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Introduction to Badminton (History, Rules, Equipment & Benefits)

Badminton is a sports racket that is played with a shuttlecock or birdie as a projectile and where the players are separated by a net that divides the court into two equal parts. Points are scored by landing the shuttle on your opponent’s side of the court. Badminton is played as an outdoor sport in several parts of the world. However, to fully enjoy its potential, badminton should be played indoors where the wind cannot compromise the flight of the shuttle.

If you want to beat that other player in your club that always manages to find your weak points, you should sign up for the Badminton Famly+ online training program. You can read our in-depth review of this e-learning platform created by a world champion following this link.

A brief history of badminton

The history of badminton is not fully clear and some parts of it remain a mystery. Badminton appears to be an evolution of a game called battledore and shuttlecock, which origins go way back in time. Badminton, as we know it today, was, according to most sources, invented and developed by the British in the middle of the 19th century. The most widespread theory is that it was invented in British India and then went back to England, where it became popular very fast.

The name, as the precise origin, is not clear either. However, the most plausible theory says that the game came from Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, house owned by the Dukes of Beaufort since the 17th century. According to the theory, badminton became very popular in that location during its inception, with badminton matches being organized there.

The Badminton Association of England, founded on September 13, 1893, was the first national badminton association created and it organized the first badminton competition in 1899. The competition, called All England Open Badminton Championships, included gentlemen’s doubles, ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles. Singles competitions were added the following year, in 1900.

The All England Open Badminton Championships is still one of the most important championships of the year, mostly due to its long history and its significance. Before the Badminton World Federation started organizing the World Badminton Championship, the All England was considered the unofficial world championship.

Basic equipment

There are certain items that you must have if you want to play badminton. It is by no means one of the most expensive sports to practice, but it is neither running or basketball, where the equipment needed is minimal.

Racket

A racket is one of the few mandatory items in order to play badminton. As we describe in detail in our badminton measurement post, a racket must follow very strict guidelines to be considered a badminton racket in a professional setting. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot. Yonex, the go-to brand for most professional players as we explained in our badminton brands post, has rackets for beginners that start at less than $30. One example is the Yonex B 4000. You can check the latest price on Amazon.com. In the UK, the same racket can be found for around £15. You can check the latest price on Amazon.co.uk.

Shuttle (or birdie)

The second mandatory item is the shuttle. This is what distinguishes badminton from all the other racket sports and what makes it so unique. The shuttles used in competitions are called feathered shuttles and they are not cheap to buy, especially because they do not last that long. We do not recommend using this type of shuttle if you are just starting.

There is a different kind of shuttle, called a non-feathered shuttle, which is cheaper and much more durable. This one doesn’t have feathers but has a plastic body that resembles fairly well the flight of the feathered shuttles. You can purchase a decent tube from Yonex on for around $15 in the US (check the latest price on Amazon.com) or in the UK for around £8 (check the latest price on Amazon.co.uk).

Net & poles

A net (with the poles) is, in our opinion, also a mandatory item. Even though you can still hit the shuttle around without the net, this equipment provides certain limitations to the shots that make the game more realistic and fun. If you are playing indoors in a sports hall that is equipped for badminton, they will most likely provide the nets and poles so you don’t need to worry about them. If you want to play outdoors, you will need to purchase them. They are not very expensive (start at around $50 in the US). Check the latest price on Amazon.com.

Shoes

We go down the scale here from mandatory to recommended equipment. Shoes are, in our opinion, the third most important equipment to buy after rackets and shuttles. This is because badminton can be a very demanding sport for your feet and having proper shoes will save you from a lot of discomforts and injuries.

As it is the case with all the other items, there are shoes that are designed for beginners so you do not need to spend a tone of money on them. My recommendation is, if you can, to make sure they are shoes designed for badminton, as the movements are very specific and shoes designed for indoor courts, in general, will not work as well. These will be slightly more expensive but they are, in my opinion, worth the investment.

Sportive outfit

This is the final recommended equipment. It is not as important as the shoes because it will not prevent injuries, but it will certainly improve your comfort while playing. Having a sportive outfit will allow you to move faster and more comfortable around the court and hit the shuttle with ease. Shorts (or skirts) and a t-shirt are the preferred outfits.

Where can you play badminton?

