There are some sports that seem quite alike each other, and squash and badminton definitely share this quality. The movements around the court are similar; the attire and footwear of the players is almost the same; the equipment, although slightly different, is pretty similar looking too. So, then, what are the differences between squash and badminton?
The most important difference between the two sports is whereas squash is played with a rubber ball, badminton is played with a shuttlecock. This impacts the movement of the sports, the types of techniques required in hitting, and the makeup of the court.
There are multiple other differences between the two sports, that I will now go into. There are fundamental differences between technique, equipment and rules, that make the two sports uniquely true only to themselves.
Change Of Grip V No Change
To start with a technical issue, a squash player will use one grip for all shots. Squash players never alter their hand position on the handle, and play everything with the same one-size-fits-all grip.
This is not the case with badminton. There is a subtle change between the forehand and the backhand grips. This is the case with many racket sports, tennis notably having a significantly different grip for the backhand and the forehand.
Ball Vs Shuttlecock
This is the major difference between the two sports, and the thing that define many of the other discrepancies between the two.
Squash is played with a hollow rubber ball. It is not very bouncy, but rather absorbs speed on impact, ‘squashing’ into the surface.
A shuttlecock is a high-drag object, that slows down significantly through its flight.
You will see different types used on the badminton circuit. There are two types: ‘plastic’s and ‘feathers’.
A shuttle with real feathers is used more in competition, and are judged greatly superior by squash players. They are made from cork with goose or duck feathers stuck into them.
Plastics are quite simply made from plastic. They last longer, but have a different flight through the air, starting slower, but finishing their flight faster than feathers.
The shuttlecock means that badminton is more of an aerial game, with many shots being hit above the head.
Wrist Flick Vs Cocked Wrist
The wrist is crucial in both squash and badminton, but the use of the wrist is quite different in both sports.
In squash, a ‘cocked wrist’ is the prevalent technique. This means the wrist remains firm and static through the shot. This is to help with accuracy, and pushing the ball towards the target zone on the wall.
In badminton, the wrist is used more in a flicking motion. This is to provide surprise and disguise to shots, as well as to generate power.
Jumping V Lunging
Badminton is very much a sport of repeated jumping. The net is high in badminton, and so good quality jumps can aim to hit the shuttle down more steeply over the net, making it more likely to land in the court.
Squash is much more a sport of lunging. Players will be moving repeatedly from side-to-side, keeping low, and lunging into their shots to generate good accuracy from a low hitting point.
Enclosed Court Vs Open
The types of courts involved in the two sports is another obvious difference between them.
Squash is played on an enclosed court, with walls and a ceiling.
Badminton is played on an open court. The walls and ceiling never come into play (as long as facilities are not abnormally low or thin in width.)
Players share the space on a squash court, whereas in badminton they have their own space on either side of the net.
The court dimensions are not a millions miles away from each other, but do differ.
A badminton court is 20 feet wide, whereas a squash court is 21 feet wide.
A badminton court is 44 feet long, so 22 feet long on either side of the net. A squash court is 32 feet long.
There is no height issue in badminton as long as the ceiling is reasonably high to allow for lobs. Squash courts, on the other hand, are 15 feet high.
Because of the difference in flight (and bounce) of a squash ball and a shuttle, there are very different techniques involved in the different shots.
One big difference is the striking zone.
In squash, the striking zone is generally quite low to the ground. The classic forehand and backhand drives are played at about knee height or below, with the body in a lunged forward position to maintain balance and stay low to the ground.
In badminton the striking zone varies significantly from shot to shot. There are many shots played in a smash style above the head. This is a very unusual shot in squash.
In squash the only shots played with a high contact point are normally volleys, where the ball is taken early to secure some kind of advantage.
Different Serves – Rules
In badminton the shuttle must be struck below the lowest rib of your ribcage. It must be with an underarm action, and overhand tennis-style shots are not allowed.
In squash you can serve the ball using any style of shot that you like, as long as one of your feet is in the service box, and the ball hits the front wall first, above the central line on the wall, and below the top line.
Different Serves – Technique
In both sports, there are four main serves, but each of these four differs from sport to sport.
In squash the main four serves are the lob serve, the smash, the body serve, and the backhand serve.
In amateur play, probably the lob serve is the most used, and often the most effective, especially in the hands of a master. The ball is aimed towards the back corner, where it will die close to back wall.
The smash serve is seen a lot in amateur play, but not so much in the pro game. This is a power serve, aiming to force a weak return by rushing your opponent for time.
The body serve is more of a surprise serve, aimed directly at the body. The backhand serve is harder to play, but is seen a lot in the pro game. From the right side of the court, you play a backhand. This narrows the angle, making the ball tighter to the sidewall. This is the staple serve of many players, such as Nick Matthew for example.
Here is one of my youtube videos where I demonstrate the four main serves:
In badminton, the situation is different. The four main serves are the low serve, the high serve, the flick and the drive.
