Out of Bounds

Ray Cornell

Do you know how to rule when a struck ball goes out of the court? Does it constitute a replay, or loss of rally to the hitter? In his “What’s the Call” column published in the Fall 2016 issue of Racquetball [pg.28], National Rules Commissioner Otto Dietrich addressed similar questions – and I’d like to illustrate a bit more using some local examples.

In general, the ball can go “out of court” in two ways: 1) after first bouncing on the floor, or 2) without touching the floor (“on the fly”). In either case, the back wall usually has some type of opening above it – for gallery seating or viewing, air circulation, or both. In some courts, there is an opening on the side walls, but never on the front wall (that I’ve seen). So …

  • If the ball has first bounced (typically after hitting a ceiling shot), the applicable rule is 3.14 (a)(1), titled “Court Hinder”, which reads, in part: “This also includes any ball that leaves the court after legally touching the front wall and then bouncing on the floor.” In that case, the rally is replayed from first serve.
  • If the ball goes out of the court on the fly, rule 3.13 (c)(3), titled “Failure to Return” states that “The ball is hit such that it goes, without first touching the floor, into the gallery or wall opening or else hits a surface above the normal playing area of the court that has been declared as out-of-play [See Rule 2.1(a)]”. In that case, the hitter loses the rally.

Let’s take a closer look at Rule 2.1(a). It specifies the court dimensions and includes the statement that “All surfaces shall be in play, with the exception of any gallery opening, surfaces designated as out-of-play for a valid reason (such as being of a very different material or not in alignment with the back wall), and designated court hinders.”

Now let’s consider courts with “different material or not in alignment with the back wall” along the Front Range. Several come to mind, like those at: Highlands Ranch, Goodson, Littleton YMCA, Downtown Colorado Springs YMCA, and Pueblo Athletic Club. The Denver Athletic Club and Apex have clear gallery openings above the back wall, but with a wood trim that qualifies as “different material.”

  • Highlands Ranch and Pueblo have netting above the back wall. If the ball touches the netting (different material), it’s out.
  • The Littleton YMCA has a small window at the top of the back wall which is a designated court hinder. Hitting that is out because all of the rest of the back wall is in play.
  • At Goodson, the back wall extends only to the point at which a cinder block wall continues upward to the ceiling. The cinder block wall is out, being a different material and not in alignment with the back playing surface.
  • At the Colorado Springs YMCA, the downstairs courts have a wide metal beam across the top of the back wall. It’s a different material and is not in alignment with the glass back wall, so it’s out.

In all cases, determine whether the ball went “out” after bouncing on the floor, or if it went “out” on the fly. Then replay the rally or award the rally winner, accordingly.

[Note: these are USAR rules; the IRF and IRT have different rules for the ball going out of bounds, so be sure to brush up on any differences before competing on those circuits.]

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