When you’re looking for an activity that is a bit more strenuous than racquetball, yet still allows you to take to the court in a competitive fashion, handball might be the new sport for you. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the comfort of playing indoors or the fresh Golden Gate Park air of an outdoor game; handball play is possible at two courts for each preference. Working on a first-come, first-serve basis, it is said that the best handball courts in the city belong to Golden Gate Park.

Who Plays Handball at Golden Gate Park?

While numerous residents and non-residents gather at the handball courts, a handful of neighborhood and school events are held on the premises. Throughout the years, the sport has gained the interest of many different San Francisco schools, leading to the appointment of various accolades, such as the Joe McDonald Award, which was given out in 2002 regarding the revitalization of the handball courts and renewed interest in the sport.

A small group of dedicated enthusiasts were assembled and through various fundraising activities, plans were made to install a new roof at the courts with future developments in the works. As a result, many area schools have incorporated handball into their regular gym classes with specialized field trips planned for the courts at Golden Gate Park.

Handball at Golden Gate Park

The handball courts can be found north of the Big Rec baseball fields. Since the courts are open every day, reservations are not necessary. If the courts are available, all you have to do is head for Middle Drive East with your own equipment, which is situated between MLK Jr. and Bowling Green drives.

What is Handball?

The sport of handball possesses roots that can be traced to Scotland, Ireland, and Spain with several variations existing throughout the centuries. Handball is known as a fast-paced and demanding sport, sure to bring about floods of sweat by the end of a match. If you’re looking for a cardiovascular workout, handball will definitely rise to the challenge. Singles matches are especially tiresome.

In America, handball is usually played against one or more walls: single (front), three walls, or fully enclosed courts consisting of four walls, which is actually the most frequently used. Usually, the court measures 12.2 meters long by 6.1 meters wide (40×20 feet). Along the floor, a short line can be found in the middle, which bisects the ground into two 20-foot squares. The floor also showcases a service line, which is 5 feet in front of the short line. The zone set aside for serving is located between the two lines. The back wall of the court typically measures 12 feet high.

Often, an above gallery is established for referees and scorers. Spectators also situate themselves in this area. To catch a better view of matches, some courts offer glass side or back walls.

The most common way to play handball consists of singles play (two against one another) and doubles (two teams comprised of two players). In some cases, a “cut-throat” game may involve three players who take turns in a one-against-two match.

Basic Game Play

In handball, one individual who is standing in the service zone serves the ball. The ball is dropped to the service zone floor and is then hit with the hand after the bounce. The fist may also be used. The object of the game is to hit the front wall and prevent the other team from returning a serve or any future hits.

Handball Equipment

For those unfamiliar with the game, there are a few basic items needed to play handball in a safe and effective manner. Often, an individual will play with protective gloves, sneakers, shorts, and goggles. In some informal matches, gloves are not an essential part of handball gear. However, it is important to wear some sort of eye protection. Since the ball travels at extremely high speeds, close range contact is a strong possibility. The outcome has been devastating for some.

A rubber ball (often blue or black in color) is needed for game play. It weighs 65 grams and is about 5 centimeters in diameter. Compared to racquetball, the ball is smaller, harder, and heavier. It is the palm of the hand that is used to propel the ball back and forth during a game.