Racquetball and squash have many similarities at first glance, such as both games are played with rackets on enclosed courts. However, the sports are actually quite different in the way they are played. Because the ball bounces higher and can hit any surface, racquetball's pace is faster. Racket and ball size are two of the other biggest differences.
Squash was invented in 1830 by the students at Harrow School in England as a variation on a game called "rackets." They discovered that when you toss a punctured ball against the wall -- or "squashed" it -- it bounced back in a variety of different ways to make a more challenging game. Racquetball had a similar beginning, just much later. In 1949, Joe Sobek of Connecticut was a bit bored of his indoor sports options, so he combined his love of tennis and handball into racquetball. He created a prototype for a racket, and the game took off like crazy in the 1970s and 80s.
Racket and Ball Differences
The rackets for both were once made of wood, but now feature composite materials or metals like graphite or titanium. Squash rackets measure up to 27 inches long, 5 inches more than the maximum for racquetball. Squash rackets once had circular heads and looked like badminton rackets, but, beginning in the 1980s, they took on a tear-drop shape similar to racquetball rackets. The head is still wider for racquetball. Squash balls measure 4 cm in diameter. The rubber racquetball balls are close to 6 cm in diameter and bounce much higher than squash balls.
Both courts are enclosed, but the playing surface and size are different. The racquetball court measures 20 by 40 by 20 feet; a squash court is 21 by 32 by 15 feet. Every surface, including the ceiling, is considered in bounds in racquetball, while you're not permitted to hit the ceiling in squash. There are also boundary lines along the front and back walls of a squash court, in addition to diagonal boundary lines on the side walls. In addition, a 19-inch high tin strip is out-of-bounds at the base of the front wall.
Serving the Balls
A squash player is only allowed one serve at the start of each point, while racquetball players, like tennis, are permitted two. In squash, you hit the ball while it's airborne, without letting it bounce first. In racquetball, you must bounce the ball before hitting it. For racquetball, your serve can hit any part of the front wall and then land behind what's called the "short line." In squash, the server must get the ball into one of two alternating serving boxes, and the ball must land above the tin line yet below the service line to be good.
In both sports, you must win by two points -- squash goes to nine points in regular play and 11 in tournament play. Racquetball games go to 15 points, but you can only earn points on your serve. As in tennis, a squash player wins a point if he wins a rally regardless of who served. A return is good if it's above the tin line and below the out line, without bouncing twice on the floor. In racquetball, you also can't let the ball bounce twice, but it must hit the front wall before touching the floor. In squash, you must win three games to claim the match; in racquetball you only need to win two.