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What is Court Tennis?

Court tennis (also known as real tennis) is the original racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis is descended. A court tennis court is enclosed by walls on all four sides, three of which have sloping roofs, known as “penthouses.” Beneath these are openings (“galleries”) from which spectators can watch the game.

The cork-based balls are heavier than lawn tennis balls and much less bouncy. Racquets are shorter, made of wood and very tight nylon strings. Rules are more complex than the modern game.


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Court Tennis at GCU: Past, Present, Future

Tennis at the Gould Estate

Old-fashioned photo of man holding tennis racket.Georgian Court University’s court tennis facility was built in 1899 as part of George Jay Gould’s country estate, and it is the second-oldest court of its kind in the United States. It is one of 11 court tennis facilities in the country and is the only U.S. court located on a university campus. Today, court tennis courts are only found in three other countries—England, Australia, and France. Court tennis players are almost, but not quite, as rare as the courts themselves, especially in the United States. The United States Court Tennis Association (USCTA) has about 1,000 members. The U.S. Court Tennis Preservation Foundation (USCTPF) will help the USCTA to carry out the broader mission of the association to preserve, develop, and administer the game in the United States.

GCU’s court was home to America’s finest-ever amateur, Jay Gould II (George Jay Gould’s son), who found elite supremacy as U.S. Champion from 1906 through 1926. Jay Gould II learned to play court tennis at the age of 12 when his family lived on the estate. He went on to win the amateur American championship from 1906 to 1926, one of the longest streaks in the history of sport. During that time, he never lost even a set to an amateur and lost only one singles match, to English champion E. M. Baerlein. He also won the Olympic gold medal for the United States in 1908—the only year the sport was included in the games. Jay Gould’s antique 20th-century trophies are on display in the Mansion today.

Current Activity

GCU works closely with the USCTPF to help preserve, develop, and administer the game of Court Tennis in the United States. The USCTPF supports GCU’s court facility and provides professional coaches from the Racquet Club of Philadelphia (RCOP) to engage students and staff so they can learn and develop a passion for the sport. These collaborative efforts have also provided numerous opportunities to expand regional play and tournaments on campus.