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Five of the most interesting handball courts in the world

Every handball court is unique - but here are a few of our favourites. Feel free to suggest more for our next list.

Chicano Park, San Diego

Police slow down, or so it is said, as they pass the handball courts in Barrio Logan, San Diego, courts which sit in Chicano Park, directly below a highway ramp which connects Interstate 5 with the Coronado Bridge.

Local rules dictate that games are played to 11. The area has a reputation for violence and gangs. According to an article in Voice of San Diego in 2010, many of the regular players learned the game in prison and kept it up on their release.

“The courts were built in 1984. They were one of the last phases of Chicano Park, which the city constructed under the looming highway overpasses as a concession to the largely Mexican community of Barrio Logan. After Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge sliced and diced the neighborhood into quadrants, its residents demanded that the city mitigate the damage,” says the article.

“They were led by local leaders like Raul Portillo, who pressured the City Council to build the courts for the community in the early 1980s.”

The famous murals in the park tell the story of Latino activism. A lot of talented players have come from the park, where local players have introduced kids to the sport, and way of life, with great success.

Bridgewater State Hospital, Massachusetts

Bridgewater State Hospital, located in southeastern Massachusetts, is a state facility housing the criminally insane and those whose sanity is being evaluated for the criminal justice system. It was established in 1855 as an almshouse.

It was then used as a workhouse for inmates with short sentences who worked the surrounding farmland. It was later rebuilt in the 1880s and again in 1974. Bridgewater State Hospital currently houses 395 inmates all of whom are adult males. The facility was the subject of the 1967 documentary Titicut Follies. Bridgewater State Hospital falls under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, spent time there, and may even have played handball…

Jamshedpur, India

We’re confident when we say that Loyola School, a Jesuit College in Jamshedpur, India is the only location where handball is played on that entire sub-continent.

Nirvik Mitter, a former student, confirmed to this writer that the game, which was introduced in 1947 by an Irish priest named Fr Keogh, remains very popular. In recent years, two extra courts have been constructed.

“Mostly students play but Loyola fathers and brothers do play as well,” he said. Mitter also stated that a racquetball is used to play with.

A 1949 article in the college journal had this to say: “The originator of Handball at Loyola is one whom all of us know: Father Keogh. When the American Fathers came to Loyola (I mean the first group), Fr. Keogh, the unforgettable Fr. Bakewell and Fr. Enright, handball was not as much as a twinkle in the eyes of the small group of Loyoleans.

“Our new sports organiser was Fr. Keogh who introduced us to an entirely new game called Handball. We gazed open-mouthed at seeing a human hand take such a lot of punishment. But despite this, Fr. Keogh taught us this game and how to play it.

“Oddly enough, we took such a liking to it that soon the front walls of Loyola were under heavy punishment from the two handball courts which were set up. Some of us liked it so much that we deprived ourselves of breakfast in order to be early enough to have a game of handball before classes began.

“Handball has now been played here for the last two years. By now it has become as common to us veterans as drinking water. Still it lingers, and still the handball spirit is kept alive by occasional tournaments.”

Amazingly, the game seems to have grown in popularity in the intervening years – Loyola School may well be the last ‘uncontacted tribe’ in the handball community.

Jordan Valley, Oregon

Okay, we’re cheating a bit with this one – it’s technically a pelota fronton, as opposed to a handball court, but the story is interesting enough to merit inclusion.

Jordan Valley traditionally has strong links with the Basque Country. The Basques originally began to arrive in 1889, grew into a thriving colony and built the ball court in the spring of 1915. Many of the workers were shepherders.

“It is built of native stone,” it has been written, “hand hewn by Basque masons who learned their trade in Spain.”

The court stands in the centre of Jordan Valley and was restored in 1997, having been idle for four decades.

The story of the valley itself is just as interesting.

“In 1863,” according to an online article, “a party of prospectors with about 60 horses and mules arrived at a stream seen theretofore by few, if any white men. Here was a most favorable camping place, and so it was agreed to go no further.

“Before unpacking his mule, one man scooped up some loose gravel, panned it, and obtained about 100 colors. In ten minutes, every man was digging and panning, and in one hour, all had good exhibits.

“Within 12 days, the laws of the district were made and adopted, claims located, and the creek was named Jordan after Michael Jordan, one member of the party. A few years later, Jordan was scalped by the Indians on the banks of this same stream.”


We haven’t been able to track down the exact location of this court, but it is in Ecuador, where there is a booming handball fraternity.

One Wall is the code of choice and the game is very popular, with excellent facilities. This photo was taken at the final of the schools championships some years ago, and the logo translates as “where every child is a champion”.

Stay tuned for the next instalment... And remember to add us on Facebook and Instagram in order to send in your suggestions.

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