On the Fence: Good fences make good facilities, and often, the best fence is one that is barely noticed.
Fencing around your tennis court is something that rarely gets attention. After all, it’s not as showy as a surface, and it’s certainly not as interesting as the players.
To a certain extent, having a fence nobody notices is a good thing. Unless something has gone very wrong with the fence, it should just be taken for granted that it’s doing its job: keeping balls in the playing area, keeping excess foot traffic off the surface and (if windscreens are used) helping to provide a windbreak and a heightened sense of privacy.
That’s not to say, though, that fencing should be ignored. Far from it. It’s an amenity that needs upkeep and inspection to remain at its best. It is also a design element that can lend a great deal to the aesthetic of a finished court.
Fencing heights vary according to court location (for example, a rooftop court should have higher fencing, as should a court with a hard surface), player populations (beginners are more likely to hit a ball out of the court and therefore appreciate a higher fence) and design preferences.
Various patterns for fencing are used in tennis court construction. All-around fencing has been a standard in many park and recreational installations, but some players (more often club players) dislike what they refer to as the institutional or “cage” feel and prefer fencing only behind each baseline and partially along the sidelines.
Some courts have all-around fencing that encloses a battery of courts, but have movable netting between each court. Many players like the so-called “California corners,” a layout that cuts off each of the four corners of the court and reduces the number of balls that must be retrieved from deep in the corner.
In addition to the traditional chain-link fence, fencing can be metal, wood, lattice or other ornamental material. The type of material used will depend upon budget, design preference and more.
David LaSota of D.W. LaSota Engineering has created some “best management practices” for those who are interested in upgrading their current fencing, or installing a new system — or just doing upkeep on their existing fence:
- Use heavy gauge chain-link fabric (nine-gauge core wire) to ensure the fabric will not bend or deform easily when hit by players or maintenance equipment.
- Install the fabric on the court side of the fence frame. This will significantly reduce the chance of a player getting injured should they run into the fence.
- Provide a bottom rail in lieu of a tension wire to prevent the bottom selvage of the fence fabric from curling over time.
- Install 4-foot-wide gates to provide access for wheelchair tennis players who use sports chairs.
- Use 42-inch-high fencing on the sides of the courts to allow spectator viewing without having to look through the fence.
- If using chain-link fabric, use a 1¾-inch diamond mesh because tennis balls can get stuck in or travel through 2-inch mesh.
- Minimize the use of mid-rails because a player can become injured should they run into the fence. This may require the fence posts to be placed closer together to prevent bowing of the fabric.
- Extend court paving beyond the fence line to protect the fence from maintenance equipment and vegetative growth.
- Make sure no sharp projections extend into the court area that can injure a player. Burrs, rust or other irregularities should be sanded down, painted over or otherwise repaired before a player complains about injuries or damaged clothing as a result of them.
- Check the “Wind Load Guide for the Selection of Line Post and Line Post Spacing” published by the Chain Link Fence Manufacturers Institute when sizing fence posts and spacing.
- Do not use hog rings to attach windscreens to the fence. Hog rings will not allow the windscreen to break away from the fence during major windstorms, which could cause significant damage to the fence itself.
Other Housekeeping Notes
- Fences should be inspected regularly for problems. Walk the court and look for irregularities close-up, then back away and study the facility as a whole to see if the fences are leaning, even slightly, in any area.
- Check the bottom of the fence and make sure there is no buildup of leaves, grass clippings, mulch or other landscaping materials that could trap water on the court when it rains, leading to court stains and other problems.
- Keep windscreens fastened securely; however, if there is a prediction of bad weather with high winds, windscreens should be removed or rolled up and tied. Do not simply unfasten it so that it flaps on the fence, which can cause damage to the fabric of the windscreen. (For the same reason, if windscreen fastenings break during the course of the season, replace them at once).
- To make it easy on yourself when removing windscreens, mark each section of the windscreen before taking it off, indicating which court it goes on, and which section of fence; this will simplify the process of replacing it later.
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