Badminton history spans more than a century and a half and is filled with royal intrigue and athletic prowess.
While it has primarily evolved into a fun backyard sport played by virtually everyone, learning some of its varied histories can be valuable if you want to better your overall badminton game. The history of badminton is fascinating, diverse, and detailed.
About the Game of Badminton – A General Overview
Badminton is played when opposing players use a racket to hit a small cone-shaped “birdie” back and forth across a net and within a given space. The small “ball” is also called a shuttlecock, which players hit back and forth over a net while never letting it hit the ground.
Players can start a game of badminton with one player on each side of the net (a singles game) or with two people on each side (a doubles game). Players hit a shuttlecock back and forth across the net to score points until it hits the ground.
A player must gain twenty-one points and have a 2-point advantage to win the game.
Historical Context of Today’s Game Play
Observing the historical development of badminton can offer context for how the game is currently played. Originating in civilizations in Asia and Europe, the base premise of badminton has been around since ancient times.
The game became more popularized when people in India began playing a related game called “Poona” in the 1800s. Ultimately, British troops brought the game to England, and it was popularized as a recreational party game in the UK. Since it evolved around the world, badminton origins could be considered international.
Badminton rules were slowly made official, and in 1934 the International Badminton Federation was formed and comprised nine members: Canada, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. More than 150 other countries have since joined the federation.
Badminton rose in popularity to such an extent that in 1992, it was added as an official Olympic sport. Before that, badminton was introduced In Seoul as an exhibition sport during the 1988 Games. Now, Olympic badminton includes five events: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Mixed doubles occur when two-person teams are made up of one woman and one man.
The History Of Badminton
Badminton game information has changed over time since the game began. As we now know it, badminton was purely a lawn game that used specialized equipment like a lightweight racket and a shuttlecock. Sometimes the shuttlecock is called a “bird” or “birdie.”
Historically, game players made the shuttlecock from goose feathers, and they still are, but now, shuttlecocks are often made with synthetic materials. Both are readily available everywhere badminton equipment is sold.
The modern name, “badminton,” was derived from a Duke’s country estate, Beaufort in Gloucestershire, England. Many people say that the Duke was the one who invented badminton. It isn’t so, but at least he is credited for the name of the game. You can read more about Badminton Estate to see what they have to say.
I recently reached out to the National Badminton Museum and got this response from the secretary and trustee of the museum:
Thank you for contacting the National Badminton Museum.
I have been researching the history of badminton for the past 16 years and I am part of the World Badminton Federation Heritage Group. Now that much of our research can be completed online looking at old newspapers, magazines and books in England and India, we have discovered much more about the history of the game. At this moment we are actively working with universities in this country to produce some independent academic research on the subject.
I appreciate there are so many different versions of the history of badminton in various books and online, particularly on Wikipedia, it is difficult for someone to know which is correct.
We have discovered dated documentation that the game was being played in England in 1863 or just before and called Badminton, it appears it developed from the older game of battledore and shuttlecock. (Please see the article: – ‘Badminton in 1863’ on the NBM website) also, we have discovered the game called Poona in India was in fact Ball Badminton. (Please see article: – ‘Early Ball Badminton and Shuttle Badminton in India’ on the NBM website). For more information on the game of battledore and shuttlecock, it might be worth reading ‘The Game of Battledore and Shuttlecock’ on the NBM website.
Kind regardsGeoff Hinton
Historic Literature On Badminton
Around this period, in London, one toy store published a pamphlet called “Badminton Battledore – A New Game.” While no copies have survived, it is safe to assume that this book described the game’s first rules and the equipment necessary to play.
Who Really Invented Badminton?
There are too many stories to tell. But one conclusion is that the game was invented in India in a version called Poona. British army officers stationed in India in the 1860s played the game. They then brought it home to the United Kingdom in 1870. As I learned from my research, it seems that Poona was actually ball badminton.
Badminton may indeed have ancient origins. Cultures that played versions of the game include Greece, China, and India.
