured dots on a squash ball indicate the speed of play the ball will provide. In general, the faster balls are where beginners start to learn and as they improve, move towards slower balls. From fastest to slowest, colours run blue, red, green, yellow, double yellow.
The Coloured Dots In Detail
In the following table, you can see how each ball colour compares with the rest.
In the skill level column, when we refer to Pro Level, we don’t mean that everyone who can play with a two dot yellow ball should play competitively with the professionals. What we mean is these are the balls that are used by professional players in tournaments.
*Green dot balls are sometimes white dot. There’s little rhyme or reason to this, so consider them interchangeable.
What Are Competition Balls?
Competition balls is a name that’s sometimes used to refer to double yellow dot balls. They get their name from the fact that they’re the professional grade balls used by the best players.
What Are Club Balls?
Club balls are a step down from competition balls, with a single yellow dot. Squash clubs tend to use this grade of ball to appeal to a wider range of players. It’s common, though, for clubs to have contests with their top level players using the slowest competition balls.
Do Squash Ball Sizes Vary?
Squash balls should all be the same size, with a diameter of forty millimetres (40mm). That’s four centimetres across the centre of the ball. There is a margin of error allowed, which is plus or minus half a millimetre.
That means that the range of ball sizes is between 39.5mm and 40.5mm. To the naked eye, you can consider all balls to be the same size as the margin is so small.
How Long Should You Use Beginner Balls?
When you start your sporting journey into squash, it’s highly advisable to start with the blue (fastest) ball. This will allow you to get the feel for hitting the ball and develop those first few core skills and strokes.
Progressing too quickly to slower balls often is too frustrating for rookie players. It’s understandable that players want to improve as fast as possible, but there’s a careful balance to strike with learning to hit the ball well before moving on to tougher balls to play with.
You’ll know when the time has come to move onto a new ball colour because you’ll be feeling far more comfortable than before for most of the time playing. If the game is starting to feel a bit too easy, try moving to a slower ball.
Remember, the progression is blue, red, green (sometimes omitted), yellow, double yellow
Don’t be disheartened if you take a long time to progress up through the balls, it’s very common. In fact, many players never reach a skill level where playing with a double yellow is fun. Some players prefer not to get to yellow at all, but most will reach at least green if they practice and play regularly.
Of course, if you don’t wish to go beyond a blue or red ball and enjoy a game with a friend with an easier ball, that’s perfectly fine.
Warming Up Squash Balls
Different coloured balls need differing amounts of effort to warm them up. When you first hit the ball on court, you’ll find it really doesn’t bounce well at all.
Just like humans, balls play better after a few minutes of preparation, also referred to as a warm up. Simply hit the ball against the back wall of the court a few times, then pass it to your opponent (off the wall of course!). Repeat a few times until the ball warms up – you’ll know you’re there because the ball will bounce better, and be much more predictable.
Technically, warming balls up is best done repeatedly on the volley, however don’t worry too much, it may just take a little longer with a bounce as the floor can take a little heat out. Beginners will find that continually volleying is a skill that takes time to perfect!
What Are Squash Balls Made From?
The main ingredient of a squash ball is rubber. It’s certainly not pure rubber though, and interestingly, a squash ball doesn’t have a particularly defined make up. Just like we mentioned earlier with the diameter of a ball being required to be four centimetres within a tiny margin or error, a squash ball is defined by characteristics rather than a specific combination of materials.
In that vein, different balls made by different manufacturers will be made differently. We all know that Hovis make a loaf of bread that is broadly similar to Warburtons, however different people have their own favourite brand.
The same goes with squash balls. There are a variety of brands, with the more well known including Dunlop, Head and Wilson. There are also a multitude of alternatives you may not heard of too, comprising names such as Tecnifibre, Winomo and Powerball.
While players might all have their preferred brand of ball, the same goes for tournament organisers. That may well be something that relates to a sponsorship deal, is simply a preference. Regardless, it’s likely that participation in a given competition will mean you don’t get to choose your own ball.
Fortunately, compared to some other sports, different brands balls don’t vary as much as you may think, so while fine tuning of your game may be necessary, simply being used to playing with the most common brands is usually enough.
Returning to the point, each brand has their own recipe for making a squash ball, so each will undoubtedly vary in at least a small part.
One final note, and a great bit of trivia at that, is squash balls are moulded in two halves and then stuck together to complete the manufacturing process!
How Fast Do Squash Balls Travel?
Let’s bring this article together with a fun fact. It’s easy to say ‘It depends how hard you hit one!’ but that’s not a particularly helpful answer.
The fastest recorded squash stroke was played by Cameron Pilley, an Australian squash player in 2014. He hit the ball hard enough for it to travel at an incredible 176 miles per hour. It’s captured in this YouTube video around the one minute mark if you’re interested in taking a look…
Buying Squash Balls
To get a decent set of squash balls, you don’t need to spend a huge amount. Typically, a good set of three Dunlop balls are less than £10 (around $13 in the USA).
Just remember to check the spot colours you’re ordering matches the ones you need, especially if you’re buying online. It’s always easy to make a selection mistake when buying on the web!
If you need some guidance about the precise balls to buy or were to get them, we’ve taken a look at some in our Recommend Products section of the site if you need some, which you can find here.
The Squashy Summary
In conclusion, squash balls are relatively simple things, but as with so many things it’s only easy to understand once you know the detail.
A good set of balls from a decent brand will help you to improve your game, so as they’re relatively inexpensive, don’t be tempted to save a bit of money by going too cheap – you may end up having to buy a second set sooner than you’d otherwise need to!