The Squash Company’s complete guide to squash rackets
Table of contents
The following tables are a quick overview of some of the racket traits you might prefer depending on how you play. As we will discuss in detail in the guide below, you may want the complete opposite of the specifications seen in the table. It might be you want to further strengthen positive aspects of your game, reinforce a slight weakness or just have a personal preference.
Recommended specifications for a touch player (favours or specialises in slower or more accurate shots) who wants to further strengthen these shots.
Recommended specifications for a hard hitting player (favours or specialises in harder or faster shots) who wants to further strengthen these shots.
Choosing a racket
Choosing a racket is always an exciting time for a squash player. For many, choosing a new racket is a simple process of choosing the one which looks the prettiest, the new model of a previously trusted brand or the one that ‘feels’ the best if you are lucky enough to be able to pick up a racket before you buy it.
It’s worth talking to the coach or pro at your club, as it is very rare that they or someone else won’t have a link or sponsorship with a brand or store that will enable you to try out rackets before you buy them. It’s also good to help support the club coach or pro and quite often they can get you a discounted rate (and if they can’t quite match the internet rate it’s still a very good way to support your local squash coach or pro!).
Many players will have experienced that feeling where a racket just felt so natural, like an extension of their arm. For different players with different styles, what feels natural is very different. There is no ‘right’ racket and every brand has great quality rackets of different weights, balances and design. Ultimately, it comes to down to your personal preference.
We’ll discuss much of the jargon associated with rackets and give you a basic understanding of what it all means and how it can affect the racket to help you make an informed decision about which racket will best suit you.
Like just about everything else, squash rackets have got lighter over time and are now commonly as light as 110g, with Karakal even releasing a racket weighing under 100g. Weight, like most things in choosing a new racket, is a matter of preference.
Heavy Racket – 140g+ – Heavy rackets will provide plenty of power. If you are a hard hitting player it is worth having a go with a heavier racket to see if it can add to your strength. Heavier rackets aren’t a good idea for younger players who may find it too heavy to lift reliably or even tiring to use. They also take a little bit longer to get up in time for a volley and so may not be the racket of choice for an avid volleyer.
Mid-weight Racket – 125-140g – The majority of rackets sit somewhere between 1255 and 140g. Rackets around these weights tend to be well balanced for achieving the control and touch associated with light weight rackets and the power of heavier rackets. The middling weight and the fact that rackets of this weight are most readily available mean rackets in this region are typically the most popular.
Light Racket – 115 -125g or under – Lighter rackets are often preferred by players who frequently play touch shots, as they provide more feel. They are also well liked by players who like to volley and take the ball early, as their light frames mean they can be manoeuvred slightly quicker in time for those instinctive volleys than heavier rackets. This weight or below is also recommended for a younger player, as they will find it much easier to swing and lift.
Very Light Racket – 95 -110g or under – Rackets weighing 110g and under are very light and, much like rackets weighting over 140g, will feel too alien to a lot of people. If you are a player who likes to volley, use disguise or has good racket skills, you may find these rackets are for you and give you a little bit extra feel when playing your shots.
In general terms, rackets are either head-light, head-heavy or balanced. As the names suggest, the racket is heavier in the head – in the upper half of the strings – in a head heavy racket, while in a head-light racket more of the racket’s weight is in the grip area. If the racket is very well balanced, you will find the weight is centred around the throat of the racket or at the very base of the strings.
What does this mean for you?
Head-heavy – As a general rule, it is easier to get more power with a head heavy racket. So hard hitters often feel more comfortable using a head-heavy racket and touch players using a head-light racket. A heavy, head-heavy racket is quite a weapon!
It’s not just for heavy rackets though – A head-heavy racket can be a great combination with a light racket, as it allows you to accelerate more in the follow through. I find this combination excellent for attacking volleys and also the back corners, as it allows you to combine the faster backswing of a lighter racket with the speedy follow-through of a head-heavy racket.
Head light – Touch players may quite like the combination of a light, head-light racket to really emphasise their short play. This is a particularly good combination for players who play a slower game that revolves around serves, lobs or drops.
Conversely, the hard hitter may also like a lighter head to balance a heavier racket to give them greater touch to go with their brute force. Of course hard shots and deft touch shots can be hit with any racket, but you will likely find you prefer one over the other in time.
