It's in the Cards
A birdie is the shuttlecock in Badminton: a lightweight, cone-shaped plastic object with a rounded, often rubber-tipped nose.
I played Badminton for years before ever knowing a single rule. My mother bought us the racquets and the birdies (or “shuttlecocks”), and the net. We hooked up the net in the backyard and played for hours. We were mostly just hitting the birdie back and forth—so proud that we could actually get enough power behind a swing to get the birdie back over the net. It wasn't until I took lessons that I actually learned the rules of the game. At least I knew how to hit the birdie at that point. That's half the battle.
The racquets are lightweight and have a small, round, netted surface that you use to hit the birdie. The handle is long and thin and has a rubber, padded grip. The birdie has a rubber tip and lightweight body. The weight is in the rubber tip, which propels the birdie back and forth. The body is usually made of serrated plastic designed to look like feathers. The holes in the plastic allow air to pass through, which slows the birdie down a bit, and make its movement slightly unpredictable. You have to learn to use the racquet in just the right way to make the birdie go where you want it to go.
Doubles means that you have two people on a team and singles means you have one person per team.
The badminton court is divided into two rectangular sections—one on either side of the net—with several lines drawn to indicate where play takes place. When you look at a diagram of the court, it looks like a box within a box. The back line of the outer box indicates where play must take place. You cannot hit the birdie outside that back line. The inner box shows you where the service line is. You must stand behind the service line to serve the birdie. The service lines are about 151/2 feet from the back court lines, and the net is located 22 feet from the back court lines. The net should stand about five feet off the ground. If you buy a badminton set and you are playing in your backyard, you will have to set the posts that hold the net into the ground. The net should be pulled taught enough so that it doesn't sag in the middle.
You can play with either doubles or singles.
To pick the team that goes first, you should toss a coin.
The birdie must be served from behind the service line. The person to serve first should be standing in the box on the right, facing the net. To serve, hold the birdie by its “feathers” in one hand with the rubber tip facing downward. Hold the racquet underneath the tip of the birdie. Let go of the birdie and hit it with your racquet.
This will take several rounds of practice until you get it right. You will watch that birdie hit the deck repeatedly until you finally manage to strike it, let alone strike it over the net. The trick is to keep your eye on the birdie—not on the racquet.
The rules are not unlike tennis or Ping-Pong. The team that serves is the team that scores. You keep hitting the birdie back and forth over the net until a person on the opposite team misses. If it lands within the boundary lines, you score points. If you miss the birdie on your serve, the other team gets to serve and score. You can play to 15 or 21 points.
In a game of 15 points, if the score is 13 to 13 (or 13-all), the side that reached 13 first has the option to “set” the game. This means that you decide to play the game for five more points. If the game is set at 15-all, the game can be set to three points. Once the game is “set,” the score is called “love all.” The side that scores three or five first wins the game. You must set the game before the next service is made after 13-all or 14-all has been reached.
One Scoop or Two?
As in Tennis, you can play Badminton as doubles or singles. In doubles, the service must be made from the right court, facing the net, to the player diagonally across—on the other side of the net. If the person returns the birdie without it touching the ground, the birdie is in play, and must be hit back and forth until someone misses. Serves from this point on should be made from alternate service courts and always to diagonal receivers on the other side of the net. No player may make two serves consecutively in the same game. The side that wins the game gets to serve first in the next game.
In singles, the play is pretty much the same as it is in doubles except that the serve is made and received from each player's right-hand court when the score is zero or an even number. All other serves (odd number of points) are delivered and received from the left-hand side of the court.
When You're Out, You're Out!
A play is considered “out” when:
- The birdie falls into the wrong service court.
- The birdie falls short of the service line, beyond the long service line, or outside the boundary lines.
- If the players are not standing in their service or receiving courts.
- If the birdie passes through or under the net or touches a player's clothing.
- If the birdie is hit twice in a row by the same player or by a player on the same team.
The trick is to hit the birdie in such a way that it makes it hard for your opponent to lobby it back. But I have to say, it's also nice to play less aggressively and just lobby the birdie back and forth for a while. However you play or with whomever, you'll really enjoy Badminton on a pleasant summer day.