Badminton is a racquet sport played using racquets to hit a shuttlecock across a net. Although it may be played with larger teams, the most common forms of the game are "singles" (with one player per side) and "doubles" (with two players per side). Badminton is often played as a casual outdoor activity in a yard or on a beach; formal games are played on a rectangular indoor court. Points are scored by striking the shuttlecock with the racquet and landing it within the opposing side's half of the court.
Each side may only strike the shuttlecock once before it passes over the net. Play ends once the shuttlecock has struck the floor or if a fault has been called by the umpire, service judge, or (in their absence) the opposing side.
The shuttlecock is a feathered or (in informal matches) plastic projectile which flies differently from the balls used in many other sports. In particular, the feathers create much higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly. Shuttlecocks also have a high top speed compared to the balls in other racquet sports. The flight of the shuttlecock gives the sport its distinctive nature.
The game developed in British India from the earlier game of battledore and shuttlecock. European play came to be dominated by Denmark but the game has become very popular in Asia, with recent competitions dominated by China. Since 1992, badminton has been a Summer Olympic sport with four events: men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, and women's doubles, with mixed doubles added four years later. At high levels of play, the sport demands excellent fitness: players require aerobic stamina, agility, strength, speed, and precision. It is also a technical sport, requiring good motor coordination and the development of sophisticated racquet movements.
The game may have originally developed among expatriate officers in British India, where it was very popular by the 1870s. Ball badminton, a form of the game played with a wool ball instead of a shuttlecock, was being played in Thanjavur as early as the 1850s and was at first played interchangeably with badminton by the British, the woollen ball being preferred in windy or wet weather.
Early on, the game was also known as Poona or Poonah after the garrison town of Poona, where it was particularly popular and where the first rules for the game were drawn up in 1873. By 1875, officers returning home had started a badminton club in Folkestone. Initially, the sport was played with sides ranging from 1 to 4 players, but it was quickly established that games between two or four competitors worked the best. The shuttlecocks were coated with India rubber and, in outdoor play, sometimes weighted with lead. Although the depth of the net was of no consequence, it was preferred that it should reach the ground.
The sport was played under the Pune rules until 1887, when J. H. E. Hart of the Bath Badminton Club drew up revised regulations. In 1890, Hart and Bagnel Wild again revised the rules. The Badminton Association of England (BAE) published these rules in 1893 and officially launched the sport at a house called "Dunbar"[c] in Portsmouth on 13 September. The BAE started the first badminton competition, the All England Open Badminton Championships for gentlemen's doubles, ladies' doubles, and mixed doubles, in 1899. Singles competitions were added in 1900 and an England–Ireland championship match appeared in 1904.
England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand were the founding members of the International Badminton Federation in 1934, now known as the Badminton World Federation. India joined as an affiliate in 1936. The BWF now governs international badminton. Although initiated in England, competitive men's badminton has traditionally been dominated in Europe by Denmark. Worldwide, Asian nations have become dominant in international competition. China, Denmark, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Taiwan (playing as 'Chinese Taipei') and Japan are the nations which have consistently produced world-class players in the past few decades, with China being the greatest force in men's and women's competition recently.
The court is rectangular and divided into halves by a net. Courts are usually marked for both singles and doubles play, although badminton rules permit a court to be marked for singles only. The doubles court is wider than the singles court, but both are of the same length. The exception, which often causes confusion to newer players, is that the doubles court has a shorter serve-length dimension.
The full width of the court is 6.1 metres (20 feet), and in singles this width is reduced to 5.18 metres (17.0 feet). The full length of the court is 13.4 metres (44 feet). The service courts are marked by a centre line dividing the width of the court, by a short service line at a distance of 1.98 metres (6 feet 6 inches) from the net, and by the outer side and back boundaries. In doubles, the service court is also marked by a long service line, which is 0.76 metres (2 feet 6 inches) from the back boundary.
The net is 1.55 metres (5 feet 1 inch) high at the edges and 1.524 metres (5.00 feet) high in the centre. The net posts are placed over the doubles sidelines, even when singles is played.
The minimum height for the ceiling above the court is not mentioned in the Laws of Badminton. Nonetheless, a badminton court will not be suitable if the ceiling is likely to be hit on a high serve.