Rules Q & A

Interpreting the Rules

While the RULES OF SQUASH are well defined, the interpretation of the rules in a match situation is sometimes tricky. To help you make the best decision you can when refereeing, you can follow the guidance in the FLOWCHART in the Refereeing & Marking Section.

David Williams is also available to answer your questions on the interpretation of the Rules – see below for Frequently Asked Questions. To ask a question, please click here.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: Squash 57 rules

Hi David please can I pick your brain
I played a match of racketball the other evening and was confused with the fault serve rule.
If a player from the serve hits the ball back to themselves do they get a second serve or is this like a serve that is classified as a fault like in squash?
I read the rules that the ball should be going in the direction of the receiver’s back half of the court
If you can help please let me know.

A: Yes it is a little confusing as hand out has the option of accepting the service fault and play on. If the service isn’t accepted the server has a second serve.
It’s become usual in Racketball games, at all levels, for the marker not to make the “fault” call on service fault.
The call if the first service is not taken is “second serve” incidentally.
If this happens more than say once the marker should warn the player for time wasting.
Hope this helps.
Q: Sometimes in a let situation an opponent simply places his racket behind your back and then asks for the let. This happened today, the ball was bouncing very close and very low to the forehand wall, my opponent placed his racket behind my right shoulder and asked for a let/hunting the stroke. For me his racket was not in a position to play the shot and no attempt was made.
We agreed on a let, but I feel sufficient effort to play the ball was not made, all that was demonstrated was that he could play the man. What is the rule on this?
A: Philip, the outgoing player (you) must provide unobstructed direct access to the ball. Your opponent’s responsibility is to make every effort to get to and play the ball.

So far so good, if a marker/referee is present when a “no let” decision should be made if it was considered that the opponent could neither get to, or play the ball, in other words your shot was too good.
A “yes let” decision should be made if a good return could be made but the obstruction did not prevent a potentially winning shot, always providing that the obstruction was not deliberate, in which case a stroke should be awarded.
But this is not so straightforward of course when there is no “official” and you are marking your own game, when a reasonable and fair approach needs to be adopted by both players with regard to any obstruction.

With my “coaches” hat on and for the sake of peace and harmony, I suggest that in these situations you mix your shots up, as your opponent appears to be reading your game. Try cross court drops and cross court drives to the opposite back corner deep which would leave your opponent completely stranded with no case to make.
The bonus here would be that by leaving your opponent in two minds there is less risk of looking to play the player rather than the ball!

Hope this helps Philip and that you can stay on good terms with your opponent.
David Williams
12.12.16

Q: During the British Open last weekend on TV I noticed that the ball was changed between games 2 and 3, is this a new Rule? – Jamie
A: No, this is a PSA rule and only applies to PSA tournaments for the professional circuit.

The reason why the ball is changed is one simply of expediency since cleaning the white ball between games was more time consuming.
Also you may have heard reference to a 2 minutes interval between all games – this again is only for the PSA backed tournaments – at the pace they play you can’t blame them for needing more recovery time!

Finally, I must mention the old chestnut “ball bouncing” – I’m sure it didn’t go unnoticed that the players, particularly in the Ladies semis and final, were ball bouncing up to 12 times before serving – the usual Code of Conduct guidance is relaxed on the PSA circuit in this respect with the white ball on glass courts, and I have to say that in context this is clearly not considered as “time wasting”.

