In Calgary, more so than any other city that I have played squash in, the court makes a difference. Knowing the in’s and out of the courts where you play gives you a distinct advantage over your opponent, especially if they are from another club.
This summer, I played in a tournament in Summerland, near Kelowna. The temperature outside was easily 30 °C, and the temperature on court was probably 38 °C, not to mention suffocatingly humid. It helped that the courts were right next to the lake, so you could jump in the lake right after playing, but that was little consolation dealing with the insufferably humid and hot courts, where rallies never ended and sweat ran like rivers. On top of this, the courts were converted hardball courts with slimmer court dimensions, which made volleys easier since there was less distance to travel to the ball. Those who fared well adjusted their game to the conditions, hitting more volleys and extending rallies, unlike myself, who could barely put up a fight against my more experienced opponents.
This is an extreme case of conditions playing into the results of the game, but all courts in the Calgary area do have subtle differences.
For example, I played in a tournament in Banff last weekend, where the ball is more lively than it would be in Calgary due to the elevation change. Players who were able to keep the ball going longer fared generally better than those with weaker fitness who aimed for short rallies.
But there was another advantage that local players were able to exploit. After seeing the ball die on me a few times in the side wall nicks in the back (the place where the side wall meets the floor), I noticed that since the courts were old, there was a slightly larger gap between the floor and side wall than normal. My opponent wasn’t just getting lucky catching nicks in the back court, he was aiming for them.
I became very frustrated at the “luck” of my opponent, and it took me the whole first game to settle in to the court. I ended up taking the match, but it was very close, and had it been at Mount Royal where I’m used to playing, it probably would have been a different story.
Other courts around Calgary are known for their features: Bankers Hall and The Calgary Winter Club are incredibly hot, which causes the ball to bounce like crazy and rallies to never end. The U of C and Acadia have very cold courts, similar to how the ball bounces at sea level. One of the courts at West Hillhurst has a piece of glass protruding in one of the back corners, essentially eliminating certain shots from play. The courts at Fit Plus South have “dead spots” — spots where the ball hardly bounces when it hits the floor.
If you know how a court plays, or at least recognize that a new court will play different than what you are used to, it will be less of a shock when you play there and the adjustment will be quicker. This is especially important for Interclub, where you only get a few minutes to adjust to a new court. But, your opponents also only get a few minutes to adjust to your courts, and they may struggle with this if you know the in’s and out’s of your home turf.
It takes time to get used to a new court, so learn what kind of court you play on, and figure out how you can use it to your advantage.