By 1873 the Duke of Beaufort introduced the game at his country palace, which was called Badminton House, Badminton Place, or Badminton Estate. It was then called “the game of badminton”, which eventually became the official name of the sport.
At that time the game was being played worldwide and was also called battledore, shuttlecock, and Poona. But, it wasn’t until guests played it at the Badminton Country Estate that a name was attached to it that stuck.
About forty years after those British soldiers played the game in India, the first unofficial all-England badminton championships commenced.
The Badminton Association of England launched in Portsmouth and promptly initiated the first badminton competition—the All England Open Badminton Championships. The Badminton World Federation is the current governing body of organized badminton.
Due to its rising popularity and global appeal, the Badminton World Federation was formed in 1934. The first official world championships were held in the late 1970s.
The Basics of Scoring in Badminton
Today, a badminton match consists of three games; you must be the first to score twenty-one points to win a game. If you are tied at twenty each, then the winner must win by two points. If the score goes to 29-29, the next score wins the game.
A point is scored each time the shuttlecock is served, and it eventually hits the ground. Regardless of who serves, the faulting player forfeits a point. A point can be scored by either side regardless of who serves.
Some breaks are allowed between points and games. At the 11 point mark, players can take a one-minute break, and between each game, a two-minute rest interval is permitted.
In a singles game, a one-on-one competition, the person serving starts on the right side of the court.
Serving alternates between players depending on who wins the rally. The receiver becomes the server after winning a rally. A doubles game is similar, except two players make up a team, and the boundaries are farther apart.
Officially, games are played indoors because, in outdoor settings, the lightweight birdie can be blown around by the wind. Still, makeshift badminton courts are set up in backyards everywhere, and because of the game’s simplicity, all kinds of people at every skill level have a ton of fun with minimal equipment. Badminton is now a common backyard sport just like the game of horseshoes or the horseshoe-related game of Corn Hole.
Equipment Used in Today’s Badminton
Specific sporting equipment is needed to play badminton. The necessary pieces of equipment for badminton are the racket, net, and shuttlecock, but selecting the best options and understanding what equipment is on the market is essential for avid players.
- Badminton Racket
Badminton rackets are built from various materials which impact the racket’s weight and balance. String tension can be increased or decreased depending on a player’s preference.
Some popular badminton racket brands are Yonex, ProKennex, and Wilson, which players can purchase at local sporting goods stores or online retailers.
Shuttlecocks are either constructed of plastic or feathers. Since synthetic plastic shuttlecocks are more durable, the plastic version is recommended for beginners.
Feathered shuttlecocks are expensive and fray quickly, making them not ideal for training purposes. Most professional tournaments use feathered shuttlecocks during competition play.
- Badminton Net
Most importantly, to play a game of badminton, players must have a net that is either set up in a spacious yard or beach or access to a court with a net readily available. It is impossible to play correctly without a badminton net.
Obviously, you need a place to play. Indoor courts are required for professional play, but a backyard setup provides all you need for family fun.
A good pair of shoes that provide traction and grip is best. Players need to efficiently move around the court to return a shot. Shoes should be lightweight and offer a cushion to absorb impact.
No special attire is required to play badminton, but you need to move about the court, jump, and quickly return the shuttlecock to the opposing side of play. Some players wear wrist or knee supports for comfort or out of necessity.
The sport has specific terminology that players regularly use during play. Below are some of the most common badminton terms related to the sport.
- Backhand: a kind of stroke where the player uses the non-dominant side of their body to hit the shuttlecock. (As a right-handed player hitting from the left side of the body)
- Badminton: a game played with two to four players where a shuttlecock is hit over a net with a racket.
- Block: a shot that drops steeply from a blocked shot around the net, played with a swift flick of the wrist.
- Clear Shot: a shot hit deep behind the opponent’s back, usually a defensive shot.
- Court: the playing area where players stand and points are scored. (To see some illustrations I made of a badminton court and its parts, you can check out my post on the rules and scoring in badminton).
- Cross Net: an illegal move where a player cannot place the racket over the net to hit the shuttlecock unless it has crossed over to their side of the court.