Q: David, I gather that the Rules have just been amended, could you give us a guide please as to what has changed and what we should be looking out for? – Ian
A: Whereas most of the changes are of a “cosmetic” nature removing superfluous words bearing in mind the international application, there are however 4 major areas where I would like everyone to take note, and they are as follows: Under Rule 14 the Injuries Rule, injury caused to the opponent if “accidental” does not now result in the loss of a match. Also, where an injury is deemed to be “contributed” the recovery time has been reducd from 1 hour to 15 mins with a further 15 mins extension possible. A distinction is now made between accidental and deliberate crowd distraction effecting play. All service faults are now just called “FAULTS” – not the 5 different variations as at present! Incidentally Rule 12 the Interference Rule has been renumbered as Rule 8 and the wording has been simplified for a clearer understanding and easier application to arrive at the correct decision. These changes come into effect on the 1st January 2014 and a copy of the Rules are now on our website (scroll down to the bottom of the Updates/Info page) – hope this summary helps.
Q: On the TV commentary of a recent match I heard the comment that playing an air shot followed by a normal shot was to be outlawed with a stroke against the perpetrator being the result. Has anything happened to that effect? Andy Gilks
A: There is nothing in the Rules to say that a player cannot feign, or attempt to play a shot and deliberately miss the ball, and there are no plans afoot to change this – in fact it is considered as part of the skill and creativity of a player and is generally only seen at the upper levels of the game. It’s worth bearing in mind however that this action could be interpreted as a “second attempt” where if necessary the Rules for second attempt would apply.
Q: If a player takes a break that is substantially over 90seconds during a match between games, what should be the result?
A: After calling “15 seconds” after 75 seconds of the interval between games the players should be back on court immediately after the call of “time” after a total of 90 seconds – failure to arrive back on court and ready to play within a few seconds of the “time” call leaves the offender liable to time wasting penalties. In practice it is sensible on the first occasion this occurs to have “a word in the ear” which usually solves the issue however if this time wasting continues you should give a formal “Warning” “warning for time wasting, late back on court” followed by points, games and match if matters do not improve. As a further guide you may feel at times that any delays are more of a “ minimal” nature rather than a major issue when it would be quite in order to issue more than one formal “Warning” rather than going down the “points, games, match route.”
Q: If a serve from the right hand side of the court to the left hand side hits the side wall then the back wall, can the striker call a let(stroke)if when it bounces off the back wall they claim the server (standing in the T) is preventing them from stirking the ball to any area on the front wall?
A: The receiving player must have unimpeded freedom to play to the front wall and if the server places themselves between the ball and the front wall a stroke should be awarded to the receiver irrespective of whether the ball bounces off the side or back walls.
Q: You’ve probably dealt with this one before but it arose again recently and we’ve been arguing about it ever since. I was marking a game at our club when player A played a loose shot which resulted in the ball coming off the front wall down the centre of the court. Player B got in front of player A and drifted back into player A, who just stood there (the ball was still “live”, ie hadn’t bounced twice). Player B claimed and was awarded a stroke (by me). Player A complained that B could have played his shot earlier and therefore did not deserve his stroke. I said it was up to player B when he took his shot and that player A should have cleared out of B’s backswing. Was I right or has this rule been amended (as has been claimed by player A)? Thanks, Mike
A: If a player plays a loose shot which goes through the centre of the court and the incoming player is in a position to play the ball, a stroke should be awarded – you were quite correct in your decision. The critical aspect being that the player had played a loose shot which brought about the stroke decision. I think the player querying your decision is thinking about the situation where a player deliberately creates obstruction by delaying the shot on a ball other than a loose centre court position to which you refer.
Q: This arose in my match on Tuesday and no-one had a clue so I suggested we play a let and get on with the match! My opponent played a short short front backhand side. I couldn’t get to the ball but in lunging forward I let my racket go – it hit the ball which went up on front wall (i.e. valid return). My opponent was nowhere near so the rally ended (I was on the floor!). He could have asked for a distraction let but didn’t (not sure if I would have given this anyway). I have looked at the rules and the nearest I can see is Guideline G3, and rule 7.8. I cannot find any reference to a player having to have hold of the racket when playing a return.