Balanced – As you might guess, a balanced racket will give you something between the touch of a head light racket and the power of a head heavy racket. If you’re not sure what sort of balance you would prefer, this is a safe option.
How to tell a racket’s balance quickly – by hand or by numbers
You can tell a racket’s balance by holding it out at front of you to work out its balance point. You should be able to feel whether the weight is concentrated in the shaft or in the head, or perhaps even balanced right in the middle. You can also determine where the weight in the racket is by laying it across your palm. The point at which the racket stays still and balanced in your hand is the balance point and where the majority of the weight is located. The higher up the racket this balance point is, the more head heavy it is. If it is a medium balanced racket, the balance point will be around the base of the strings. If it is head-light, the point will be somewhere on the handle or grip.
By numbers (if you’re buying online!)
If you are unable to pick up the racket, you will often find a figure listed in the product information that can give you an idea of the balance. Sometimes it isn’t listed so you may have to search around for descriptions from different sites.
The balance is usually listed in mm, although sometimes it is listed in cm, and is usually a number between 300-400mm (30-40cm), which is around the middle of the racket. Racket lengths tend to be somewhere around 680mm from the base of the grip to the top of the bumper strip.
Balanced racket – around 340mm – If we assume th racket is 680mm long, the middle of the racket would be at 340mm. If it had a balance of 340mm, it would be perfectly weighted in the middle.
Head heavy racket – above 340mm – In some rackets, the balance can be as high as 380mm.
Head light racket – under 340mm – Less than 340mm would make it head-light and head light rackets can easily get as low as 320mm, meaning rackets can be very or only slightly inclined towards light heads.
Sometimes, a racket may not have details about its balance but it is listed instead with information about dynamic weight. The dynamic weight of a racket is calculated by measuring a racket’s weight in relation to its balance.
Don’t fear being bamboozled by this scientific sounding term though. You can easily see if a racket is head-heavy, balanced or head-light by comparing the dynamic weight to the overall weight of the racket. If the dynamic weight is higher than the frame weight, the racket will be head-heavy. If it the dynamic weight is the smaller number, the racket will be head-light. If they are the same, or very similar, the racket is very well balanced.
Note: If you don’t like the balance or weight of a racket, you may even take matters into your own hands. There is a player at one of the clubs I coach at who actually tapes small lead weights to the bottom of his racket in order to make his racket even more head-light, which really plays to his strengths; slow, high lob serving and lots of drop volleys.
Open throat (round head) vs. tear drop
Racket heads tend to fall into two different categories for shape; teardrop and open throat/round head. The open throat rackets usually have more rounded heads and are so named as they have a triangular gap separating the head from the throat or shaft.
Open Throat – An open throat racket is often associated with more control and touch as the string bed is wider, making it easier for a player to influence the direction of the ball. An open throat also tend to have a larger sweet spot than a teardrop racket, which makes it easy to get a good connection with as the ball doesn’t have to be hit right in the middle of the strings to play a reasonable shot. This makes open throat rackets a good choice for beginner or intermediate players, though of course some of the best players in the world use them too so there is no reason for an advanced player not to if they prefer this shape. Open throat rackets are often used by Dunlop in their racket ranges.
Teardrop – In a teardrop racket, a trait often prominent in Prince rackets, the head simply joins onto the throat of the racket. A teardrop will usually have a smaller but more effective sweet spot and will usually generate more power when clean contact is made with the middle of the strings. This is helped by the string bed being longer than in an open throat racket. If the string pattern is also ‘fan’ strung, meaning it is doubled back on itself (again most common in Prince rackets), it provides even more power as the single string stretches more. To further increase the teardrop’s power and also for best results, these rackets are best strung at higher tension. Tear drop rackets are typically best suited to advanced players, as the ball needs to be hit in the middle of the strings all the time to get the best out of them. Off-centre shots tend to be very noticeable with these rackets.
Head size is all about how the surface area of the strings affects the size of the sweet spot. Squash regulations stipulate that the strung area of a squash racket shall not exceed 500cm2, so a racket with 500cm2 is about the biggest you will find and a safe option for a new or developing player. On the lower end of the scale, the smaller sizes tend to be around 450-460cm2 and so if you’re confident in generating power and looking to fine-tune your control, rackets with head sizes closer to this number may be desirable.
