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Badminton Rules Scoring - The Rally Point System

Image credit: Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash -

In this guide we’re going to look at the scoring system in Badminton and the rules for scoring. We’ll cover everything including:

  • The old scoring system and the rule change in 2006
  • The current scoring system
  • Who serves and which side (singles and doubles)
  • Other tips and things to know for scoring
  • Useful resources, PDFs and links

So if you want to learn and master the Badminton rules for scoring, keep reading.

A brief look at the past, the old scoring system

The original scoring system used for Badminton in the past was quite different from what it is today. The old scoring system was a best of three games to 15. You could only score whilst you were serving and in doubles you’d get two serves.

The way setting was done was a little complicated because it involved two different situations where setting would occur. The BWF (Badminton World Federation) looked to change the rules for scoring in 2002.

The problem with the old scoring system was that matches could go on for a long time with no change in score if the players were unable to score on their own serve. The unpredictable match lengths and lengthy games was an obstacle both for organisers of events and for spectators.

They tried a different scoring system in 2002 which was the best of five games to seven but you could still only score on your own serve. After the trials they found little improvement to match times and went back to the drawing board.

The current scoring system

In 2006 the BWF developed a new scoring system and scrapped the old service based scoring with rally point scoring. Rally point scoring simply means every time a rally ends a point is scored by one player/pair or the other.

The Badminton scoring system can be summarised as simply as this:

  • A game is the first to 21 points
  • A match is the best of three games to 21
  • A point is scored every rally regardless of who served
  • Whichever side won the rally gets to serve or carries on serving
  • At 20-20 the game goes to setting, the first player/pair to gain a two point lead wins the game
  • If the score reaches 29-29 the side that scores the 30th point wins the game
  • The side that wins the game starts with the serve the next game

The impact of the current scoring system

The impact of this new scoring system was dramatic. In the past the Badminton scoring system awarded consistency of play and having a very solid defensive strategy. Because players could only score during their own serve it encouraged players to prolong rallies and counter attacking their opponent.

The new scoring system brought a more aggressive style of play to Badminton. Now you can score during any point it awards those who take their chances. Players who are able to attack with consistency and speed most often win the rally.

This new playstyle is complemented by the advances in racquet technology which made them lighter and easier to generate more power. Along with higher quality, faster and more consistent shuttlecocks and you have the lightning fast racquet game we know and love today.

How are points scored in Badminton?

Points are scored either by landing the shuttlecock inside the court on your opponent’s side of the court or when the opposing side commits a fault. Look at our complete guide on Badminton faults to get a full list.

When the shuttlecock touches the floor the rally is over and the winner of the point is determined by whether it was in or out and on which side of the court.

Who is serving?

At the start of every match it must be determined who will serve first. People either flip a coin to decide or chuck a shuttle up in the air and see which side it points to to decide who will serve.

The server must always start the match from the right service box and serve to the player in the adjacent service box. After that who is serving is decided by which side wins the rally.

  • If the server wins the rally then they carry on serving and switches from the side they previously served from
  • If the receiver wins the point then they get to serve and serve from the side determined by their score

In singles this is easy to understand, there is only you and your opponent who can serve. In doubles there are four players and to figure out who’s serving here’s a easy checklist to look at:

  • If the pair that is serving wins the point then the same player who served carries on serving and changes service sides
  • The receiving pair do not change sides
  • When the service changes from one pair to the other the player who didn’t serve last time for that pair will now serve

The other way to figure out who is serving is coupled with knowing which side to serve from. We’ll cover that next.

Which side to serve from? Odd and even sides

In Badminton the side from which you serve and receive from is determined by the score. If the score of the server is an even number then the server plays the serve from the right hand side of the court. This is called the “even side”.

Coincidentally the player receiving will receive the serve from their even side. In singles the player simply moves over the correct side, in doubles the players receiving stay in their respective boxes and the player on the appropriate side will receive the serve.

If the servers score is an odd number then the server plays the serve from the left hand side of the court. This is called the “odd side”. The receiver in consequence will receive the serve from their odd side.

Other tips and things to know

Call out the score before the start of each rally

A small detail but useful during a game. Whether at the elite level or at club level play the players should always call out the score and say the servers score first.

This allows the players and anybody watching to understand instantly which score belongs to which side. They can see who is about to serve and have heard the score. From that they know the first score mentioned is the score for the player about to serve.

Doubles has only one serve

In the old scoring system you used to get two serves in doubles, one for you and if you lost the point one for your partner before passing it over to the opponents.

In the current scoring system you only get one serve. The rules above state that the player currently serving carries on serving if the pair wins the point, they do not switch the serve to their partner.

Do you have to serve to score in Badminton? No, you don’t have to be serving to score in Badminton. Badminton is rally point scoring which means a point is scored every rally, it doesn’t matter who served.

How do you lose points in Badminton? You lose a point in Badminton in a number of scenarios. These include; hitting the shuttlecock out, committing a fault during the service or rally and from the opponent landing the shuttle in on your side of the court.

If you found this article helpful return the favour and share it with a friend. If you feel I’ve missed anything out or have other advice, please leave feedback and share your help with others below. Thanks again for reading.

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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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