What is the Game of Badminton?

Mary Elizabeth

Like the game of tennis, the game of badminton is a racket sport played by players who stand on opposite sides of a net strung across a rectangular court. Another similarity is the number of players: two competitors in singles, and four in doubles. In both sports, singles play on a narrower court than doubles, and doubles may share the court side by side or front and back. Most other aspects of the sport are different.

Woman exercising
Woman exercising

An official badminton court is smaller than a tennis court. While a tennis court is 27 feet (8.23 m) wide for singles and 36 feet (10.97 m) wide for doubles, and 78 feet (23.77 m) long, a badminton court is only 44 feet (13.4 m) long and 17 feet (5.18 m) wide for singles and 20 feet (6.1 m) wide for doubles. So, while a tennis singles player covers 2106 square feet (195.6 sq m), a singles player in badminton covers only 748 square feet (69.4 sq m), about a third of the area. Badminton is also played casually in backyards and on beaches, for example.

While tennis players bounce a ball over a net that skims the ground, badminton players work to keep a shuttlecock aloft, batting it over a net that is 5 feet 1 in (1.55 meters) at the edges and 5 feet (1.524 meters) high in the middle. The shuttlecock, or birdie, made of a base with a circular ring of feathers, is so light that wind can have a great effect on it, so most competitions are held indoors.

In the game of badminton, most points are scored as the result of a rally, a series of hits of the shuttlecock over the net. A game is won with 21 points, and a matches are composed of three games. Players score a point for the rally if they hit the shuttlecock over the net legally in such a way that it is not legally returned. A point is scored in a rally if the shuttlecock:

• hits the floor within the court boundaries before a player reaches it,
• is struck under or into the net, rather than over it,
• is sent out of bounds, by the opponent,
• is struck more than once before passing over the net,
• is slung rather than hit
• hits the ceiling

There are also some particular service faults that lead to the opponents scoring a point. These include serving the shuttlecock from a point higher than the server’s waist, a racket that is not angled downward at the time of service, an initial strike on the feathers rather than the base of the shuttlecock, failure to serve into the service area of the opponent’s court, etc.

Badminton has been an Olympic sport since 1992, after being a demonstration sport in 1972 and 1988. It is played in five events: men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles, in which each team is made up of one man and one woman. Several other international tournaments are also held.

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Discussion Comments


I played competitive badminton in college, and I can tell you it's much harder than it looks. The strategy is different than other racket sports like tennis. A side to side rally in badminton is not that challenging, but playing up and back is the key. Getting your opponent out of position and then smashing the birdie in the opposite direction is always a good strategy.

I remember playing a really good opponent who was devastating with what we call a hairpin shot. The idea is to wait for a return that's close to the net and then gently tap the birdie so it just barely clears the net and drops to the floor. Even if your opponent can return the shot, he'll be so far out of position that any shot will be a winner. I loved playing the game at that level, but you have to have the reflexes of a cat to get into the major competitions.

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