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Both badminton and pickleball are popular and fast growing racket sports. Each sport has their own unique gameplay, equipment, and strategy. In this post, we’ll look more into the differences between badminton and pickleball and what makes each of them unique.

The differences between badminton and pickleball include the racket and balls, the environment, service rules, and where they are played. Badminton is played indoors with a long, skinny racket and a shuttlecock and uses rally scoring. Pickleball, on the other hand, is played both indoors and outdoors with a short paddle and a wiffle ball and uses sideout scoring, which means you can only score a point if your team served.

Badminton Basics Explained

Badminton is an indoor sport played between 2 to 4 players. It first appeared in the Olympics Games as an exhibition sport in 1972. As badminton became more popular and recognized as a competitive sport, it became an official Olympic sport in the 1992 Olympics Games. Today, badminton is widely played around the world, especially in Denmark, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia.

Before you pick up a racket and play, you need to know some basics of badminton:

  • Badminton is a competitive sport played with up to 2 players on each side of the court.
  • It is fast-paced and requires a lot of wrist action and quick, calculated steps.
  • Players play against each other and attempt to score points by hitting the shuttlecock onto the ground in the opponent’s court or forcing the opponent to make a mistake.

Pickleball Basics Explained

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and is, like badminton, a competitive racket sport where players try to score off one another. Here are some basic of pickleball:

  • Pickleball is played using a wiffle ball instead of a shuttlecock.
  • The gameplay of pickleball is like a hybrid form of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton.
  • The ball is allowed to bounce before you can hit it with the paddle.
CRAZY Badminton Saves Part 1 x
CRAZY Badminton Saves Part 1

Court Size/Dimensions

badminton court is rectangular in shape and is 44 feet (23.4 meters) long and 17 feet (5.2 meters) wide. This court size is intended for singles (one player per courtside). For doubles (two players per courtside), a wider 20 feet (6.2 meters) court size is required.

The net is placed at the center of the court and is 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and up to 5 feet 1 inch at the poles. Because mobility is required to play badminton, it needs a clear space of 4 feet (or 1.3 meters) around the court.

Badminton Court with Dimensions (Metric system and U.S. customary units))
Badminton Court

A pickleball court is also rectangular and is 44 feet (23.4 meters) long and 20 feet (6.2 meters) wide. This is the same size as the doubles badminton court. In addition, the court in a pickleball game includes a “kitchen”. This is a 7-foot long non-volley zone near the net that is colored differently. The kitchen is what makes pickleball unique from other racket sports.

Here are three basic rules for pickleball’s non-volley zone.

  • Players are not allowed to touch or make contact with the kitchen line while volleying the ball.
  • Both feet must also be in contact with the area outside the kitchen before and after volleying.
  • While making a volley, any part of the player’s body, including any accessories or clothing, should not touch the kitchen zone.

These kitchen rules can be confusing for new pickleball players, but you’ll get the hang of it once you start playing.

Pickleball Court
Pickleball court

Equipment

Rackets and balls vary between the two games. Let’s talk about badminton first.

Badminton players use a long and skinny racket with a metal frame, which generally has a slim handle and an oval-shaped head. The racket head has tight strings where the shuttlecock is bounced off of when the player swings.

The shuttlecock, also known as a birdie, is usually made of either plastic, goose, or duck feathers firmly attached to a cork. Shuttlecocks with goose feathers are used almost exclusively during competition as the feathers provide smoother flights when players hit them. But, because players often hit hard, feather shuttlecocks have to be replaced many times during a single match. Plastic shuttlecocks, however, are more durable compared to feathered ones. Because they bounce more and are heavier, they are never used during formal competitions.

New AS-50 Top
Badminton Shuttlecock
Badminton Racket

The different type of shuttlecocks might be a little confusing if you’re new to badminton, so we’ve made a detailed comparison between feathered and plastic shuttlecocks to help you out. Also, if you’re interested in honest reviews and guides on badminton shuttlecocks, check out our Badminton Equipment page.

Now, onto pickleball!

A pickleball paddle looks like a hybrid between a tennis racket and a table tennis racket. It’s smaller than a tennis racket and also doesn’t have any strings. Pickleball rackets were originally made from wood, but this was quickly changed since wood absorbs water easily, making them deteriorate faster. Today’s paddles are made out of lightweight materials such as aluminum, which is why they are now durable and light.