- Doubles: a badminton match between four players; two players on each side of the net who work as a team.
- Drive shot: A quick, low shot that soars horizontally over the net.
- Drop Shot: a softly hit shot that falls rapidly and close to the net on the opponent’s side.
- Flick Serve: a quick wrist and forearm rotation that surprises an opponent by changing a soft shot into a faster passing one.
- Forehand: a kind of stroke where the player uses the dominant side of their body to hit the shuttlecock. (As a right-handed player hitting from the right side of the body)
- Grip: a hand position on the racket, which varies with different types of strokes.
- Kill Shot: a quick, downward shot that cannot be returned; a “putaway.”
- Lift Shot: a version of a clear shot produced by an underhand stroke.
- Lob: a shot where the shuttlecock soars high into the air during a rally.
- Mixed doubles: a badminton match for four people where teams are composed of opposite genders.
- Net Shot: a shot that barely clears the net and drops sharply.
- Overhead Clear Shot: a clear shot that is taken from an overhead position.
- Racket: a metal or wooden, long handled paddle, with taut strings to hit the shuttlecock.
- Shuttlecock: (shuttle, bird or birdie) a small ball with feathers that make a cone that players hit across the net. The cone can also be made from synthetic material.
- Singles: a badminton match between two players; one plays on each side of the net.
- Smash: a hard-hit overhead shot that drives the shuttlecock pointedly downward. A smash is badminton’s primary attacking stroke.
- String: a component of the racket used to hit the shuttlecock.
- Stroke: a strategic way to hit the shuttlecock using the racket.
- Tumbling Net Shot: a shot that causes the shuttlecock to touch the top of the net and falls on the opponent’s side of the court.
- Underhand Serve: a serve taken with an upward arm and wrist motion
Oh, yes, it is possible to make a living as a professional badminton player! Today, the annual salary for the very best badminton players is about $100,000. To become a professional player, a person must understand the game, practice intently, and have the right equipment.
Equipment endorsements can increase a pro player’s income dramatically. Although, endorsement deals are typically reserved for the top few best players.
A player who aspires to be a professional first learns all the terms of the sport as they develop the physical prowess for successful play.
Training as early as possible is obviously a must. Some experts believe that by the age of ten, a player should already be on the path towards becoming a pro.
Being physically fit is an absolute must. While it is still considered a niche sport, badminton is taken very seriously by its devotees.
Professional Badminton Players
While only a few make it to the top, Badminton has a lot of professional players. Players must be nimble and agile and have mastered many skills and all components of the game. Here are just a few of the best pros that play on the world stage:
- Lee Chong is a Malaysian badminton player who ranked first worldwide from August 2008 to June 2012. He won three silver medals in the Olympics for Malaysia. He uses a Yonex Duora10 racket to play the game.
- Chen Long is a Chinese player who is internationally ranked. In 2016, Long defeated Lee Chong for an Olympic gold medal. Additionally, Long is a two-time world and All England Champion.
- Lin Dan is from China and is considered the most excellent singles player ever and is renowned for his incredible smash shots.
- Jan O. Jorgensen is from Denmark and won the 2014 European championship. Interestingly, when he was younger, he also played cricket.
- Carolina Marin is a Spanish player who won the Women’s Single World Championship in 2014 and 2015. She won an Olympic gold medal. Notably, she is a left-handed player.
- Tai Tzu-Ying is from Taiwan, and when she was sixteen years old, she won the Taiwanese Ranking Competition. She won five Super Series titles in 2016 and 2017. Her secret to success is her spontaneous playing style.
The Difference Between Badminton and Tennis
Many people who do not often play badminton might confuse the game with the sport of tennis. Both use rackets to hit a small object across a net and can be played in singles or doubles tournaments.
However, the main distinction between badminton and tennis is that badminton does not allow the shuttlecock to bounce. In contrast, tennis rules allow a single bounce before returning the ball to the opposing player.
Additionally, the gameplay is very different between the two sports, but many of the rules for scoring points are similar.
Both tennis and badminton are exciting games that require high levels of athleticism from players, but the two sports are distinct.