The low serve is like a drop shot, the high serve like a lob.
The flick serve is a disguised serve. You set up in the same way as you would for a low serve, and then flick through the ball generating extra speed, power and height.
The drive is quite simply a power serve hit low.
Here is a brilliant youtube video showing the serves used by badminton ace Kevin Sanjaya:
Rackets – Dimensions
The main difference between the two rackets for the different sports is the weight of each.
Badminton rackets should not exceed 100g, with most being between about 83g and 100g.
Squash rackets are generally a little heavier, most weighing somewhere in the region of 110g to 150g.
Some beginners rackets are heavier, mainly because the frame is made from cheaper materials. Beginners rackets will often be around the 180g mark.
A badminton racket must not exceed 68cm in length. Most are in the 65cm-67cm bracket.
A squash racket is actually pretty similar, with the max being 68.5cm.
Rackets – Shape
There are two main shapes of badminton racket – oval and isometric. The beginner rackets are often oval, with rackets for a higher standard of player being isometric. The isometric ones are meant to give better performance and a larger sweet spot.
In squash the main choice is between an oval racket or a tear-drop shaped one. Almost all professional used the tear-drop, and it gives a much larger sweet-spot.
Countries Where Popular
The countries most keen on the two different sports are completely different.
The biggest following of badminton are from China, Indonesia, South Korea and Denmark. There are a huge number of fans of badminton across South-East Asia, making it one of the top ten sports in terms of participation on the planet.
Squash, on the other hand, is popular mostly in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Egypt, Germany, France, and South Africa.
There are currently the biggest number of professional players in the sport from UK and Egypt, with Egyptians being the current world superpower.
Both have developed from different locations in England.
Squash grew out of a sport called Racquets that was played at Harrow School, an independent school on the outskirts of Greater London. Racquets was played with a much bouncier ball and wooden rackets. They found that if they deflated the rubber ball by puncturing it, then this created the squashing effect when the ball hits the wall, which slowed down its speed and bounce. This increased the amount of agility and skill that was required in the sport.
There is evidence that badminton has been played for hundreds of years in different forms, and there is a similar game that took place in India. It takes its name from the Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire when it was played there in the 1870s.
There are some subtle differences between how points are scored in the two games.
In badminton, the winner of a game is the first to 21. Points are scored on every rally, whether you are serving or receiving. The match is out of 3 games. If you win 2 games you have won the match.
On the other hand the standard scoring in squash is that it is played over 5 games. The winner is the first to 3.
There is some difference in the points scoring systems used. However, the standard method is that the winner of the game is the first to 11, usually winning by two clear points. You can win a point on any rally, whether serving or not.
However, in the English version of the game you play to 9, and you can only win points when you serve. This can lead to lots of epic comebacks.
This is quite a minor issue. To decide who serves first in a match, there are two different procedures.
In badminton one player throws the shuttle into the air, and the other calls which way it will land, e.g. left or right. The winner of the toss will serve.
In squash it is normal to spin one player’s racket, and the other will call. Before the spin, the players will decide on a part of the racket to distinguish who has won the toss. An example is a letter on the top of the handle being either up or down.
Single V Doubles
Although squash doubles does exist, squash singles is by far the dominant version of the sport. This probably because the players are using one space, and so adding extra players makes the situation much more complicated and potentially dangerous.
Doubles is much more common in badminton, and for many this is the only way they ever play the game. This can make it a much more social experience.
Olympic Sport V Non-Olympic Sport
This is a massive bone of contention in the squash world. Squash is still not an Olympic sport despite numerous failed bids to become one.
However, badminton is, and has enjoyed the greater exposure and global popularity that this has brought.
The squash authorities have not given up, however, and continue to bid for inclusion in future Olympics.
The playing surfaces of the two sports differ.
Badminton can be played on many different surfaces. The most common are compacted rubber, wood, or asphalt. The shuttle doesn’t bounce in badminton, so the surface is only important in that it gives the correct amount of grip to those playing on it.
In squash, the normal flooring is wood slats. These play an important role in both producing the bounce of the ball, and a surface that can be lunged and sprinted over.
Indoors V Outdoors
Squash is pretty much played indoors, at least the majority of the time. There are some outdoor courts, but these are quite rare.
In most countries squash is a winter sport, and so is played during the coldest time of the year. The cold outdoor temperature would make it very difficult for the ball to bounce at all.
Badminton, also, is more of an indoor sport, but is played outdoors in many countries throughout the world. In a more informal context, badminton is regularly seen on beaches and in parks outdoors through the globe.
Squash and badminton share many similarities, but there are multiple differences as well. Most noticeably using a ball or a shuttlecock provides many technical divisions between the two sports. The shuttle provides lots of jumping and high hitting, with the racket above the head. Squash is more about a low impact, often with racket making contact with the ball near the floor. The beauty of both sports, however, is that they are great social games, relatively safe to play, and are excellent for health and fitness.