Not that many squash players fuss enormously over their rackets. Even exceptionally gifted players may be quite happy with a reasonable-quality $80 version that on paper lacks the high-tech aspects of a $200 model. Still, when you have a few games under your belt and know you want something to call your own -- and better than the slightly scarred model the front desk of your racket club lends you -- then it’s time to learn a bit more about racket stiffness.
Older squash players remember the wooden rackets with round heads that prevailed until the early 1980s. Philip Yarrow in “Squash: Steps to Success” recounts how the wooden shaft’s flexibility created a whippiness when swung that players liked, as it added power to their shots. The shift to lighter and stiffer graphite rackets in the mid-’80s allowed players to generate faster swings, and the stiffness of the material permitted greater control.
Even within today’s rackets with composite materials, you can find variations in terms of stiffness. A more flexible racket can help you increase your power, Yarrow notes, even though the trend currently is toward stiff frames. If you can control a stiff racket, you will likely find it superior for shot-making and for executing a power game, notes Ron Beck, editor of Squash Talk. Meanwhile, a flexible racket allows more of a touch or finesse game.
Manufacturers continue to seek ways to make rackets stiff, with one company adding rails to the shaft to increase stiffness by 12 percent while simultaneously designing grooves in the shaft to lighten its weight. Another company adds titanium elements to critical junctures of the frame to make the racket stiffer. You can also make your racket in effect stiffer by stringing it at a higher tension, or conversely more flexible with a lower-tension stringing.
You can only find what you like by trying out various rackets. A well-equipped sporting goods store that specializes in racket sports may have an on-site hitting court; it may also offer a loaner program where you can take one or two rackets home for up to 48 hours to try on your home court. Online squash racket purveyors also offer racket tryouts. The choice of which racket to keep and how stiff you like it is ultimately up to you and is a matter of personal style, Beck concludes.