RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month
So Many Clown Noses
Every time I see a clown with a big red “ball” nose I picture him bending over and me picking the ball off his face with my racquet. Thus the clown nose reference. I didn’t want you to have to wait until the end of the article to understand my title. I’m getting soft in my old age…so if anyone wants to know all about racquetballs read on…if your curiosity is satisfied, you’re free to go now (and miss the loyalty code at the end).
Four of the manufacturers make racquetballs. They come in a bunch of different colors, with slightly different rubber characteristics, and different weights. But there are few characteristics that are all the same. Let’s start with what they all have in common before we go though all the differences and which ball you would benefit from.
According to the rules of racquetball, all the racquetballs have a 2 ¼ inch diameter, weigh approximately ¼ ounce, and bounce between 68-72 inches when dropped from 100 inches at 74 degrees Fahrenheit. While they all share these characteristics, they do tend to have individual personalities. Does your game style match up to your ball’s personality…we’ll see.
As a reminder, the opinions expressed here are my own based on my actual play with the balls I stole from myself.
Long ago they made all these colored balls…then for 20 years or so they only made blue and green. Now we’re back to a rainbow of colors. What do the colors mean? Blue balls have traditionally stood for the amateur, recreational player. Green was made for the tournament player. Purple (HD) was made for the Pro player. Red was made to excite all the players and be different. Yellow was made for outdoor play specifically. Pink was made to support cancer and black was made to represent the classic balls of old.
The blue “amateur” ball seems to play lighter than its green “ tournament” brother. The blue balls are your most common racquetball. It’s a good bet that if you show up anywhere with blue racquetballs from any manufacturer you will be welcome on the court. The slight difference between the Penn and Ektelon is that the Ektelon balls are a tad faster but also a tad smoother (so they skid as the ball speed gets higher).
The green tournament balls have seemingly thicker rubber. They tend to play heavy coming off your racquet. The trade off for this heaviness is that they bounce very true and have a higher durability rating. If you’re going to play tournament racquetball this is the ball you should be using for practice. You want to get used to picking up the color ball you will be playing with in competition. However, I find it very difficult to play more than twice a week with this ball…the heaviness wears on my arm…especially if the ball is not new. Just because this green ball doesn’t break, doesn’t mean it’s not done for play. As the rubber breaks down from the number of hits, this ball grows heavier and heavier…and smoother and smoother. I would say after 3 matches tops your green balls are growing heavier.
The Pro Penn HD ball was made for the Pros. That doesn’t mean it’s not the right ball for you. This ball is 25% lighter than any of the other balls produced. The Pros get a new ball every game…so these balls were not produced for their longevity. They do seem to float slightly differently then their full weight cousins. However, with the continual trend of using lighter racquets, the reduced weight of these balls seem to keep the game in the right racquet weight to ball weight ratio. These balls will never seem heavy. You can play 5 days a week (assuming good form) without the high level of wear and tear. However in the 5 days you will most likely go through 2-3 balls a day. Again this will not be due to breakage, but this lighter rubber tends to die faster.
The red ballistic and red fire balls show you that there is no end to competition in the ball market. The fire ball is the faster of the two but also the thicker and heavier. I tend to stay away from the red balls inside because they are tough to train your eye on as they pass over the red lines on the floor. Originally, the fire ball was made for outdoor play. That’s why its a shade thicker…blacktop tends to chew up balls. If you’re looking for a faster game of racquetball, pick a red ball and play inside.
One of my favorite balls is the Wilson Pink ball. At first the color bothered me. But the ball bounces very true. It feels lighter than usual coming off my racquet. It has great durability. Best of all, none of my buddies will steal it. Behind the Penn HD, this is my second favorite ball…so it you haven’t tried one…don’t’ be shy. One small drawback on cement/concrete courts is that his ball picks up the white particles and slowly start to blend into the walls. No issue on panel courts.
The Pro Kennex Yellow ball is made for outside play. On an inside wood floor, it’s near invisible. Outside against a black ground it’s perfect.
The Ektelon black classic ball was made to be a slower rally ball. If you like to keep rallies going and get a good workout this is the ball of choice. This ball reduces passing shots. It also comes with a white line around it’s equator so you can pick up a spin on the ball. It’s a good equalizer for an older experienced player playing a younger faster, less experienced player.
What ball should you play with? If you play inside more than 4 times a week and don’t care about the expense, I would play with the HD purple ball. If expense is an issue, I would look at a blue ball. If you’re a tournament player I would play with Penn green each time on the court. If you’re an outdoor player, grab either red ball or the yellow ball. If you’re a little more adventurous, play with the Wilson pink and support the Hope cancer project. If you’re over 50, you may want to try the black ball. It is the official ball of the Senior Tour.
How do you know when your ball is shot before it explodes? There are two ways a ball can be classified as the rolling dead. The first is when you continually use a ball pressurizer to that keep the bounce going but your ball is so smooth it skids more than it bounces. The second test I’m stealing from DiVinci. Since we’re all scaled about the same, if you drop the ball from shoulder height, it should bounce at least to your waistline (and don’t do this test outside the court on carpet).
Are balls pressurized? Today’s balls are not pressurized. They are somewhat porous and will adjust to their surroundings to equalize pressure. If you bring balls with you from a high altitude and play with them at a lower altitude they will seem dead and vice versa.
I’ve heard a couple things over the years about balls. The blue color is the easiest color for your eyes to see. (true or not, I’m not sure…but it’s a lot tougher when your opponent wears the same color blue – another good reason to bring a pink one along just in case)
There are no balls made in the USA any longer. All operations have been moved over seas. I find this very sad…so I purchased the rest of the racquetballs made in the USA…just in case. My stash will last me the rest of my life…if you’re worried I will part with some of them but this will be limited.
Racquetball warranties are similar across the market place. In general, if your label is still on the ball (and this is the painted label – not the phantom label left by where the paint was) the manufacturers have a 2 for 1 or in some cases a 3 for 1 warranty policy. You should save up your broken balls w/labels and return them directly to the manufacturer.
As always if you have any questions, I’m an e-mail away.