Badminton Rules & Equipment

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  • 0:04 Battledore and Shuttlecock
  • 0:40 Badminton Equipment
  • 1:46 Rules of the Game
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

The game of badminton requires only a few pieces of equipment, and the rules are fairly simple, which may be why people have been playing it for 2000 years and an ideal choice for all ages.

Battledore and Shuttlecock

The game of badminton is thought to be approximately 2000 years old. Early versions were played in China, Greece, and India. It strongly resembles a game called Battledore and Shuttlecock, which was played by the British upper class in the 17th century.

Ladies playing Battledore and Shuttlecock.
Ladies playing Battledore and Shuttlecock

This early version of the game did not use a net, and the goal of the game was to keep the shuttlecock in the air for as long as possible. British officers posted in India likely brought the modern game home with them in the 19th century. The first game of note was played at the country estate of the Duke of Beaufort, which was named Badminton House.

Badminton Equipment

To play badminton, players will need a net, a shuttlecock, and at least two rackets. The net crosses the center of the badminton court. It needs to be 5 feet 1 inch high at both ends and 5 feet high in the center. The posts must be at the farthest sidelines, 20 feet apart, for both singles and doubles play.

Rackets may be made of lots of materials, but modern badminton rackets are usually made of a carbon fiber composite. A square head is traditional, but many use an oval head shape now. The length must be no more than 680 millimeters and width must be no more than 230 mm. The head must be no more than 280 mm in length and 220 mm in width.

A modern badminton racket with two plastic shuttlecocks.
Racket and shuttlecocks

The shuttlecock (also called a shuttle or a birdie) has a round base, usually made of cork, covered in a thin layer of leather or other material. Stuck into the base are sixteen feathers in a traditional shuttle. Most modern shuttles use plastic ''feathers'' instead because they are less expensive and sturdier.

Rules of the Game

Two or four people can play the game - two for singles and four for doubles. The players use their rackets to rally the shuttle, or pass the shuttle from side to side over the net. If Team A fails to return a rally, that is a point for Team B.

The game is played to 21 points. If the score is tied at 20 points, teams play until one side leads by two points (i.e., 21-23). If the score is tied at 29 points, whoever makes the next point wins. A team wins the match when they win two out of three games.

The court is a 44-foot-long rectangle with a net at the midpoint. It should be 20 feet wide for doubles and 17 feet wide for singles. In practice, courts tend to be 20 feet wide with an inner line marking the sideline for singles. On each half of the court there is a left and right service court, a short service line, and a back service line.

A badminton court showing the dimensions, service courts and service lines.
A badminton court


Let's talk about the rules for serving. In both singles and doubles, the racket needs to hit the shuttle when the shuttle is lower than the server's waist with the head of the racket pointing down. The serve needs to go past the opponent's short service line to count.

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