Many people associate this sport with backyard barbecues and beach picnics, but don’t let its casual reputation fool you. This is the fastest racket sport in the world.

Number of Players

2 or 4 (singles or doubles)

Playing Field

The regulation court size is 17’x44’ for singles, and 20’x44’ for doubles. The court is divided into two halves by a net which stands 5’ high at the center (and no more than 5’1” at the sides). The two halves of the court are also each divided into two separate serving courts, which are further defined by two serving lines (one located 2’ in from the rear edge of the court, the other located 6’6” in front of the net). Equipment: 1 racket per player, and 1 birdie. The birdie is also known as a “shuttlecock” and is a small conical shaped projectile consisting of 16 feathers glued to a semi-circle shaped cork (cheaper birdies for recreational players are made out of nylon or plastic).


There is a coin flip at the start of the match, with the winner deciding whether to serve or receive, as well as which side of the court they will play on. Players align themselves on the court with the server behind the serving line, and the receiver located in the serving court on the diagonal to the server (the serve usually goes from right court to right court for starters). In doubles matches, the other two players may stand anywhere that does not impede the serve.


The server hits the shuttlecock to the opposite side of the net using an underhanded swing of the racket (this is the only time the players swing is restricted to underhand). The players then alternately volley the shuttlecock back and forth across the net (this is called a “rally”). A player (or team) loses a rally if the shuttlecock hits the floor on their side, or they hit the shuttlecock into the net, or out of bounds (a birdie landing directly on the line is considered in-bounds), or if the shuttlecock hits them or their clothing. If the serving side wins the rally, they score 1 point and continue to serve (this time from the opposite serving court). If the receiving side wins a rally, there are no points scored, but the serve passes to the receivers. Players switch sides of the net whenever a game ends (if playing a match), or if the leading score reaches 8 points (or 6 points in an 11 point game).


Be the first player (or team) to reach a predetermined score. In official play, men and women are divided into separate divisions. Men play to 15, and women play to 11. In the event that a game becomes tied at 14-14 (or 11-11), whichever player (or team) reached 14 (or 11) first has the option of either ending the game on the next point scored, or playing to a score 2 points higher than normal (13, or 17). Large tournament games are usually played to 21.

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