Will Jones explores the 2,000-year-long history of badminton
A long history
Historians believe that badminton originated more than 2,000 years ago. Its roots lie in a game called battledore and shuttlecock, a battledore being an early type of paddle or racquet.
What’s in a name?
Modern-day badminton developed in the 19th century from a game played by British soldiers in the Indian town of Pune. The sport was named ‘poon’ in its honour. After poon was brought to England in the late 1800s by returning army officers, it was renamed in honour of the Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton estate, where it is believed to have been played regularly.
Weighing no more than 5.5 grams, competition shuttlecocks – or, as they’re called in the World Badminton Federation’s (BWF) Laws of Badminton, shuttles – are still often made from natural feathers. Every natural shuttlecock contains 16 feathers, each 62-70 millimetres long and plucked from the left wing of a goose.
Echoing the object they’re designed to hit, badminton racquets are among the lightest in world sport. Most racquets used by professionals tip the scales at less than 100 grams, roughly half the weight of a table tennis racquet.
For more than 100 years, a badminton player only scored points on serve. If the server lost a rally, the serve would simply pass to the opposing player with no change in the score. In 2006, however, the rules changed: now, regardless of server, the player who wins the rally scores a point. The first player to 21 points wins the game, and the first to win two games wins the match.
The shuttlecock is the fastest object in world sport. In 2005, a smash hit by doubles specialist Fu Haifeng in a Sudirman Cup match was measured at 332kmh, or 206mph – as fast as a Formula 1 car.
Best of the best
In 2007, the first edition of the BWF Superseries was held, with a series of elite tournaments around the world. At the climax of the annual competition, the highest-ranked athletes compete in the BWF Superseries Finals, which have been staged in Dubai since 2014.