Professional tournaments are played indoors, under a very controlled environment and usually on a special surface that is installed on top of the sports hall flooring, called a badminton mat. If you want to know a bit more about badminton mats, you can check our extensive badminton mats guide where we explain, between other things, all the different layers of a badminton mat or why badminton mats are so important in professional matches.

If you are playing recreational badminton, I would still recommend playing indoors because otherwise, the wind becomes an unwelcome guest. Having said that, there are a lot of people that practice and enjoy playing badminton outdoors so, if you do not have a sports hall nearby or you simply enjoy more playing outside, you can also do so.

Badminton being played outdoors as a recreational sport.

How can you play badminton?

Once you have the required equipment as explained above, you need two additional things in order to play a badminton match and to keep a bit of the emotion going on. You need to know who serves first and, most importantly, you need to know how to keep the score.

How to decide who serves first in a badminton match?

In an official tournament, the umpire will toss a coin as it is done in most sports. Whoever has chosen the winning side can choose either to serve or receive.

In more unofficial environments or during training, the shuttle is usually used. You throw the shuttle up and, when it lands, whichever side the cork of the shuttle is pointing towards, is the side that decides if it wants to serve or not.

Alternatively, the shuttle can be placed feathers down onto the net and let it fall from there. As with throwing the shuttle up, when the shuttle lands on the floor, whichever side the cork of the shuttle is pointing towards, is the side that decides if it wants to serve or not.

How to win points and to keep score?

In order to win a point, you have to be the last one to hit the shuttle and the shuttle has to land within the perimeter of you opponent’s court. Alternatively, if your opponent is the last one to hit the shuttle, in order for you to win a point, the shuttle has to land outside the perimeter of your court.

As for the score, it is the same for both males and females and for both singles and doubles. It is played to the best of three sets. Each set is played to the best of 21 points, with a point scored every time the point is played. This means that it doesn’t matter if you have served or not. If you win a point, you score a point in your scoreboard. When you win the point, you have the service on the next point, no matter who had the service in the previous one. This can get a bit confusing in doubles so, if you are curious, you can check our badminton basics post where the serving principles in doubles are clearly explained.

If the game reaches 20-20, then a player must have two points of difference in the scoreboard (22-20, 23-21, …) in order to win the set. If the scoreboard reaches 29-29, the player to score the point 30th wins the set.

Additional badminton rules

Apart from the scoring system, there are a few extra important rules in order to play badminton. If you want to know the full set of rules, you can check our badminton game rules post, where we go into detail and explain with easy to understand language all the current rules for the sport.

Court dimensions

Badminton court measurements in meters
Badminton court measurements in meters

The badminton court is rectangular and it is divided by a net into two equal rectangles. The standard setting for a court is to be marked for both singles and doubles matches. The doubles court is wider than the singles one, but both are the same length. The only exception to that statement is that the doubles court has a different back serve line, which is shorter than the singles one. This often causes confusion to new players.

Badminton court measurements in feet
Badminton court measurements in feet

The lines marking the court are 40 mm (1.6 inches) wide (and preferably white or yellow in color). These lines are part of the area which they define, so both in the image above and in the data below the lines are included in the measurements. This means that, if the shuttle falls on the line, it is considered “in”. This is the same as in other sports such as tennis.

Court dimensions for singles and doubles

 Total
width
Total
length
Front service line
distance to the net
Rear service line distance to the net
Singles5.18 m (17 ft)13.4 m (44 ft)1.98 m (6 ft 6 inch)6.7 m (22 ft)
Doubles6.1 m (20 ft) 13.4 m (44 ft) 1.98 m (6 ft 6 inch)5.94 m (19 ft 6 inch)

Court equipment information rules

Posts and net measurements
Posts and net measurements using both the metric and the imperial system

In addition to the court itself, it is also important to highlight the rules for the court equipment. The court equipment is made up of the posts and the net.

Post rules

The posts have to be 1.55 m (5 ft 1 inch) in height from the surface of the court. Moreover, when the net is fully stretched in the dimensions on the picture above, the posts have to remain vertical. In addition to that, the posts must be placed on the double sidelines irrespective of whether singles or doubles is being played.

Net rules

Regarding the net, the important rules are that the top of the net from the surface of the court shall be 1.525 (5 ft) meters at the center of the court and 1.55 m (5 ft 1 inch) over the side lines for doubles.

