The Rules of Badminton

by | Mar 15, 2020 | General Guides | 0 comments

If you are new to badminton or are not sure how it is played, then you have come to the right place. I will explain to you the aims of the game, the scoring system, the differences between singles and doubles and what is in and what is out. I will also include a section in which I will explain the more complicated rules in order to clear up any uncertainties you still have.

The Aims of the Game

The aim of badminton is to hit a shuttlecock with a racket from your side of the court over a net, landing inside your opponent’s side of the court.

Your opponent wins a point if the shuttlecock hits your body and vice versa. You are not allowed to hit the shuttlecock twice when you are returning the shuttle.

You also can give your opponent a point if the shuttle  lands outside their side of the court when you hit it, or if you hit it into the net.

The Scoring System

Badminton games officially are played up to 21 points. You score a point when you win a rally. Whoever wins the rally then serves. You serve diagonally across the court to your opponent.

To know which side you serve from is simple. If you are on even number – including when you start on zero, which is sometimes referred to as ‘love’ – you serve from your right-hand side and if you are serving on an odd number then you serve from your left-hand side.

The winner is the first person to reach 21 points, with a margin of at least two points. The game can go on beyond 21 points and ends when there is the two point margin, for example 25 – 23, but if no one is two points ahead by the time one player has scored 29 points, the winner is the player who reaches 30 points first.

Here is a table to make it easier to understand:  

Right Hand Side Left Hand Side
0 (Love)1
20 21
28 29
30 (No serve)N.A

Different Disciplines in Badminton

  • Men’s singles (two players).
  • Women’s singles (two players).
  • Men’s doubles (four players).
  • Women’s doubles (four players).
  • Mixed doubles (four players with two teams each comprising one man and one woman).

What is In and What is Out?  


During the Rally

As there are only two players involved in a singles match more areas on the court are out. The side tramlines are out from the net up to the rear corners. 

Example: the areas shaded in are out during a singles rally.

When a Player Serves

As I mentioned earlier, the server has to serve diagonally from their box into their opponent’s box. The area in front of the first line of the box is out on the serve. Again, the side tramlines are out but the rear back tramlines in line with the box are in.

Example: in singles if the player was serving from right to left. The shaded in areas are out.


During the Rally

Everywhere is in as long as the shuttlecock is hit into the boundaries of the court.

When a Player Serves

The area in front of the first line of the box is out on the serve. The side tramlines are in up to the boundary of the rear tramlines. The rear tramlines are out. 

Example: in doubles if a player was serving from right to left. The areas shaded in are out.

Rules of the Serve

The player serving must stay in their side of the court and the player receiving the serve must be ready to receive on the opposite side and cannot stand to receive in front of the first service line.

The server must serve with an underarm action and must serve below the height of 1.15 metres. This rule was recently introduced; some local leagues instead state you cannot serve above your ‘lowest rib’. If the server is found to have served too high then the opponent is awarded a point.

The Serve in Doubles

In doubles, players cannot serve ‘out of turn’ or be on the wrong side of the court to receive the serve. On one side of the net players serve in turn and on the other side of the net the players receive the serve in turn.

For example, imagine a game in which the score is 15-15. Player A receives the serve on the left-hand side and in the rally he and his partner lose the point. The score is now 16-15 to the opposing pair. The opposing pair would then serve as they have won the point and serve on the right to Player B. If Player A moved to the right and received the serve, he would be receiving serve and committing a service court error.

In another scenario the score is 15-15. This time Player A is serving on the left-hand side but he and his partner lose the point in the resulting rally. The score is now 16-15 to the opposing pair, who then serve from the right side of the court. Player A and his partner win the point. The score is now 16-16. If Player A served from the right he would be serving out of turn as it is Player B’s turn to serve.

If the rally is played and it is only realised afterwards that a service court error has occurred, no let shall be given if the side at fault lost the point. If the side which committed a service court error won the point from the rally, a let shall be given. A let is where play is stopped and the point is replayed.

A let can also be given if the server serves before the receiver is ready or the receiver moves before the server strikes the shuttle.


A fault is where one player commits an error and the opponent is awarded a point. The following are circumstances where a fault can be given:

  • Where the shuttlecock lands outside the boundaries of the court or lands outside the service area from the serve.
  • If the shuttlecock strikes the player before hitting the court floor.
  • If the shuttle passes through a hole or gap in the net.
  • If the shuttle is struck twice on the same side of the court.  
  • If the net is struck by a racket or the player.
  • If the shuttlecock hits the court floor before being struck.
  • If a player invades the opponent’s side of the court. 
  • If the shuttlecock is not hit but hooked/slung over the net. 
  • If the shuttlecock hits the venue’s walls, ceiling etc.
  • A player cannot place their racket over the net into their opponent’s side of the court to hit the shuttlecock.

Changing of Ends

Badminton is typically played to a best of three games to 21 points. Players change ends after the first and second game. If the match goes to three games then the players change ends at 11 points in the third and final game.   


I hope this gives you a clear idea of how a badminton match is played and the rules that operate. Do not worry if you do not pick up the rules straight away, because it is from playing games that you will gradually learn the rules. Have fun and keep playing!


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