Badminton is a fun and fast-moving sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from school-age children to teens to adults. The game can be played competitively or merely for fun as a terrific way to spend a cool summer evening in the backyard. In the following guide we will introduce you to the sport of badminton and show you some of the rules and the basics of the game you should definitely know. We have also included a few tips and tricks that can help you improve your badminton game and increase your chances of winning.
What Is Badminton?
Badminton is an enjoyable racquet sport that can be played on an indoor court that is specific to the sport, in gymnasiums and even in the backyard using a portable badminton set. The sport is played with racquets that are used to hit a shuttlecock (also known as a “birdie”) across a net. Although it can be played with larger teams in schoolyard settings, most badminton games pit one player against another (singles) or are played between two teams of two players each (doubles). As we mentioned, badminton is regularly played casually in places like yards, parks and beaches, but a regulation badminton court will almost always be found indoors, with markings that are specific to the game. In general, the aim of badminton is to score higher than your opponent (s) by hitting the shuttlecock over the net and landing it within your opponent’s side of the court. Points can also be scored if your opponent hits the shuttlecock out of bounds or into the net.
The game of badminton was first developed in British India. It was derived from an earlier game known as battledore and shuttlecock. In Europe, competitive matches came to be dominated by players in Denmark, but in more recent years the sport has become very popular across Asia, with China dominating most international competitions.
Equipment Needed for Badminton
As we mentioned briefly above, the equipment needed to play badminton includes a racquet for each playing member, a shuttlecock, and a net. You can often get everything you need as part of a badminton set for your backyard. When playing competitively, you will also need a badminton court.
The racquets used to play badminton can be made from a variety of materials, but they are most commonly made from lightweight aluminum or composite products. Badminton racquets are much lighter, more flexible and more maneuverable than the racquets used for tennis. And while they share the same shape of tennis racquets, they are always much smaller in size.
The shuttlecock, informally known as a birdie, is a feathered or (in informal matches) plastic projectile which flies differently from the balls used in many other sports. In particular, the feathers create much higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly. Shuttlecocks also have a high top speed compared to the balls in other racquet sports. The flight of the shuttlecock gives the sport its distinctive nature.
The net used in badminton is a mesh material made from very lightweight fabrics. It is typically positioned with the top end of the net five feet from the ground, and can be supported by poles or tied up to other structures.
Basic Rules of Badminton and How to Play
The goal of badminton is really quite simple: to hit the shuttlecock over the net and land it inside the boundaries of your opponent’s half of the court. Each time you do this, you have won a “rally” for a point. And when you win enough of these rallies or points you will ultimately win the match.
Your opponent has the same exact goal as you do: As the shuttlecock soars over the net, he will try to reach it and hit it back over the net into your half of the court before it hits the ground on his side.
There are other ways to score than just landing the shuttlecock on your opponent’s side of the court. You can also capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes—and vice versa. For instance, if your opponent reaches your shot but hits it under the net, into the net or out of bounds, you will win the rally and the point. When your opponent hits a shot that you believe may be out of bounds, you should let the shuttlecock fall to the floor. However, if you do hit the shuttlecock, the rally continues.
Once the shuttle touches the ground, the rally is over and a point is awarded. As you can see, badminton is not like tennis or squash, where the ball can bounce, but similar to volleyball in some ways, where the goal is to hit the ball over the net before it lands on the floor. Unlike volleyball, however, where the ball can be hit three times before it goes over the net, the shuttlecock must go over the net in a single shot. This same rule holds true whether playing singles or doubles.
A regulation game of volleyball is played to 21 points, although recreationally you can choose any point total you wish (as long as it’s an odd number). Players (or teams) can score a point after every rally, regardless of who serves the shuttlecock.
The Badminton Court
As mentioned in the intro, a regulation badminton court is played indoors on a badminton court. This court is rectangular in shape, divided equally by a net and typically marked for both singles and doubles play. The doubles court is wider than the singles court, although both are the same length.
The full length of a badminton court is 44 feet—singles and doubles. In terms of width, doubles play on a court with a 20 foot width, while singles play on a court that is 17 feet wide. The service courts are marked by a center line that divides the width of the court. The official net height for a badminton court is 5 feet and 1 inch, although most recreational badminton sets place the net at an even 5 feet.
In badminton, serving is how you start each and every rally. To prevent the server from gaining an undue advantage, the rules place special restrictions on serving that do not apply to other shots in the remainder of the rally. The server is the person who hits the ball first, and the receiver is the person who hits the second shot.
When serving in badminton, the shuttlecock must be hit in an upward direction using an underhand swing. Absolutely no tennis-like overhead serves are permitted. When the server makes contact with the shuttlecock, it must be below his waist—no higher than the top part of your pants or shorts.
As with tennis, serves must be hit in a diagonal direction, and the server must start the rally on the right-hand side of the court.
Tips to Increase Your Chances of Winning
Here are just a few tips for enhancing your badminton game:
Choose a High Serve
Although when serving you must hit the shuttlecock when it’s below your waist, there are NO restrictions on how high the shuttlecock can go. To throw off your opponent, try to serve the shuttlecock very high to the back of the court. If your opponent has a weaker backhand stroke than forehand stroke—which most do—try to place that high serve on your opponent’s backhand side, thus forcing him to use that stroke.
Perfect Your Basic Stance
Using the perfect attack stance to retrieve and return your opponent’s shots will definitely give you an advantage in any badminton rally. To get into a proper attacking stance, complete all of the following steps:
- Turn your body in such a way that you are facing your opponent’s side of the court.
- If you hold the racket with your right hand, place your right leg slightly behind and your left leg slightly forward in your stance (do the opposite if you are left-handed)
- Keep both of your legs shoulder width apart
- Raise both your racket and non-racket arm as you prepare to hit the shuttlecock, the latter of which helps with balance.
This basic attack stance will help you hit the most powerful forehand strokes when the shuttle comes to your side of the net.
Master and Use Multiple Shot Types During Every Rally
Finally, as with all racquet sports, the ability to use multiple shot types to keep your opponent off guard is always a winning strategy. Once you have mastered the serve, your stance and the proper footwork, try to mix in a variety of shots, including:
The lob is primarily a defensive tactic that can buy you some time to get back into position. To hit this shot, use an underhand swing and aim towards the back of the court.
When you notice your opponent playing towards the back of the court, you can often catch him off guard using a drop shot. This shot also utilizes an underhand swing, but instead of hitting it high to the back of the court, you will want to hit it low—just over the net—using a soft stroke. This will force your opponent to race to the net and attempt to reach the shuttlecock before it hits the ground.
Of course, the granddaddy of all shots—the smash—should be the shot of choice when the shuttlecock flies just overhead near the net. To hit this shot, use the “perfect” attacking stance we described above, and swing downward on the shuttlecock using a fast overhead swing. Be sure to hit the shuttlecock at its highest point to ensure it clears the net. When done correctly, this shot is virtually impossible to defend.