Smaller head size – around 450-460cm2 – These tend to have proportionally smaller sweet spots, meaning an off-centre shot is much more noticeable. These smaller heads do though provide slightly more touch and accuracy than their larger head counterparts. Like tear drop rackets, rackets with smaller heads are often preferable to more advanced and experienced players who can generate sufficient power regardless of the racket and consistently hit the ball in the middle of the strings.
Racket Material: Graphite, aluminium and hybrids
We’ve come a long way from wooden rackets and mostly for the better (with the exception perhaps of those nasty leisure centre hire rackets). The majority of rackets in the modern world are made from graphite, or a hybrid of graphite and another material, although cheaper rackets are often made from aluminium. Aluminium rackets are the ones you will typically find for hire at said leisure centres!
Graphite – The majority of rackets on the market are made from or contain graphite, as this provides more control and more absorption of vibration than an aluminium racket, whilst still retaining some of the durability.
Aluminium – These are usually cheaper and often significantly heavier than other rackets. They are good for newcomers as they are very durable and can take repeated contact with the walls and floor as players get to grips with court dimensions. They do have a significant drawback in that not only are they difficult to get control with, but they also absorb less of the vibration from shots and can cause or worsen elbow injuries. They are also very heavy and so are not advisable for juniors for the medium or long term.
Titanium and/or other hybrids with graphite – Rackets with carbon and titanium content are becoming increasingly common. Rackets with such composites tend to be slightly more expensive but in return they are often able to provide more power at a lighter weight due to the increased stiffness in the frame.
Flexibility and stiffness
As touched upon in the Racket Material section, some of the materials used in modern rackets help to provide a stiffer frame which increases the amount of power that can be generated with a lighter frame. In my opinion, a racket’s stiffness is less about power and more about your positioning and general play. The more ‘flexible’ a racket frame is, the more manoeuvrability there is for improvising in tricky positions. The more stiff a racket is, the greater control and connection you can get when hitting the ball.
This can sound very vague and ‘wishy-washy’, but it is something that is very noticeable to a more experienced player. With stiffer rackets, you need to be more precise with your positioning, as you need a stable position to achieve a clean connection with the ball. This makes a stiff racket a good choice for a precise and accurate player or one who plays at a steady pace. With a more flexible racket, you can get away with improvising more, which might be particularly important if you struggle in the back corners or if you play unconventionally.
A player who favours slower and touch shots may want a stiff racket for the extra control it provides, or the flexible racket to help improvise. It is once again largely a matter of opinion and preference and one of those things that can add a small percentage point or two to your game but it won’t change anything if you lack basic technique or skill!
It can be very tricky to tell a racket’s stiffness or flexibility without actually trying it but you can get some clues from the materials used in the racket. Typically, if hybrid materials such as titanium are used, the frame will be stiffer. Conversely, the more pure graphite there is in the racket, the more flexible it is. Occasionally, you might be helped by the seller listing information about stiffness.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to try out the racket, a stiffer racket will feel more precise and really clean when you do connect with the ball, but it also might feel like you really need to swing properly with perfect position to achieve this. A flexible racket will generally feel very easy to use in all manner or shots and positions but it won’t feel as ‘clean’ or precise.
You can actually have your own impact on a racket’s stiffness or lack of it by how you have it strung. If you have your racket strung to a higher tension, such as around 28-30Ib, the stiffness will be increased. String it a bit looser, say at 22-26Ib, and you’ll find your racket is a little more flexible, which many shot makers find helps them get greater feel.
In most cases a racket will come with poor quality factory strings which don’t have the performance or durability of strings purchased from a stringer. As such, strings aren’t really a consideration when purchasing a racket.
However, there are some manufacturers who have deals in place with major string manufacturers. Black Knight rackets often come pre-strung with Ashaway strings and Tecnifibre rackets utilise their own popular Tecnifibre string.
String type and tension can also be very important in the performance and style of a racket and is a topic in its own right. You can find out more about how strings affect performance and get advice on our strings page here.