A: You were in the right area of the Rule Book and the answer lies in the words …. “a player who drops or throws a piece of equipment will lose a stroke” therefore if you adopt the mental “freeze frame” that you hear me refer to often, the rally has technically ended as soon as the racket leaves the hand – so what happens to the ball after that is academic.
Q: 17.3.3 If the Referee awards a Conduct Stroke as a result of an incident between rallies, the result of the completed rally stands and the Conduct Stroke award is additional to the score but without further change of service box. RE the above rule, what isn’t clear to me is what happens if player A has served in the previous rally then has a conduct point against them before the next rally starts, is a point and handout awarded to player B or just a point to B and A continues to serve?
A: The last part of the sentence at 17.3.3 explains what happens if the “hand in” player is awarded a stroke therefore a point is added to hand-in’s score and the service is played from the side that the player would have played from before the stroke was awarded. In the example that you are quoting however as the stroke is awarded against A, the server would lose service and B would be “hand in” but without any additional points added to B’s score. All of this explanation applies to the traditional method of scoring but under the new PAR system of a point for each rally then in the example you give B would also have a point added to his/her score. Good question and one that will be of particular significance this season with the introduction of PAR scoring for the Division One players.
Q: What rules apply if player sustained an injury during the knock up?
A: The normal Bleeding, Injury and Illness Rule 16 applies ie unlimited time for a blood injury or, if no blood, 3 minutes for self inflicted or 1 hour if contributed by both players. If the bleeding was caused solely by the opponent the injured player is awarded the match as would be the case if there was no blood involved but the injured player needed recovery time.
Q: a player lost his rag over a marking decision and hit the ball in temper – it flew up towards the spectators however went into the suspended light on the court (fortunately). It could have injured a spectator if it had been straighter. As far as I could hear no penalty was imposed – they warmed up a new ball and carried on. What level of penalty would you have imposed?
A: This amounts to “ball abuse” which is covered by Rule 17 Conduct where the normal penalties apply depending on the severity of the offence. If this was a “one off” a “warn before a warning” could be appropriate along the lines of “I don’t want to see any more of that type of behaviour” – as you know this usually works. If however in view of any other aggressive behaviour during the game the referee might chose to issue a formal warning along the lines of ” formal warning ball abuse X” – this would perfectly in order and correct – it all depends on how the official sees it.
Q: I was playing on a glass back court last night-my serve hit the top edge of the back wall & bounced back into court. Is this considered in or out of court. Mark
A: Out – the top of the rear wall on a glassback court is deemed to be the equivalent of the red line on a standard court. David Williams.
Q: When my shorts split badly during a rally I immediately stopped and asked for a let, which I was given. Is that right or should I have waited till the end of the rally?
A: You should have asked for time to change your shorts at the end of the rally. Providing the marker/referee is satisfied that “there has been a material deterioration” You should be allowed 90 seconds to change your shorts. If you are unable to resume play due to lack of alternative equipment the match should be awarded to the opponent. David Williams
Q: Hi there, I have a quick question regarding the club leagues that I’ve been unable to find an answer to. Basically I want to know if it is allowed to change the club for whom I play for? Unfortunately a head injury stopped me driving for some time and as a result I was playing squash for a club that’s within walking distance. Now I am better I wish to return to my usual club and join their team to play in the Dorset leagues. However whilst at the temporary club I was asked to play, unknown at the time for a team match. Will this cause a problem with me playing for the preferred club? Thanks in advance for your help. Regards, Oliver
A: The rules allow for this (see section 10) and you you should contact the League Coordinator (Ian Chislett-Bruce) for permission to change clubs.
Q: At my first referee’s course – many, many years ago – one of the first, crucial parts of a marker’s duty was emphasised – IT IS A CARDINAL SIN TO KEEP THE PLAYERS WAITING WHILE YOU CALL THE SCORE. I still notice so many markers waiting until the receiver is ready before calling and going so far as to stop rallies to remind the server to wait until the score is called. I was taught that the score should be called immediately a rally finishes and that it is the server’s responsibility to ensure that the receiver is ready. Is this still the case? If it is I suggest it is a point worth emphasising. Andy Gilks
