Missouri Valley / Iowa

Clay Courts Offer Fun, Different Feel

Andrea Gallagher | April 23, 2021



With the French Open set to begin May 24, we take a look at clay courts in Iowa.



When Bill Moylan of Bettendorf started playing on clay tennis courts, he liked how it was easier on his joints, especially his knees. When he moved into a new house in the 1990’s, he measured the backyard and decided he had enough room for a clay court. Fast forward 26 years and he’s still playing on that court at 71-years-old with a lengthy list of willing participants.



“It’s a great atmosphere, a bunch of great guys, if I didn’t have the clay court they wouldn’t like me,” he joked.



Moylan believes everyone should learn to play on clay, and said that’s why the Europeans tend to be better than the Americans at tennis.



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“It’s a great court to learn to play on,” he said. “You’ve got to watch the ball because it can take odd hops, and you really have to move your feet.”



Dan Treiber owns Tennis Services of Iowa in Cedar Rapids and helps owners maintain their clay courts, and get them ready for the season. He estimates there are around 20 in the state of Iowa. He also installs hard courts too and said there are many benefits to clay courts.



Some of those courts include the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids and in Fairfield, the Punj Tennis Center has a pair of indoor clay courts. 



“Eventually you get cracks on hard courts,” he said. “You can hide it, but it’s still there, it will come back to some extent. There are no cracks on clay.”



He also mentioned the other benefits such as; it’s easier on joints, you can slide into shots and it doesn’t get nearly as hot under the sun like asphalt. Treiber explained the red clay courts you see at the French Open are not the same as the green clay he uses, called Har-Tru, which consists of crushed rock from Virginia.



Phil Williams of Cedar Rapids had a clay court built on his property seven years ago. He played tennis at Coe College and also teaches. He said students develop more mental and physical discipline playing on clay.



“The point structure changes from high risk, high reward on the hard courts to grit, grind and toughness needed to succeed on clay,” he said. “Also, it's really fun to slide into shots.”



Clay courts do require some upkeep, as you need to add new clay annually, as well as brushing and watering daily. For those clay court enthusiasts though, it’s all worth it.



“Clay court tennis is a great metaphor for life,” Williams said. “The harder and smarter you work, the better you get.  Sometimes the ball takes a bad bounce but just like in life you have to mentally let it go and get on with the grind.”






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