One thing that every sport has in common is a set of rules for the game. Without rules and regulations, there would be chaos. It would be difficult, for example, to determine the winner and whether they won the match fairly or not.
The sport of Badminton is no exception. Its rules are governed by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), established in 1934. So if you think Badminton is simply about hitting the shuttlecock over the net with as much power as you can muster, then think again. There are some strict rules to be followed, from serving to where you’re allowed to send the shuttle.
Let’s take a closer look at the rules and regulations of Badminton for both singles and doubles play.
- Badminton Court: There are strict dimensions laid down for the layout of a Badminton court. It must be 13.41m (44ft) long and 5.18m (17ft) wide for singles, with the width extending to 6.1m (20ft) for doubles. The net must be 1.55m (5ft 1in) high at the ends and 1.52m high (5ft) where it dips in the middle.
- Shuttlecock: Made up of 16 feathers, the “birdie”, or “shuttle”, must be between 62-70mm long and weigh between 4.74 and 5.5 grams. The tip of the feathers must create a circle with a diameter from 58-62mm, with the cork/rubber base 25-28mm in diameter and rounded at the bottom.
- Shuttle Speed: Yes, there is even a rule for the speed that the shuttle can reach as well. The shuttlecock’s speed is tested and must land not less than 530mm and not more than 990 mm behind the opposite boundary line.
- Scoring: Scoring is similar for both singles and doubles players. It’s a best of three games contest, with each player/duo having to score a minimum of 21 points to win a game. If the scores are level at 20-20, however, a player/pair needs to win by 2 clear points to claim the game, e.g. 22-20, 27-25 etc. If the sides are still level at 29-29, then in order to prevent the match going on too long, the one to win the 30th point wins the game. Therefore, the minimum number of points required to win a match is 21 in each of two games, provided there is a clear margin of two points over your opponent.
- Toss: Wondering why a toss? The game usually starts with a toss. Winning the toss, however, does not mean that you have to serve. It gives you the option to serve or to receive, OR to choose which end to start from. If you decide who is serving, your opponent can choose ends. If you choose ends, your opponent can choose who is serving.In the old rules, where you could only score when you served, it was usually beneficial to choose to serve, but with “Rally Points” scoring, where the receiver can score points, it is no longer necessarily an advantage.
In official matches, an umpire will toss a coin. In most other matches the shuttle is hit up in the air and the toss is won by who the cork points toward.
- Serving: There is even a rule governing how a serve can be delivered, which is underarm or below the server’s waist. An overarm serve is strictly prohibited. This means that the serve must be hit in an upward direction, unlike a tennis serve.The main rule here is that when you hit the shuttle, it must be below your waist. To be exact, the rules define this to be at a height level with the lowest part of your ribcage.The shaft and head of the server’s racket must also point downwards when it makes contact with the shuttle, and it must initially hit the shuttle on its base.There are many other rules to the serve, for example, the feet must be on the ground, only one forward motion with the racket etc.
Rules for Singles
- Choosing the side: Whether you get the right or left side depends on the toss initially. For the server, however, it’s important to get the favourable side. A game starts at 0-0 and the odd and even rule prevails to determine the side of the court to serve from. If the server’s points score is an even number, they will serve from the right hand side. Conversely, if they have an odd number of points, the serve must be made from the left side of the court. After the game has started, the server is the one who wins the rally.
- Faults: Every fault you make in a game will result in your opponent getting the point as well as the serve. The most common fault is dropping the shot, or failing to return the shuttle to your opponent. If your shot travels from underneath the net, that’s also a fault. Touching the shuttle with your body or clothing is also a no-no.
Rules for Doubles
- Choosing the side: In doubles, the rule of thumb is that a game always starts from the right side. After that, the order of the serve depends on the same odd-even rule as in singles. The score of the server, whether odd or even decides the direction, i.e left or right from where the serve will be made.
- Serving: A serve in doubles must be directed within the white lines of the service box diagonally opposite, such that the shuttle falls inside it. Unlike singles, this includes the “tram lines” at the side, but not at the back, of the court. After the receiver returns the serve, the player can hit the shuttle anywhere within the entire court area. See the diagram below for a more precise illustration of the service box in both singles and doubles.
- Switching sides: In the doubles game, the duo can switch sides at the end of the first game and the second game. If a third game has to be played, team members can switch during the game if the first player/team scores a total of 11 points.
- Faults: If the shuttlecock lands outside the white boundary, then the point is given to the opponent. Only one of the two players in a team can attempt to retrieve the shuttle. If the other player touches the shuttle, even accidentally, it’s considered a fault. Also to be noted is that only the receiver can return the shuttle directed at them.
Variations in Badminton Rules
While the rules in Badminton are generally standard according to the BWF’s rules, some variations are allowed according to ability level.
For example, the BWF rules say the receiver can score points, but in some universities, only the server can earn the points. Other variations, often used in schools, include a shortened game of 15 or 11 points. In some tournaments there are also restrictions on t-shirt logos.
What we have covered in this article are the fundamentals. Of course, there are much more detailed rules and regulations governing game play, court construction and equipment, as well as the professional side of the sport.