Tennis Industry magazine


Breaking the Chain

New and creative alternatives to tennis court fencing are challenging the old chain-link enclosures.

By Andrew R. Lavallee

In the past, fencing for tennis courts has tended to be a bit overlooked; court builders frequently haven’t seemed to look much beyond the use of chain link. However, designers and contractors have for years been experimenting with ways to get away from the same old institutional look. The tennis public, though, is still not aware of the range of possibilities that are available.

Recently, some product introductions and creative design ideas have begun to spring up across the country, giving rise to new and exciting alternatives to the same old boxy chain-link enclosure. Here are some ideas to consider the next time you renovate or build new.

Fencing Design Basics

It is helpful to keep in mind that the role of fencing is to keep tennis balls on the court. Except in areas where there are problems of frequent vandalism, it is rare that full-court containment is actually required. Boxing in a court with a 10-foot tall “cage” all the way around isn’t really necessary. Here are some ways to tweak the usual chain-link enclosure into something more exciting:

Dressing Up Basic Chain Link

If you still feel the need to go with chain link, that’s OK. Here are some ways to improve the look of your fence:

court fencing

Alternative Materials

All of the same ideas about varying fence heights—layout, degree of enclosure, color and detailing—apply to non-chain link fencing as well. There are numerous kinds of materials that can be used for court fencing. The only real requirement is that the fences keep a tennis ball from passing through. An opening narrower than 1¾ inches in width will serve this purpose.

As long as the fence material can withstand the repeated impacts of tennis balls without suffering permanent deformation or structural failure, the fence will be more than adequate. Of course, it is also important to consider wind loading with the structural design of any fence.

In general, there are two basic types of tennis court fencing: “hard” fencing and “soft” fencing. Hard fences are usually made up of rigid materials such as metal, while soft fences are usually made of fabric-like materials. Both hard and soft fences are available in a wide variety of colors.

Hard Fences

Soft Fences

With a little creativity, it is possible to break away from the ubiquitous use of the chain link box. Changing the layout, tweaking a few of the details or using fencing material other than chain link is an easy way to re-energize the look of your courts and make the game more inviting.

Some Fencing Options

To further explore some interesting fencing systems that you might want to consider for your courts, check out these links.

Chain Link Fence:
Wood and lattice fencing:
Soft Fence:
Steel Panel and Welded Wire Fence:

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About the Author

Andrew R. Lavallee , ASLA, is a Senior Associate at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, PC located in New York City.



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