By Sarah Jones
One of only three stické tennis courts in the world
If you don't mind running headlong into walls and own a slightly deflated ball then Hartham Park has the game for you.
Stické tennis, according to Alan Bosley the Corsham club's honorary secretary, is a take on tennis that will have even the best players confused.
"It's the sort of game that's going to defeat you every time," says Alan.
"If you're a tennis player you are going to be defeated by this game because it does all the things you don't expect on a tennis court."
Tennis in a 'box'
But the most unexpected thing about the game is that you can actually play it in Wiltshire.
With just two stické courts left playable in the country, and only three left usable in the world, getting a court time can be one of the biggest challenges for wannabe stické players.
"Stické started in the 1870s, at almost exactly the same time as lawn tennis," says Alan.
"They share the same scoring system. They share the same rules. This is effectively, lawn tennis in a box."
"...lawn tennis in a box."
But what a 'box'. Standing in the formal gardens of Hartham Park, the stické tennis court is a gloriously eccentric-looking matchstick creation with more then a hint of the Swiss chalet about it.
"We play with normal tennis rackets and," he adds, "a slightly deflated ball which produces some interesting variants on the game."
It's behind you
An asymmetric court, 'penthouse' ridge along one wall and no base line also adds a touch of the unpredictable to a knock up:
"The ball can only hit the floor once but that bounce might come after it's rolled along the penthouse, hit one wall, come off the back wall and on to the floor.
"The problem that tennis players have is that they're frequently playing a ball that is actually flying past them from behind and not coming towards them from the opposition."
Confusing tennis players, aside, the stické court also offers no base line and hence no official 'outs'. All of which means that rallies in stické tennis can run well into double figures and matches can go on for hours. It's only time limits on games and a playing first to four or six games that keeps the play time down.
Blood on the walls
But on an 80x30 foot enclosed court, surrounded by walls, ridges, windows and decorative iron beams you have to wonder how you'd get your racquet around the perfect shot:
"It's extremely difficult because you've got so many surfaces the ball can come off," admits Alan. "There's a really bad spot to stand on the court where the ball can come off the wall and almost go around you. You're never going to reach it.
"There's also a shot that just hugs the wall all the way down. Players that are new to the game find that very difficult and they're also very nervous about their racquets hitting the wall."
"..we've got some blood on the far end of the court where somebody ran into it."
And it's not just racquets that newbies have to be nervous of:
"People run into walls in fact we've got some blood on the far end of the court where somebody ran into it."
But blood on the walls, damaged racquets and the feeling of having stepped into the middle of a supersized pin ball machine is thoughtfully offset by a rule that the club insists upon:
"Because it is such a bizarre game," says Alan, "you're never allowed to apologise.
"We don't accept apologies so there's no way you can mess up in this game. We rely on laughter to get us through."
And if you want to find out more about the Hartham Park Stické Tennis Club then click on the link below: