How is Badminton Played?

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If you’ve been familiar with badminton for any time now, one of two things will be true of you. Either you know how to play the game, or you think whacking the shuttlecock around pretty much sums up the game. Yes, hitting the shuttlecock is key, but there’s more to badminton than that!

Badminton is a racket sport played against one opponent, in the case of singles games. In a doubles game, a player and a partner will be playing against another pair. Players play in a court measuring 13.4 meters in length and 6.1 meters wide. Players need to strike a shuttlecock into the opponent’s end of the court using rackets in an attempt to cause their opponent to miss or fail to return the shuttlecock. In badminton, players need to have rackets. As well, the shuttlecock is a fundamental piece of equipment. For this reason, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has regulations that cover rackets and shuttlecocks.

Badminton is a game with many rules in many areas. In this post, we’ll be covering how the game is played. Drop your racket and read on to learn the ins and outs of playing badminton!

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What Equipment Do You Need to Play Badminton?

In badminton, there are two important pieces of equipment.

A badminton racket is a pivotal piece of equipment for any badminton player. Besides the racket, the shuttlecock is crucial to the game — so much so that there are rules about its testing (3.1), replacement, and who can replace it. Due to the importance of the shuttlecock, the BWF also has rules about its weight and dimensions.

Let’s get in-depth into these pivotal pieces of equipment. We’ll begin with the shuttlecock.

The Badminton Shuttlecock

The shuttlecock is arguably the most pivotal piece of equipment in the game. Traditionally, it was a cork or wood-based projectile with duck or goose feathers making up its “tail.” As time passed, the game has adopted the use of synthetic materials like rubber and plastic mostly used for casual games.

The game’s progress is determined by the flight of the shuttlecock. Because of this, the BWF has rules for the shuttlecock’s dimensions whether the shuttlecock is feathered or plastic. The weight is also a crucial consideration.

In detail, the BWF identifies two parts of the shuttlecock — the base and the tail. The base is the cork, wooden, or rubber tip, and it holds most of the shuttlecock’s weight. The tail is the part that emanates from the base. It consists of either 16 goose feathers or a continuous sheet of plastic.

According to the BWF, the shuttlecock needs to weigh 4.74 to 5.50 grams. It should also measure between 62 to 70 mm. The dimensions are set in these ranges because these have been shown to optimize flight and trajectory during play. Since the flight is crucial to the game, the BWF tests shuttlecocks that are to be used for tournament play.

Parts of the Birdie
Parts of the Birdie

The Badminton Racket

Each player must have a racket. Badminton rackets have come a long way from their dense wooden construction. In fact, it’s the piece of badminton equipment that has undergone the most evolution through the years.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article on the history of the game and how the battledore became the racket we know today.

The racket has come a long way from being made of stiff wood. Even the shape of the head has changed. Today, materials like carbon, graphite, and aluminum have made their way into the assembly lines of Yonex and other badminton racket manufacturers.

Image with text-Materials Used for a Badminton Racket
The BADMINTON RACKET FRAME can be made from graphite, carbon or aluminum.

Like the badminton shuttlecock, the racket’s dimensions are also governed by the standards of the BWF. According to the BWF, the racket should be no more than 680 mm from end to end — meaning from the tip of the head to the end of the handle.

The head — or the stringed portion of the racket — cannot be more than 220 mm wide and 330 mm long. This prevents one player from using a racket that’s got a larger stringed area.

Players can’t deviate from the rules for rackets. Probably the only part of the racket players have any free rein over is the choice of taping or grip they’ll use at the handle.

What Environment Do You Need to Play Badminton?

Badminton isn’t the sport it is without the environment in which it is played.

An indoor environment with ample space is the kind of space you need for a good badminton game. The indoor space also needs enough room surrounding the court, especially for tournament games. Last but surely not least, there must also be enough space overhead.

The badminton court itself must follow the standard measurements set by the BWF. According to the BWF, a badminton court needs to be 13.4 meters long and 6.1 meters wide. Diagonally, the court is 14.72 meters. If you do the math, this gives you a total playing area of roughly 81.75 square meters. If you’d like the dimensions in feet without breaking out your calculator, here they are.

Badminton Court Parts and Dimensions
Badminton Court Parts and Dimensions

The immediate space surrounding the court won’t count as part of the legal playing area. Instead, these will be for the technical officials like the umpire, service judge, and line judges. The space beyond this will be for the audience.

I mentioned something about space overhead. The overhead space, or ceiling height, needs to be high enough to accommodate a shuttlecock’s flight arc. Based on the BWF’s requirements, the minimum ceiling height is 12 meters or 39 feet. Of course, you’ll see some higher ceiling heights since courts can differ in their architecture.

Played with Rackets and Shuttlecocks Across a Net

Badminton is a racket sport. However, it differs from squash and racquetball because there’s a net. As well, it’s different from tennis because it isn’t played with a ball.

Badminton is played with rackets and a shuttlecock. Two players or pairs strike the shuttlecock across the court in an attempt to cause the opponent(s) to miss. Missing, in a badminton sense, means failing to return the shuttlecock. In between players is a net. Any contact with the net by either the racket or the player’s clothing or body will result in a fault (13.3 and 13.4, respectively).