When it comes to pickleball, players use a wiffle ball to play instead of a shuttlecock. It is quite similar to a tennis ball but is made of plastic instead of rubber as well as has holes in them. Pickleballs are uniquely manufactured depending on where the game is played. Outdoor balls are made with a smoother plastic compared to indoor balls. They are also heavier and have smaller drilled holes than the balls used indoors.

Pickleball balls
Pickleball paddles

Service and Service Rules

Service is one of the crucial parts of any racquet sport. It essentially places the ball – or shuttlecock – in play. 

In badminton, the basic service rules are quite easy to understand: serve the shuttlecock while your racket is facing an upward direction and the shuttlecock is below 1.5 meters (3.8 feet) from the ground. Note that the shuttlecock must not get stuck in the net and must not go outside the boundary lines. It is important to make a correct serve so you don’t give the opponent an easy point.

While the basic service rules are easy to understand, there are many more rules to know if you are to play badminton more competitively. I’ve answered the most common questions in Everything You Need to Know About Service Rules in Badminton which almost all beginners ask when they start out.

There are 4 types of serves in badminton. These types of services vary depending on how the players want the rally to be.

  • Low serve: This requires a gentle tap of the shuttle. Low serves are aimed to just get the shuttle over the net.
  • High serve: This is a strong serve that aims to get the shuttle up high and land at the back of the opponent’s court.
  • Flick serve: This also aims to get the shuttle upwards but faster, typically using the back of the hand to swing the racket around the body.
  • Drive serve: A drive serve is a fast and flat offensive serve that is meant to travel to the mid-to-far end of the service receiving area. It’s usually used to win a quick point to an unsuspecting receiver.

In pickleball, serves must be underhand and hit below the waist. Players serve from behind the court and hit diagonally cross court.

There are 3 types of serves in pickleball, each of which can be customized to your own play style.

  • High Soft serve: This type of serve is a high serve deep into your opponent’s court.
  • Power serve: The power serve is a fast and low serve that forces the opponent to react quickly, thus making it easier for them to make a mistake.
  • Soft Angle serve: This type of serve is a softer shot that tries to get the player out of position (out of the court) to make the rest of the court open for attack.

The main difference of service between badminton and pickleball is that badminton players serve within the court whereas pickleball players serve at the edge of the court, much like how tennis players serve.

Scoring and Winning

In badminton, players play a best-of-three game match. Each team has to win at least 21 points for each game while also having a 2-point advantage. If the 2-point advantage is not achieved by either team, then the first to score 30 points wins the game.

Let’s take a look at how to score a point. In badminton, a point is scored if:

  • The shuttlecock lands within the opponent’s side of the court.
  • The player is not successful in volleying the shuttlecock to the opponent’s court.
  • The shuttlecock lands outside the boundaries of the court.
  • The opponent commits a fault.

In pickleball, a point is scored if:

  • You or your partner served. You do not win a point if you win a rally when your opponent serves.
  • The opponent volleys the ball while inside the no-volley zone.
  • The ball bounces twice before a player returns the ball.
  • The ball lands out of bounds.

As long as you continue winning the rallies, you continue to serve. In doubles, both you and your partner both get a chance to serve before the service is passed along to your opponents.

Where the Sport Is Played

Badminton is a sport specifically played indoors for competitive play. The game requires a closed area with a high ceiling and specific lighting conditions. Ideally, the court should be situated away from doors or air conditioning where there is potential for wind since small breezes can significantly affect a shuttlecock’s flight.

Pickleball can be played competitively in both indoors and outdoors. Because of the added weight of the ball, the game is not affected heavily by wind – as long as it’s not too windy. Furthermore, pickleball can also be played on a grass court, but the gameplay would differ from a concrete or asphalt surface. Using the right surface and court really makes a difference to the game.

Disciplines

Both badminton and pickleball has 5 competitive disciplines. They are:

  • Men’s singles
  • Men’s doubles
  • Women’s singles
  • Women’s doubles
  • Mixed doubles

In Conclusion

Most sports that involve a racket and a ball are bound to be compared, so it can often be quite the shock to learn just how different they are. To sum it up, badminton uses shuttlecocks and pickleball uses plastic wiffle balls. Badminton also uses a lightweight racket while pickleball uses a heavier but shorter paddle.

Sports may have similarities in many aspects, but all sports have different rules and equipment. If you’re considering playing a racket sport, you can always try your hand at badminton – there’s plenty of great resources here for you. Whether you prefer badminton or pickleball, though, just remember to always have fun with every game.


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