The BWF (Badminton World Federation) first spoke publicly about AirBadminton back in 2016. Details were sparse and not much was said about the new proposed outdoor format for Badminton until the full press release on 13th May 2019.
So what is AirBadminton? AirBadminton is the BWF’s official format for outdoor Badminton. AirBadminton is designed to be played on either grass, hard or sand surfaces making it suitable for parks, playgrounds and beaches around the world. It features the new AirShuttle which is specially designed to be more wind-resistant than a traditional shuttlecock.
AirBadminton introduces a lot of new additions and some changes to traditional Badminton. Introducing the all-new AirShuttle and Triples format and modified Badminton rules for service, scoring and court dimensions. Read on where we’ll cover everything we know so far about AirBadminton.
As we mentioned earlier, AirBadminton is the new official outdoor format for the sport of Badminton. It was developed by the BWF (Badminton World Federation) who are the global organisation that oversees Badminton. AirBadminton can be played on grass, sand or hardcourt unlike Badminton and features a new AirShuttle designed to weather the elements. There are other changes from the regular Badminton format such as the court size and rules, we’ll get to those later in this article.
First announced to be in development in 2016 shortly before the 2016 Rio Olympics the new format didn’t have any name to go by. Not much was said about the new format until the silence was broken for the full reveal on May 2019.
The reveal of AirBadminton was accompanied by a promotional event in Guangzhou, China featuring the 1996 Men’s Singles Olympic champion and now current BWF president Poul-Erik Høyer and his opponent from the same Olympic final, Dong Jiong.
AirBadminton was developed to provide a better experience of playing Badminton outdoors by addressing some key issues found when playing Badminton outside such as:
- The shuttlecock being affected by wind
- Possible injuries from playing on unsuitable ground
- Visibility of the shuttlecock in sunlight
AirBadminton solves a lot of these problems by changing some of the dynamics of Badminton in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. We have an article that covers the problems with playing Badminton outdoors and how to get around some of them.
If you know how to play Badminton then you know a lot of what you already need to know for playing AirBadminton. There are three formats to play which are:
- Singles (1 vs 1)
- Doubles (2 vs 2)
- Triples (3 vs 3)
Singles and doubles are standard formats from traditional Badminton, triples is a new and we’ll come back to that later. The aim of the game is to beat your opponents in the best of five games. One game is nine points. You swap sides after each game unless it’s the fifth game and then you switch again one final time after the first player hits five points.
It’s rally scoring which means you can score when you’re serving and when the opponent is serving. You follow the normal service rules from Badminton and if you win the point you get to serve next or carry on serving if you already were. If the score reaches 8-8 in a game, then the next player to have a two-point lead is the winner. If it gets to 11-11 then the next person to score and reach 12 points is the winner.
The rules for scoring are the same in AirBadminton and traditional Badminton it’s just the number of points and games are different. There are other differences in rules though. Most of the changes are because of the new court layout. These changes include:
- No more centre line. This means the players can serve anywhere into the opponent’s court that is considered “in”.
- The dead zone. There is a 2-meter zone marked out at the front of the court if the AirShuttle lands in this zone it’s considered a fault.
- The service line. There is a marker at the sideline to indicate where the service must be struck behind.
If you look at the diagram below you can see the differences between an AirBadminton and a normal Badminton court.
After these changes, the rules are pretty much the same as regular Badminton. If you want to brush up on the rules of Badminton we have an article covering the basics and also more obscure rules, be sure to check them out.
Singles and doubles rules are unaffected by the new outdoor format, bar the new rules for service and the court dimension changes. Triples is a new format where three players can play on each side. The only difference in the rules? The same player cannot return the AirShuttle twice in a row. That’s quite a big change in dynamics for the sport.
Table Tennis has the same rule for doubles, the same player cannot return the ball twice in a row. I think it’s a great addition as a rule. Doubles players try to play with rotation in Badminton to either help their partner out when they’re in trouble or to keep the attack and build the pressure, these are just two examples of using rotation.
This rule means players will need to form strategies and understanding amongst them to be able to play. It eliminates the often seen combination of a “frontcourt player” and “rear court player” in doubles. A player that is strong at hitting from the rear court and another player that is strong at reading and anticipating interceptions at the front of the court.
If you can’t hit the shuttle twice then you can’t just stay at the back and keep hitting smashes. In the opposite situation, you can’t just keep defending shot after shot because after the second shot you’ve already lost the point. It will be interesting to see how players will adapt to the new format in this aspect.
As we’ve already mentioned, AirBadminton has a different court setup compared to traditional Badminton. AirBadminton can also be set up on three different surfaces which are grass, sand and hard court. Here is a list of equipment you’ll need to set up on a hard court such as asphalt or concrete:
- A set of boundary lines (ones that can stick to the floor)
- Two lines of 16m
- Four shorter lines of 6m
- Four small cones
- A net system
For playing on grass and sand you’ll need some extra pieces of equipment which are:
- A set of boundary lines that are weather-resistant (these differ from the hardcourt boundary lines in colour and material)
- Two lines of 16m
- Four shorter lines of 6m
- A small hammer
- Four sand anchors for sand court
- Anchor spikes
- Four for a sand court
- Eight for a grass court
That is all the equipment you’ll need to set up an AirBadminton court. Now let’s look at how to set it up.
