Badminton Rules

Understanding the basic badminton rules and gameplay will allow you to start playing and enjoying this fun sport.

Badminton is a racquet sport that is played by either two opposing players (singles) or two opposing pairs (doubles). The objective is to hit a shuttlecock (also known as a birdie) over a net and have it land inside the opponent’s court.

It is a fast-paced game that requires agility, speed, power and strategy. Badminton is one of the most popular sports in the world and is played both competitively and recreationally.

Field and Equipment


A badminton court is rectangular in shape and divided into two equal courts by a net. Each court is 13.4 meters long and 6.1 meters wide for singles matches. For doubles matches, the court width is increased to 7.6 meters. On each side of the net is a service court and beyond that is the playing court. The service court extends from one sideline to the center and is separated from the playing court by the service line. The entire court, including the service courts, is usually marked with boundary lines.


The net is suspended across the full width of the court, dividing it into two equal ends. It is made of fine cord or synthetic material and is opaque, so players cannot see through it. The net is 760 millimeters high at the sides and 915 millimeters high at the center. The net posts are placed over the sidelines and may be supported by poles that extend above or below the court surface.


Badminton rackets are light and have an oval or isometric head shape. The strings may be nylon or a synthetic substitute. Rackets are about 26 inches long and weigh between 3 to 5 ounces. Players can choose rackets based on their playing style, skill level and personal preference. The grip is covered with absorbent tape for comfort and sweat absorption.


The shuttlecock (also called a bird or birdie) has an open conical shape base made of lightweight plastic or synthetic material. 16 goose feathers are attached to the base and angled in a clockwise direction upon impact. The feathers create drag, slowing the shuttlecock’s speed. A good quality shuttlecock has consistent flight characteristics and lands slowly.


Specialized badminton shoes provide good traction and support for quick, aggressive movements. The soles allow for smooth lateral motion and prevent injury. Many shoes have a gripped rubber sole or herringbone tread pattern. Badminton shoes are lightweight, with excellent cushioning in the midsole.

Badminton Rules : Gameplay Rules

Badminton games are played to 21 points, with the first player to score 21 points winning the game. If the game is tied at 20-20, then the game continues until one player establishes a 2 point cushion, such as 24-22 or 25-23.

Serving Rules

  • At the start of play, a coin toss determines which player or team can choose to serve first or select a side.
  • The server and receiver stand in diagonally opposite service courts. The server hits the shuttlecock diagonally into the opponent’s service court.
  • Only one fault is allowed per service. The server’s score does not change if the serve is a fault.
  • The server must hit the base of the shuttlecock below waist height. Faults occur if the server misses the shuttlecock, if it lands outside the court or hits the net.
  • After a fault, the server repeats the serve from the same service court. If the server faults again, service goes to the opponent.
  • The server’s score increases by one if the serve is good and the opponent fails to return it into the court.

Returning Rules

  • The shuttlecock must be returned before it hits the floor. It can be hit from anywhere on the player’s side.
  • The shuttlecock must go over the net into the opponent’s court. If it hits the net but still goes over, it remains in play.
  • Doubles partners take turns hitting the shuttlecock before returning it to the opponent’s side. They do not need to alternate every shot.

Court Movement Rules

  • Players are free to move anywhere within their own court to return the shuttlecock.
  • Body contact with an opponent that obstructs play results in the opponent being awarded the point. Crossing below the net over the center line also results in the opponent getting the point.
  • If any part of the shuttlecock touches a boundary line, it is considered in. The lines are always part of the court.

Change of Service and Sides

  • When the first server’s score is even (0, 2, 4, etc), service is delivered from the right service court. When odd (1, 3, 5, etc), it is delivered from the left court.
  • The initial server continues serving until a rally is lost. After that, service passes to the opposing team or player.
  • In singles matches, players switch sides of the net after every game. In doubles, only the initial receiver switches sides after each game. Service courts remain the same.
  • In the final (deciding) game, sides are switched when one player or pair reaches 11 points.