Change of ends rules

Change of ends simply means that the teams or individuals need to change sides of the court as it is customary in most sports. This is to ensure that, if there is a little advantage in one of the sides, that advantage is lost by both sides being able to play there.

The change of ends occurs always at the end of the first game. At the end of the second game, if the match goes to a third game, a change of end will also occur. While playing the third game and in order to keep equality, a change of ends will also occur in the middle of the third game, when the first of both sides reaches point number 11.

Service rules

Service is probably the most difficult part of the rules. Here we highlight the ones I believe are more critical to the game. The full set, as I said before, is available in our badminton game rules post.

Serving diagonally

The most basic point for both types of matches is that you always serve diagonally as happens in other racket sports like tennis. So, if you are serving from the right side of the court, you will serve to the right side of the court of your opponent, thus diagonally.

All the shuttle has to be below waist height when hitting the shuttle

In order to perform the service correctly, it is mandatory that the shuttle is below waist height when it is being hit in the service movement.

The waist is considered to be an imaginary line around the body, at the same height as the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib.

In this video, you can see how the fault is called when the player hits the shuttlecock above the waistline.

The racket head and the shaft have to be pointing down while serving

In addition to the shuttle being below waist height, another important element is that the racket head and shaft have to be pointing down while serving.

Racket_measurements
Image showing the different parts of the racket. Both the head and the shaft need to be pointing down at the moment of serving.
In this video, you can see how the fault is called when the racket was not pointing down.

Faults rules

In addition to the service rules, there are a few more rules that are good to keep in mind if you are starting to play badminton

The shots are not alternated between sides

This rule will be obvious to experienced players but might not be so obvious to new players. In a rally, the shuttle must be hit by both teams alternately. What does that mean? It means that your team cannot hit the shuttle twice in a row, as that becomes a fault and the point is therefore lost. The same obviously stands for singles.

The receiving partner hits the shuttle after the service

As we said in the service section, the service is always performed diagonally and the person staying in the diagonal side from the server is the receiver. If for whatever reason, while playing doubles, the partner of the receiver returns the service instead of the receiver, that will be considered a fault and the point will go to the serving team.

The shuttle touches the person or the dress of a player or touches any other object or person outside of the court

If you are playing and your opponent manages to hit you with the shuttle, it will be considered as your fault and the point will go to him or her. Whenever the shuttle touches any other object or person outside of the court, the fault is from the person that has hit the shuttle and therefore the point goes to the opponent.

The player touches the net or its supports with racket, body or dress

Another cause of a fault is whenever a player touches the net or its supports with racket, body or dress. In this case, the fault is called instantly and the point goes to the opponent.

Benefits of playing badminton

After a long set of rules, you might be wondering if it is such a good idea to start playing badminton if you have to learn all these rules. So this section highlights the most important benefits of playing badminton to serve as a counterbalance to the previous (and boring) section. If you want to see the full list of benefits with a more elaborated description, check our badminton benefits post.

1. Badminton develops physical agility

Badminton is a very fast sport, both while playing singles and doubles. The shuttle travels at a lightning speed and you have to react to that in a matter of milliseconds. Therefore, by practicing badminton, you will develop your physical agility

2. More reach leads to better balance and flexibility

Apart from the agility improvement that you will gain from playing badminton, another benefit is the balance and flexibility that is gained through the practice of badminton.

Being such a fast sport, sometimes you have to shoot in uncomfortable situations while keeping yourself standing up. This will over time help you improve your body balance. Moreover, it will help you improve your flexibility because you will have to stretch yourself further than you thought possible to catch the shuttle.

3. You can lose weight by playing badminton

Yes, you can lose weight by playing badminton. As we explained in our badminton vs tennis post, you can burn around 500 calories in one hour by playing badminton. This, together with the fact that badminton is categorized as a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise makes it a great sport if you are looking to lose some weight.

4. Skeleton & Bone density. Badminton increases bone density during youth and may help maintain it during adulthood

Badminton benefits are not only improved agility, flexibility, and balance. Playing badminton also helps to build and maintain a healthy skeleton.

In a review undertaken in 2008, it was shown that physical activity increases bone mass during growth. The researches highlighted badminton as one of the most effective sports to practice in order to improve skeletal strength. A follow-up review to check whether the benefits of bone mass induced growth were maintained during adulthood was less conclusive, but it still showed a positive correlation between exercise in adulthood and the maintenance of bone density.

