Winchester Fives was originally a game played with a racket, but in the 19th century, a new version of this game came into being which was played with the hand. This racket sport is now known as rackets, and the variant played with a person's hands is known as fives.
In all versions of fives (There are three versions: Rugby Fives, Winchester Fives, and Eton Fives, the latter is quite different from both the Rugby and Winchester codes, which are quite similar) the game is played with the hands, wearing thick protective gloves, in order not to damage the hand bones and prevent bruising. Inner gloves may be worn as well to provide extra protection.
The courts are about 28 feet long and 16 feet wide. They have a bar at the front made out of wood which is about 2 1/2 feet off the ground. However, the dimensions of different fives courts around the country vary quite a lot. The aim in the game is to hit the ball above this bar with it only bouncing at most once from the previous player's hit. In Winchester Fives courts there will also be a buttress on the left wall. This provides a more interesting challenge to the game, as if hit in the middle of a rally, the point is nearly always won. This buttress is approximately a foot in width, but this varies from court to court.
Either doubles or singles can be played in these courts: singles is one on one, and doubles is two on two. Occasionally 2 against one is played, but not in any major tournaments, just for fun. The scoring is quite complicated for doubles, but for singles it is not. You win points when receiving the serve (the shot which starts of a point, which is: throwing the ball up so it hits the front wall and touches the side wall, and then hitting it so that it hits the side wall and comes off the front wall).
Rugby Fives is more commonly played than Winchester Fives and more schools have the courts. Some schools, for example Winchester College, have just Winchester Fives courts, whilst some have both Rugby and Winchester Fives courts. Oxford and Manchester both have ‘glass back’ Fives courts, where the spectators can look through the incredibly strong plastic. In most Fives courts, however, there is a gallery.
Every year there are many large tournaments throughout England and Scotland, for example, the West of England Championships. There are many Fives clubs throughout Britain and it is not difficult to join one.