The two longest, 16m boundary lines should be laid out first. Use the ones appropriate for the court surface. The sticky ones for hard court and the resistant ones for grass and sand. Lay them out as straight and parallel as you can with no slack on bunching. Lay them out with roughly six meters parallel to each other, we can adjust this in the next step.
Take two of the shorter 6m boundary lines and lay them out so that they connect to one end of each of the parallel sidelines at the baseline. You might need to adjust the spacing of the sidelines as they may be too close or too far apart.
For grass and sand courts there will be a peg hole where you can join up and overlap the side and baseline. For sand courts use one sand anchor to tie the ends together and bury the sand anchor into the sand to keep the lines taught. For grass courts use one metal anchor spike to join the lines together and use a hammer to strike the spike into the grass. With both make sure the lines are taught to avoid players tripping on them.
In AirBadminton there is a “dead zone” which is a two-meter area in front of each side of the net. If the shuttlecock lands in this zone it is a fault and a point to the opposing player/team.
There will be marking at two-meters on the sideline boundaries that indicates where you need to place another shorter 6m boundary line. On both sand and grass courts, you’ll need to join this new line with the sideline using a metal anchor spike for both sides to keep it in place. On hard courts, the lines will simply stick together.
The new net system is very easy to set up and use. You just join all the parts of the net system together and stand the net up in the middle of the court. The new net system is designed to keep its tension without having to be tied to the posts.
It’s worth noting that on sand the height of the net is lower, being 1.45m tall at the centre and 1.5m at the sidelines. On grass and hard surfaces, this height is 1.52m at the centre and 1.55m at the sidelines.
On each sideline, there is a marker on the boundary. This marking is to show the 3m mark where players need to stand behind when serving. To make these placements easier to see and judge you need to simply place a cone on each sideline around the court.
Singles has a narrower court set up to the full AirBadminton court setup. You only need to make one change to set up the court for singles. All you need to do is to move the sidelines in 50cm on each side. The boundary lines will have markings or a peg hole to indicate where these are.
The BWF released a full video on how to set up an AirBadminton court and you can see that below. The video is very clear and details everything in full as well.
The BWF is currently working with Badminton equipment brands around the world to finalise the manufacturing process for the AirShuttle and the court equipment used for AirBadminton.
There’s currently nowhere in-store or online to get the court equipment you need to play AirBadminton properly. However, the AirShuttle is available from AirShuttle.One online right now. They’re the first store in the world to stock the new AirShuttle, head on over to grab some.
BWF have run some small events in Finland, China and France to let people try out the new format. You can see in these videos below how the court equipment is different from traditional Badminton. The nets are longer and need to be set up on sand, grass or hardcourt. You also need the court marking equipment to set up a court. Because it’s a new form of Badminton there isn’t any sports facility anywhere that will have court equipment or court markings for AirBadminton.
Once the wider rollout of AirBadminton commences you can expect to be able to buy full kits from your usual in-store or online retailers for Badminton equipment.
The AirShuttle has been an entire project in itself for AirBadminton. Five years worth of research, developing and testing prototypes in collaboration with the Institute for Sports Research (ISR) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The BWF wanted to create a shuttlecock that could be used in an outdoor environment.
The BWF set some initial criteria for developing the AirShuttle which are:
- The shuttlecocks must be durable and cost-effective to manufacture
- The shuttlecocks must have similar flight and feel compared to an indoor shuttlecock
- They must be minimally impacted by humidity levels in the environment
- The effects of side and axial wind conditions should be minimal
The research took them through over 30 different designs that were each rigorously tested in independent studies. After finding the right design they were further tested with groups of players from all playing levels. Every level from beginners to elite/Olympic level athletes.
If you look at the design of the AirShuttle in the photo found above you can see it’s quite different to a traditional shuttlecock. The first thing to notice is that it is entirely synthetic. Unlike the traditional shuttlecock made from natural materials such as cork, leather, goose feather etc. They’re made using an injection mould process which means they should be very durable.
The other thing to notice is the colour. I imagine they’ll come in a variety of colours but the hot pink colour is definitely a design choice as it should be easier to see outside. There are small dimples in the head of the shuttlecock. I’m not sure what purpose these serve but it might be to do with wind resistance.
You can also see that the feather/skirt is a lot shorter, definitely to offset the effects of wind blowing it from side to side. Notice there are only five “feathers” compared to a traditional feather shuttlecock which has 16. They’re curved as well possibly to help the shuttlecock spin more as plastic nylon shuttlecocks suffer from this problem.
Fancy playing outside? Whilst the court equipment is still in production the wolrds first online store is now seeling the AirShuttle. Check out AirShuttle.One to get your hands on some AirShuttles to play with.
The sport of AirBadminton has only had a few promotional events to spread the word about this new format for Badminton. These events have been organised with the BWF and other national Badminton governing bodies which means there isn’t anywhere to play AirBadminton right now. There isn’t anywhere to buy all the equipment because full retail production hasn’t been finalised yet.
It’s unclear how long it will be before more people will get the chance to play AirBadminton but make sure to stay in touch with you national or local Badminton governing body to hear any news about events. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before more promotional events appear and people around the world can give AirBadminton a try.
What is AirBadminton and Triples? AirBadminton is the new outdoor format for Badminton developed by the BWF. Triples is the new playing format for AirBadminton where there are three players on each side. The biggest difference between Triples and Doubles is that the same person cannot hit it twice in a row.
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Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player/coach and creator of BadmintonsBest.
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