While you might not have played badminton since fourth grade P.E. or an eons-ago family picnic, these days more than 9 million people in the United States can be found batting a birdie around in their backyards.
The reason for the renaissance is simple: Few backyard sports are easier to learn and cheaper to get into, yet more challenging to master, than badminton.
Richard and Joyce Dentt had played volleyball for years. They even had set up a volleyball court in their Southern California yard. When they became interested in badminton, they lowered the existing net to 5 feet 1 inch, converting their court into a badminton-ready place to play. Richard says that because badminton is an activity anyone can play, their yard is now a social center.
Other homeowners across America are discovering what the Dentts learned. Played as either singles or doubles, badminton attracts people of all ages and abilities. Rules are minimal, and strokes are few.
Price is also fueling badminton's popularity. It can cost between $35 and $70 to purchase a complete set, including the net, posts, four rackets, and a few shuttlecocks (birdies) at discount home stores and sports shops. Professional sports stores sell higher-quality rackets, birdies, and nets separately. If the game turns into a regular event at your house, it may be worth it to invest in longer-lasting equipment.
To get started you will need ample flat lawn space -- a regulation court is 44 x 20 feet (or 17 feet wide for singles) -- preferably in a nonwindy area; a net hung at a height of 5 feet 1 inch (a volleyball net will work, but the holes are larger, and the shuttlecock is prone to pass through), two posts, two to four rackets (depending whether you'll play singles or doubles), and a shuttlecock. The court can be shorter than 44 feet if the yard limits length.
To delineate the lines of the court, homeowners can mow the lawn a contrasting direction or mark lines using flour or a temporary water base lawn spray paint sold at home and garden centers.
Pick up your racket, and grab a partner and two opponents; it's time to hit a birdie back and forth. To begin the game, toss a coin. The winning team can either serve first or pick the side of the court they'd like to play from first. Once the serve and positioning are decided, follow these rules to play the game. (These rules for backyard play apply to doubles or singles. The only difference is a court's size -- a doubles court is 20 feet wide; a singles court is 17 feet wide.)
Serving. A server should always start the game from the right side of the court; the receiver should be positioned diagonally. A server must use an underhand serve, and a receiver must remain still until the shuttlecock is stuck. All players may move after the shuttlecock is served.
Scoring. Only the serving team can score points. Upon a successful serve, the teams hit the shuttlecock back and forth, or rally. If the serving team wins the really, it scores a point and serves again, but from the alternate service court. If the receiving team wins the rally, no point is scored, and the receiving team becomes the serving team. Typically a game is won when 15 points are reached. If the score reaches 14-14, the side first achieving 14 chooses either win at 15 or win by two. The teams witch sides after each game. There are three games to a match; the team that wins two games wins the match.
Losing the rally. There are several ways to fault, or lose a rally. If the serving team's birdie is hit past the boundary line, if a player or a player's clothing touches the birdie, or if the birdie hits or goes under the net, the rally stops. If the receiving team doesn't return the shuttlecock over the net or allows it to fall to the ground, the rally is over. The serving team scores and continues to serve until it loses a rally.