A: Your instruction at your earlier course was absolutely correct – the score should be called immediately after calling the result of the rally ie. “Not up – hand out – 4/3”. The game must be continuous and it is the markers duty to ensure that the game “flows” – it is also very irritating and off putting if the markers timing is out of “sync” with the game. If the receiver continues to be not ready when the score has been called, you should have no hesitation in warning the player for time wasting, and if it persists move on to heavier penalties if thought necessary. In practice there are times where it is quite sensible to delay the calling of the score after the result of the rally has been called, and that is where there is a potential delay for, say, a minor injury, or where a player asks for time to change a racket. Also the marker should show consistency in this “timing” area and not be drawn into upping the pace of the calls when a player tries to “hassle” the marker by racing to prepare to serve before the score is called. I use a three part system that works well – …not up (slight pause to check score sheet for next call) – hand out (pause to write score down) – 4/3… And finally …never never call the score whilst writing down the score – this I’m afraid also happens perhaps too often! Hope this helps and clears up any misunderstanding.
Q: What do I do when a player PERSISTS IN ARGUING with me?
A: This is a question that I have put to me often and can be the cause of so much bad feeling – in simple terms we all want the game to continue so start there – “PLAY ON” – those two little words that can often work wonders. If however this doesn’t work, WARN the player that “if he/she persists in arguing it will be deemed as time wasting and will be penalised accordingly”. This is what I euphemistically call “warn before the warn” and tend to use when the arguing first starts and is not at too strong a level. If however the arguing gets beyond this you can go straight to “warning , time wasting Jones”. If the arguing/ time wasting still persists you can either issue another conduct warning or if becoming more serious proceed down the game/match stages. I hope this helps. By using the correct terminology the players will then realise that you know what you are doing and will think twice before incurring possibly match losing penalties.
Q: I seem to miss FOOT FAULTS, any tips?
A: Yes, two, firstly get into a routine of watching FEET then the BALL on the front wall – so many think that it all happens at the same time and get lost in the mechanics of what is actually happening. Second, and this might sound strange, have the words “FOOT FAULT” ready to call – I say this as once again the “mechanics” of calling those two words are not natural to us as they are formed by the teeth outside the lower lip – try it. It does work without looking “goofy” – honest!
Q: Now that BALL BOUNCING can be considered as TIME WASTING, how many bounces do you feel should be permitted before you warn?
A: Another interesting question, on a subject that few outside our courses are aware of – what we must guard against here is appearing to be “over officious” which is a criticism often made when players learn of a new rule and especially where they have been “ball bouncing” for years. At the same time, and more importantly, we must apply the rules in a “Fair And Accurate Way” for the benefit of both players. We have all been the victim of the serial ball bouncer, who in the past not only give themselves time to get their breath back, but can also in the process mesmerise the opponent with, say, 10 bounces of the ball after the score has been called – clearly unfair and the rules have been adapted accordingly. So, as a general guidance, 5 or more bounces is starting to get excessive and a gentle “WARN BEFORE THE WARN” usually works – even bringing it to the person’s attention between early games as a “word in the ear” could also be appropriate. So that there is no confusion, “timing wise” we are talking about after the score has been called – quite a lot of players ball bounce at the end of the rally moving back to the service box which is generally acceptable, if not used to prolong the calling of the score. Be prepared for a few strange looks, this part of the TIME WASTING rule is taking some time to get to the players. Finally, remember, ball bouncing prior to service is deemed to be time wasting it does not constitute serving the hand-out.
Q: When a player shapes (but doesn’t have a go) to play, say, a backhand and then changes to play forehand and has NOT turned (or mentally turned i.e. let the ball pass behind them), and then the opponent runs across in front, is it a stroke or a let? Is it relevant if the ball has hit the back wall after a player shapes to play first time? I reckon it is a stroke as per Rule 12…
A: A good question and full of potential traps for the unwary! You are quite correct with your conclusion of a stroke, since the player has not “turned”. What you must be careful to observe is whether the player made an attempt to play the ball and then made a second attempt, when of course it would have been a “let”. The back wall does not come into your consideration of the facts as given, but may be relevant factor if you felt that a second attempt occurred if the player attempted to play before it came off the back wall.