Scoring and Match Procedures

Badminton matches are played to the best of 3 games, with each game played to 21 points. Rally scoring rules are used, meaning a point is awarded on every serve, regardless of which side is serving. Here are key elements of badminton scoring:

  • Games are played to 21 points. The side that scores 21 points first wins the game.
  • If the score becomes tied at 20-20, then the game continues until one side gets a 2 point lead, such as 24-22 or 25-23. There is no score cap.
  • Matches consist of the best of 3 games. Whoever wins 2 games first wins the entire match.
  • A match can have a maximum of 3 games. If each side wins 1 game each, then a deciding 3rd game is played.
  • Points are scored on every serve, regardless of which side is serving. This is known as rally scoring.
  • Only the serving side can score points, except when the opponent makes an error or foul.
  • The side winning a rally adds a point to its score.

Calling the Score

  • The server’s score is always called first when announcing the score. For example, if the server has 7 points and receiver has 5, the score is announced as “7 – 5”.
  • When either side reaches 20 points, the word “game point” is called by the umpire or players. For example, “Game point Smith” or “Game point 20-19”.
  • If a game is tied at 20-20, the umpire or players call “game point all” until one side establishes a 2 point lead to win.

Hand Signals

Hand signals are often used in badminton to communicate with the umpire and opponent. Here are 4 common hand signals:

  • Raising the hand straight up means “wait please” or “not ready”. Used before the opponent serves.
  • Waving the hand side to side means “not up” or “fault”. Used to indicate the shuttlecock landed outside court.
  • Hands crossed over head means “unsighted”. Used when a player cannot see a shuttlecock land in or out.
  • Thumb up means “good serve” or shuttlecock was inbounds. Used after the opponent’s serve.

Advanced Badminton Rules and Strategies

Beyond the basics, badminton has additional rules and nuances that govern gameplay. Familiarity with these advanced rules will improve a player’s strategy.

Setting Up the Rally

  • Choose appropriate grip styles for forehand or backhand strokes when receiving. Neutral grips allow hitting to all areas.
  • Use deep underhand serves and vary placement to limit opponent’s attack options.
  • Return serve low over the net, diagonally into the opponent’s midcourt to start the rally.

Shot Selection

  • Use overhead shots directed steeply downwards to send opponent to backcourt. Then follow up to the net for a smash.
  • Drop shots bring the opponent forward, allowing you to lob over their head or hit behind them.
  • Hitting down the middle can open up angles for crosscourt shots to the sidelines.

Shot Deception

  • Use wristy angled shots and reduced follow through to deceive opponent about shot direction.
  • At the net, use disguised pushes and half smashes to confuse opponent’s anticipation.
  • Hide your body position and grip to mask shot intentions from opponent.

Defense and Retrieval

  • Retrieving near the floor requires precise racket angles. Slice or brush upwards just over the net.
  • Defend the forecourt with compact parries, blocking or angled returns to disrupt opponent attacks.
  • Move opponent around court and tire them out by using tossups directed to backcourt or sidelines.

Doubles Strategies

  • Partner at the net plays aggressive interception, hitting downwards while server stays back.
  • Use coordinated positioning, with server covering the middle and partner taking their assigned side.
  • Switch court positions smoothly. Move as a unit and cover open spaces.
  • Signal your partner early when wanting to exchange courts positions.


Badminton is an exciting racket sport that combines power, speed, agility and strategic gameplay. The basic rules include court dimensions, serving regulations, scoring format and gameplay elements like shot selection, deception and defensive tactics. Mastering these fundamentals allows you to start playing badminton recreationally or competitively.

It is a sport suitable for all ages and fitness levels. With practice, you can develop proficiency in badminton skills and strategy. Understanding the badminton rules is the first step to enjoying this fast-paced racket sport.

Read Also:

Leave a Comment