On Davey Street opposite St
David’s Park, you’ll find the Commonwealth Law Courts, examples of Georgian
architecture and Australia’s oldest real tennis club.
I’d often wondered what lay
behind the stone façade and antique signage on 45 Davey Street. I figured it
some elite club out of my reach. Then I ended up at a 40th
birthday there. It was a BYO open bar, alcohol brought to share. I brought $20+
bottles and ended up drinking someone else’s Omni. The upside was the party
was held on the hallowed ground of the real tennis club court. I might have
arrived but it still seemed like a strange space indeed.
|Image courtesy of Hobart's Real Tennis Club|
Man about town and real
tennis club member, John Ramsay, sat down with This Girl and explained that
real tennis was no secret society and our real tennis club is doing Hobart
John started playing in
1976 when he was a young lawyer articled to the then Solicitor-General Roger
Jennings. Jennings wanted someone to play real tennis with on their business
trips to Melbourne.
Needless to say as a young
impressionable lawyer who wanted a job of course I said yes.
It would be disingenuous to
suggest that real tennis hasn’t had a comfortable constituency. Originally,
most of the tennis club members were members of Hobart’s exclusive Tasmanian
club. John assures me that’s no longer the case. Now the membership is much
more diverse. There are around 250 members including associate or interstate
members and around 80 people who play on a regular basis.
The demographic is spread
between 20-and 30-year olds and people over their 50s. It’s a game you can play
at super high energy levels if you’re fit and competitive but it’s also game
you can play at a more relaxed pace into your 70s as evidenced by a number of
members in that age bracket who play regularly. The youngsters tend to be the
adult children of older members.
Getting in to real tennis
is not much different from joining a golf club. If you want to play in Hobart
you turn up and talk to the court professional Barry Tottes, he’ll arrange for
you to have a hit. Like joining any incorporated association, you’ll need to be
nominated and seconded and your application approved by the committee. In some
places in the world it’s quite exclusive but in Hobart particularly, the club
is open to anyone who wants to come along. There’s an annual fee and you pay to
Here’s a five things I
learnt from John about real tennis:
1. Real tennis is the original
tennis. It was played in private courtyards in Europe before lawn tennis
2. Real tennis is a ball game
played in generally standardised internal courts which are quite large with
internal roofs called penthouses. It’s bit like squash but the ball can travel
around the walls and around the roofs of the court. The rest is pretty much
like lawn tennis.
3. It’s only played in the
United Kingdom, the United States, France and Australia.
4. The balls are made by hand
at the club.
They start with a cork, we
like to think it’s a champagne cork in the middle, then cloth tape is wound
round and around and it is tied tight with string and they all have a felt
cover. The balls last awhile but the felt gets replaced when they wear out. The
felt cover is cut and hand sewn by the club professional.
5. The Hobart club has an
international reputation for hospitality and it has just hosted the biennial
international amateur real tennis Bathurst Cub.
The Bathurst Cup named
after the Countess of course, donated the cup to real tennis in the 1920s.
The tournament rotates around the four participating countries and the clubs in
those countries bid to hold the tournament. Hobart hosted the cup in
1985 and 1999 and this year, John was head of the organising committee. The
club’s commitment to tradition, good hospitality and showcasing all of what
Hobart has to offer is obvious:
Players like visiting
Hobart because it’s a small club and it’s a nice place and they have a good
We have a fantastic
reputation for being a very hospitable club, very relaxed. We put on good
social functions and people who come to Hobart say they always have a great
time here. We have a reputation to uphold in relation to hosting of the
Visitors to Hobart’s
Bathurst Cup had accommodation provided for them and a social program for their partners and
supporters organised for them. The club raised funds amongst members so they
could look after their guests. Lunch was provided every day, a tournament
dinner and a welcoming reception at Government House no less. John can pull
Some of those strings are
culinary. Tim Last from the Junction Hotel in New Norfolk catered one
Asian-influenced dinner as part of a series of meals held in members’ homes where
the cost included a sizeable donation.
The tournament dinner was
at Blue Eye partly because the owner is Joth Jennings, son of the former Solicitor-General
and John’s old boss. Got to love Hobart and its
two degrees of separation.
And you’ve got to love
Hobart’s real tennis club. It exemplifies Hobart’s warm and welcoming
Hobart’s real tennis club
commissioned The Two Girls to write an eating out in Tassie guide for the
Bathurst cub tournament. We are publishing it in a series of blog posts with
their kind permission. Read the first two posts: Café Culture and Like the Locals.