5. Badminton is good for your heart. It improves heart health very efficiently

Another research-backed benefit of badminton (as of any high-intensity interval training) is that it improves heart function much more than other lower intensity exercises if you practice it the same amount of time. In a study published in 2016 titled “Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment”, the researchers proved that you could get the same benefits in a high-intensity interval training than in traditional endurance training even though you exercised 5 times less.

6. Badminton develops mental agility

The same that was true for physical agility is true for mental agility. In the research called “Badminton: Specific movement agility testing system”, the testing is not only about how fast your body moves but also about how fast you react and start moving, which is a great measurement for mental agility.

7. Badminton could help fight stress

Although we could not find any research that backs up this statement, the fact that badminton is a high-intensity interval training exercise and the fact that you can put all your soul in smashes make badminton a great candidate for fighting stress. In a recent article titled “Smashing stress with a shuttlecock” the University of Buffalo tackles precisely this topic. I think the following quote from an assistant professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science sums it up perfectly.

“A fast-paced game with a few service smashes is also very useful for working through any type of stress you might have.”

Vijay Muthaiah, assistant professor Department of Rehabilitation Science in article “Smashing stress with a shuttlecock”

8. Badminton can teach you about both teamwork & individual work

Even though the teams are not as big as in other sports, a doubles couple is still a team. And if you start to play tournaments, you may start attending club tournaments, where different matches are played but the main objective is to win the most number of matches. In these two situations, badminton becomes a good way to learn teamwork. You have to care for your teammate and make sure you are both connected. In a club’s game, you may need to give up on your expectations or individual goals in order to help the team win the greater battle.

But, sometimes, badminton also leaves you alone against the storm. Especially when you are playing a singles tournament, it will be you against your opponent and the results will be a matter of who plays best. The environment is, in general, very controlled, and the umpires do not have such a big impact as they can have in other sports such as soccer or basketball. Therefore, you will always have to face the reality of a game lost and learn to take responsibility for it. That can help you grow as a person and take responsibility for things also in other parts of your life.

Badminton strokes

There is a lot of different ways to hit a shuttle, but in this section, we will just cover the most basic strokes there are in badminton. Basically, all the different shots in badminton can be divided into four different strokes. These are four different zones where you hit the shuttle, as seen in the image below.

Badminton_Basic_Strokes
The four basic strokes of badminton by The Badminton Guide

The first division is horizontal. We take as a reference the chest because it is roughly the height where the net is and, therefore, the height where shots change from being more defensive to being more attacking.

The second division is vertical and easier to understand. On one side is where you will hit the shuttle with a forehand grip/stroke and the other side is where you will hit the shuttle with a backhand grip/stroke. The following video from KC Badminton explains the forehand/backhand differentiation much better than I could by writing it.

Badminton grips

A badminton grip is the way you hold your racket when hitting the shuttle. When beginning to play badminton, you should only worry about two types of grip, which are the main ones used. These are the forehand grip and the backhand grip.

The forehand grip is used with the forehand strokes and the backhand grip is used with backhand strokes. If you want to know a bit more about badminton grips, have a look at our badminton grip post, where we explain, between other things, how to hold your racket in each grip.

Badminton footwork

Footwork in badminton means how you move around the court in order to reach the position of the shuttle. Beginners just run around in order to speed the process up, but that is a mistake. The best thing you can do for your footwork is to start working on the principles early so you do not catch any bad habits. We have created a very extensive footwork guide where we explain all you need to know in order to move around the court correctly. Below you can find the main principles summarized.

Basepoint – Where all starts

The base point is what we could also call the anchor of our game. Is the position in the court we will always come back to after every single shot, while we wait for the opponent to hit the shot back. This is roughly in the center of the area of the court you are covering.

Body position – Key to a good balance

Another important part of footwork is to keep a good body balance so that you can hit the shuttle in a consistent way and you can also recover to the base point as fast as possible.

This is a complex skill that requires loads of practice, but it is important to have its importance in mind in order to be able to work towards your goal. The three keys to a good balance as far as body position is concerned are the following:

  • Keep your center of gravity low
  • Use your non-racket arm to balance your movements
  • Keep your trunk always straight

Focus on the technique and not on the speed

The last principle you need to learn is that, while improving your footwork, it is critical that you focus on making it correctly and not on making it fast. If you focus on going fast, you will start using shortcuts that help at the moment they are being practiced, but that will become a burden further down the line.