We’ve gone over the rules and dimensions governing the rackets and the badminton shuttlecock. This time around, we’ll let the net take center stage because it’s just as pivotal to the game.

The Role of the Net

Badminton players can move within a legal area during play. Besides lines, the net is an essential demarcation of where players can operate. According to the BWF, the net is suspended by a cord that’s held tight by two posts on opposite sides of the court.

A fault is called when a players goes under the net to invade the opponent’s side of the court causing obstruction or distraction. Going over the net may also lead to a fault with exceptions like when the racket goes over the net to return a stroke during a rally.

The net is also the basis for whether or not a service or stroke is legal. Any contact of the shuttlecock with the net — except one where the shuttlecock ends up crossing over to the opponent’s side of the court — counts as a fault.

The Dimensions of the Net

Based on the BWF’s court equipment guidelines, the net needs to be .76 meters deep and 6.1 meters wide. Also, the net needs to be suspended in a way that the top is about 1.52 meters above the ground for singles games. For doubles games, the height needs to be 1.55 meters.

Badminton Net
Badminton Net

Badminton is Played with Rally Scoring

Another area where the game has evolved is in the scoring system. Currently, badminton has a rally scoring system — which is good news given how the past scoring system was!

The rally scoring system allows players to score points regardless of who served. Under this scoring system, players earn a point for each time they cause their opponents to miss. Missing will cease play, awarding a point to the last player who made the stroke. Players need to win two out of three games or sets. Sets are won by establishing a two-point lead and scoring 21 points.

Scoring System
Scoring System

It wasn’t always like this though. Back in the early days of badminton, receivers were at a disadvantage when it came to scoring. Why? Back then, badminton followed a sideout scoring system. Under the sideout scoring system, only servers can score points. Servers score points by causing their opponents to miss.

Should the receiver cause the server to fail at returning the shuttlecock, the receiver gains no point. In this scenario, the receiver becomes the server and must cause the opponent to miss the shuttlecock. Then — and only then — can a point be awarded.

The sideout scoring system endured for a long time until 2006, when the BWF introduced the rally scoring system — the sport’s current scoring system.

What are the Basic Rules of Badminton?

The BWF’s Laws of Badminton codify the rules that govern not just equipment but also how games need to proceed. Needless to say, the rules are comprehensive, requiring a significant investment of time to master. Luckily, here’s an article detailing the rules that are relevant to players.

Here are the rules in a nutshell. Badminton games need to begin with a coin toss to determine who will serve. Following this, the game begins following a legal service. The service starts what’s known as the rally. When play ceases due to a player’s failure to return the shuttlecock, the last player to make the stroke gains a point. The way to win a set or game is to establish a two-point lead and score 21 points. To win a badminton match, a player needs to win two out of three sets or games.

Let’s go into these basic rules in detail:

The Coin Toss

The coin toss determines who will serve. The winner of the toss decides whether they would like to be the server or receiver. Following the decision, the player who lost the toss can select which side of the court they would like to play on.

A toss is not always done with a coin for casual games. For such, tossing a shuttlecock is fine.

Coin Toss
Coin Toss


During service, players occupy opposite ends of the court. They must also stand diagonally opposite each other and not stand on a line.

Before and during a service stroke, the shuttlecock must be lower than 1.15 meters from the ground. At the moment of service, the racket can make contact only with the base of the shuttlecock. The shuttlecock must fly over the net to the opposite court, not going beyond the back boundary line.

A server cannot retry a service if they miss the shuttlecock. This is a service fault.

Badminton Service Height
The shuttlecock should not be higher than 1.15m from the floor during service

Scoring, Format, and Change of Ends

The service initiates the rally. During a rally, a player scores a point for every time the opponent misses the shuttlecock. The goal for one set is to win 21 points and establish a two-point lead. The umpire declares a winner after a player has won two out of three sets.

In between sets, the umpire will call for a change of ends. Here, the players will have a 60-second interval to occupy what used to be the opponent’s court.



Faults refer to any violation of the BWF’s Laws of Badminton during play. There are many faults in the badminton rulebook, but in a nutshell, these faults are:

  • Illegal serves (service fault)
  • Touching the net
  • Distracting the opponent before service
  • Invading the opponent’s court
  • Causing any delays
  • Striking the shuttlecock towards obstacles like the ceiling, walls, or the posts
  • Striking the shuttlecock repeatedly before it crosses over the net


Lets are temporary pauses to the game. These pauses are the result of anything that disrupts the natural flow of play. Some examples of situations that warrant a let call are:

  • Server serves before the receiver is ready
  • The shuttlecock disintegrates in the middle of the game
  • A line judge is unsighted and the umpire is unable to make a decision
  • Injuries
  • in the opinion of the umpire, play is disrupted or a player of the opposing side is distracted by a coach
  • The shuttlecock getting stuck in the net

Fast, Furious, and Fair

These are the words used not just to describe badminton but also how it’s played. Badminton is the fastest sport in the world due to everything that goes into ensuring an exciting fast-paced game — and we’ve got the BWF and the Laws of Badminton to thank for this!

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Here’s some guides and reviews on badminton products. We update this list whenever we add new equipment content – hope you enjoy!

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