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Yesterday I broke my squash racket with a particularly ill-placed split second reaction near the wall. So now I need a new racket. What should I pay attention to when buying one?

The racket I had was just a random racket I could afford when I was a student. It was not particularly light, and I don't think it was very stiff either. The last two years I have been playing for fun and fitness on a weekly basis. Before that I played a few times each year at most. When playing squash I am very quick to get to the ball, but not particularly good at getting the ball to go where I want it to (I am improving though).

What are the trade-offs one makes when choosing a particular squash racket?

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I guess weight and stability are two important factors. I haven't really figured out what works best for me but when I started with squash and decided to buy rackets, I bought two rackets; one light and "agile" and the other heavier but more "stable".

The reason why I put agile and stable in quotation marks is that they are rather my interpretation of them. I enjoyed playing with the lighter racket in the beginning as it was easier to place the ball with it, but then I started shifting towards the heavier racket with which I felt I had much more power in my shots, only if I could put up with the extra effort.

Bottom line, I don't have a precise answer for you. I would be interested to see a good answer to this question myself. But my best advice is to try out a couple of rackets. In the hall where I play, you can loan rackets and if you like a particular racket they subtract the loan fee from the price when you buy it. Might be worth checking if they have a similar deal where you live.

With a bit of searching I found some more material on this question, here's an excerpt from one source

Weight of the racquet - The weight of the racquet is its most obvious characteristic, and the weights are quite variable. ... Stronger materials must be used to allow a racquet to be fabricated at a lighter weight. ... A lighter racquet lets the player "feel" the ball as he hits it. This gives the beginner an impression of control. However, it is the experienced player who can best use a light racquet. The beginner will have a lot of difficulty with the necessary accuracy required to use a light racquet.

In summary, a lighter racquet is easier to swing and give better "feel" of the ball, but also will be harder to control and will be more expensive.

Balance of the racquet - ... It is usually fairly easy to feel when the racquet has "bad balance" -- that is if it is head heavy or head light. ...

Stiffness of the racquet - Racquets vary totally with regard to their "whippiness." ... The best racquet for you will be dependent on your style of play and your level of expertise.

Shape of the racquet head - ... In general, larger racquet heads give you a greater margin for error and also additional power.

Racquet material: Strength and durability - Racquets are made with a confusing array of composite materials. The latest racquet rage are the Titanium lines that have been introduced by almost all manufacturers. In most cases, these are titanium/graphite composites. Although they play with great power and control, almost all of the titanium frames have had breakage problems. ...

Durability track record - Check with other squash players and your squash retailer to learn about the durability record of your candidate racquet. Squash racquet models are surprisingly divergent in their durability.

The grip - Don't worry about the grip in selecting your racquet. You can easily modify the grip later by replacing the grip, "building-up" thickness in the grip, or reshaping the grip.

... and here's another source:

When you buy a squash racket for the first time you may not be thinking of the weight, balance, head size, strings and grip. But then again should you? As long as the racket looks and feels good to you personally, then the chances are that you will probably play well with it, for a while at least. However, as you improve all these factors may help you to decide which racket best suites your playing style.

Generally heavyweight rackets are > 160g, mid-weight rackets are between 160g and 140g and finally lightweight rackets are usually < 140g. To add to the confusion most weights shown on rackets are unstrung, and with the strings these rackets can weigh a little bit more. But as a general rule the heaver a racket the more power you get on the shot. The lighter a racket the more control and feel you get when playing a shot. ...

The feel of a racket will also depend on its balance point from the base of the handle. For example, if you try to balance your racket using your finger between the racket head and handle. This is normally shown in centimetres, the higher the number the lighter the head of the racket is. The lighter the head, the less power you get on the shot and more control and maneuverability.

Head size matters? The larger the head size of a racket the bigger the sweat spot (>490 cm2). A racket with a larger sweat spot will be more forgiving when you play those bad shots, off centre of the racket head where the maximum power and control is achieved. ...

String type and tension is another factor to consider, and contrary to most people’s belief, tighter racket strings give more control, looser racket strings give more power. It is therefore, possible to alter the playing characteristics of a racket by changing the tension and strings when the racket is restrung. ...

The grip is very much part of the racket and generally helps you feel the shot you are playing along with the type of strings you use. Change your grip if it looks old and tatty and you will instantly notice how good the racket feels (a new grip maybe worth a point or two in a game). When you buy a new squash racket it is recommended that you put on an over-grip since most squash rackets come with very small grips. If the grip is too small, then there is a tendency to hold the racket too tightly to control it. As a result you will find it difficult to play any deceptive and touch shots properly as your hand and wrist is too stiff. Put on an over-grip that lets your hand comfortably hold the racquet without having to hold it tightly. As a general rule you should have about a one finger width of space between the palm of your hand and the tips of your fingers when gripping the racket.

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The previous answer sums up the aspects of buying a squash racket very well, but here are some additional thoughts.

What has to be recognized when buying a squash racket is that it's very personal, and it depends a lot on your strengths/weaknesses as a player, as well as your level. The problem with buying a racket as a beginner is that it's hard to recognize strengths, weaknesses and style, as you most likely haven't been "shaped" as a squash player yet.

Personally, I like to begin with looking at the weight of the racket. That is, I try to decide what overall weight I think suits me, and what balance I think I'll prefer.

Rackets with different weights and balances will have different characteristics. A common misperception is that light rackets are better, but that is simply not true. A light racket is most likely better for an advanced player, but is isn't necessarily better for a beginner. Light rackets are more maneuverable, but they require a good player to handle them, as they are not as "stable" as heavier rackets. Also, with a lighter racket, the player himself must generate all of the power in the swing.

A heavier racket, on the other hand, is quite suitable for a beginner. This is because it is easier to handle (despite being less maneuverable) and it helps a weaker player to generate more power in his swing.

The balance is also something to keep in mind, and it is rather easy to understand why.

A head heavy racket will help you generate more power, but offers you less control of the racket. This is generally good for "weak" players. To understand the principle, look at for example a hammer, that is extremely head heavy and helps you generate a lot of power.

A head light racket will do the opposite. It won't give you any extra power, but it'll make you feel in control of it, which is good for powerful players. Think of it as a fishing rod, which has a very low balance and is very easy to handle (but it won't help you fight of a crocodile, that's for sure...).

A racket with an even balance is a mix of the two, and the most common balance of squash rackets.

Personally, this is what I find most important to look at, but you will have to try different rackets out yourself. My advice is to buy a racket that you think will suit you well (based on what I've written above), and then ask people if you can have a go with their rackets at your local squash centre, simply to get to try different rackets and prepare yourself for the next purchase.

Also, don't get fooled by the price tags. The most expensive racket isn't necessarily the best one. Lighter rackets tend to be more expensive, but this isn't because they're better but because they require more expensive materials to produce them.

End note: I play a Harrow Vapor, which I'm very satisfied with. It's quite light, but with an even balance and it's still quite forgiving. I also own a Harrow Spark, but this one is a lot harder to play with (it's better than me!), and a Prince Sovereign TT, which is a great beginner's racket (and rather cheap).

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