Swift Badminton has what I think is the best resource online explaining easily and clearly the basic movements of footwork

Badminton shots

After learning the principles for moving around the court, we are going to list here all the badminton shots that exist. If you want to know more about them, you can check our badminton shots post, where we explain them in more detail.

Shots from the back of the court

Clear

A shot is called a clear when you send the shuttle from the back of your court to the back of your opponent’s court. 

Drop shot

A shot is called a drop shot when you send the shuttle from the back of your court to the front of your opponent’s court (near the net).

Smash

A shot is called a smash when you send the shuttle from the back of your court to the center of your opponent’s court, with a fully descending trajectory. 

Jump smash

A shot is called a jump smash when a smash as discussed in the previous section is performed while jumping.

Shots from the center of the court

Service

A shot is called a service when you hit the first shot of a rally. It is the only shot that you have to make every single point (as long as you are the one serving).

Drive

A shot is called a drive when you hit the shuttle from the middle of the court and you direct it to the middle of your opponent’s court.

Defense shot

A shot is called a defense shot when you hit the shuttle from the center of your court and you send it to the back of your opponent’s court with an upward direction.

Shots from the front of the court

Net shot

A shot is called a net shot whenever you hit the shuttle from the front of your court and you send it to the front of your opponent’s court.

Net lift shot

A shot is called a net lift shot when you hit the shuttle from the front of your court to the back of your opponent’s court with an upward direction.

Net kill shot

A shot is called a net kill shot when you hit the shuttle from the front of your court and you hit it in a downwards direction.

Net brush shot

A shot is called a net brush shot when you hit the shuttle from the front of your court with a motion similar to the one of a windshield wiper. This shot is also sometimes called net kill swipe shot or net swipe shot.

Badminton strategies

Badminton strategies become important when you start playing matches, even recreational ones. For a full set of strategies you can use in order to increase your chances of winning, check out our badminton tactics post. Below we have listed the most relevant for a beginner.

Extraordinary tennis for the ordinary player – A great book that can also be applied to badminton

Simon Ramo, a scientist and statistician, wrote a fascinating book that is not very well know. The book is called Extraordinary tennis for the ordinary player. It explores the idea of how amateur tennis players would improve their chances of winning if they tried to avoid mistakes instead of trying to score points.

If you want to understand a bit more the logic behind this but don’t want to buy the book, you can also check this article which explains the concept in a bit more detail.

Even though the concept is not as powerful for badminton as it is for tennis, the same principle still applies. When playing at an amateur level, playing to avoid mistakes is a great general tactic that can increase your chances of winning the game.

Targetting the backhand on the end of the court, a very effective tactic

A very simple and effective tactic for singles is to target with your shots the backhand shot in the back of the court. Why is that? Because it is usually the shot that most people struggle with, especially at beginner’s level.

A tutorial about how to improve your backhand, where the fact that the backhand is the weakest shot of most people is mentioned.

By targetting that area of the court often, you will be able to gain the lead of the point easily.

This tactic is very dependent on the skill of your opponent, as you are exploiting a weakness from the other player more than your own strength.

Before you use this tactic, make sure that your own backhand shots are better than average, as this tactic can backfire easily if your opponent catches it and decides to use it against you also.

Target your attacks to the weakest opponent, especially when you smash from the center of the court

A good tactic to use in doubles is targetting your attacks to the weakest opponent, or at least the one with the weakest defense skills. By focusing your attacks towards the weakest player, you will increase your chances of winning the match.

A word of caution, though. Parallel smashes are always preferred to diagonal ones, as diagonal smashes make a parallel defense (to the side of the court you are not located) easier and more dangerous. Therefore, if you would have to smash diagonally in order to reach the weak opponent, think about it twice.

Last words

And with this, we have arrived at the end of this badminton introduction post. In it, we have started with a brief history of the sport, the basic equipment you need in order to play, where you can play and the basic rules to play a badminton match. We have continued with the benefits of playing badminton, the types of strokes you can find and the types of grip you can use. To end up, we have explained the badminton footwork, or how to move through the court, all the badminton shots and a few badminton strategies you can use to increase your chances of winning.

Is there anything you would like to know more about? Then let us know in the comments below!

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