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Badminton Rules when Serving - Avoiding Common Faults (With Pictures)

Image credit: Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov from Pexels -

There are a lot of rules around serving in Badminton, it’s a very confusing part of the sport for those just getting started. In this guide, I’m going to cover:

  • The basic serving rules
  • Common faults when serving
  • The service court
  • Serving rules for singles
  • Serving rules for doubles
  • The rules when receiving serve

Don’t want to read it all? Here’s the short version.

What are the Badminton serving rules? When you serve in Badminton the shuttlecock must be below your waist. In Badminton rules, the waist is defined as the lowest rib in the ribcage. The racquet head must be pointing down and you must strike the cork of the shuttle first.

That’s a brief summary but if you want to master the Badminton serving rules you’ll need to read the rest. Let’s get started.

The basic serving rules

To keep it really basic, to serve in Badminton you have to stand in your service court and serve underarm to the serve box adjacent to yours. The server must wait for the service to be struck before moving and attempting to return the serve.

You only get one serve in singles and doubles and unlike the old rules you can score whether you’re serving or not. That’s the basics.

We’re not going to go into detail on the service technique itself in this article. For that see our tutorials on the forehand serve and backhand serve for a complete step-by-step breakdown on getting the perfect serve.

Common faults to avoid

In the Laws of Badminton, published by the BWF, there are 18 points in total under Section 9 that outline the rules for serving. These points highlight the conditions for the correct service. Breaking any of these rules will result in a service fault and the server will lose the point.

Let’s have a look at the most common faults to watch out for when serving.

Staggering your service motion

The basic idea of this one is that as soon as you start to swing you racquets forward towards the shuttle you’re not allowed to stop the motion half-way. Once your racquet starts moving towards the shuttle that is the start of your serve.

This stops players from swinging at the shuttle twice or staggering their motion to try and dummy the opponent and make them move before they serve.

You can stop and hold your racquet still when you bring your racquet back but once you start to move it forwards you must hit the serve.

Standing on the court lines

A really simple mistake to make but easy to avoid. You’re not allowed to stand on any part of the line in your service box. This is the same for the receiver too.

The purpose of this rule is to stop people stepping over the line and claiming that they’re still in their service court. If you can’t touch the line at all then you have to be inside your service box.

Serving above waist height

There’s a simple reason why this rule exists. If there was no height restriction on serving then you could toss the shuttle up and smash it at your opponent. You wouldn’t get many rallies with rules like that.

When they say waist height in Badminton that means “the lowest rib on the ribcage” which doesn’t make things any clearer. For me, it’s easier to simply observe whether somebody’s serve is travelling upwards or not.

Not having your racquet head pointing downwards

This complements the service height rule. Your racquet head must be pointing down which means the racquet head must be angled so that the topmost part of the frame is below your hand. See the picture below for an example.

These are just the most common faults to watch out for and to be aware of. See our complete guide on Badminton faults for the full list of Badminton service faults.

The service court

What is the service court? It’s simply the areas marked out on court which determines where you serve from and to. The service court differs from singles to doubles but the rules for both are always the same.

There are four service courts on a Badminton court, two on each side of the net although only two come into play during the serve. Both the server and the receiver must stand inside their respective boxes whilst serving and receiving.

The service court is comprised of a few elements including:

  • The centre line
  • The short service line
  • The sideline
  • The long service line
  • The back boundary line

Each of these lines lays out the service court for both singles and doubles. We’ll look in detail at what the service courts look like for singles and doubles.

Serving rules for singles

In singles, you see more variety using the forehand and backhand serve. You also see more variety in serving long and serving short. In women’s singles see more long high serves using the forehand serve and in men’s singles, you see more short backhand serves.

There are no special rules when serving in singles apart from what is in and what is out. We’ll look at the singles service box now.

Singles court lines

The singles service box is easy to remember, it’s described as long and narrow. When you serve the backbox of the service court is in but the wide box is out.

See the image below to get a better understanding. The service box starts with the short service line and the centre line. The first sideline is where the service court stops and the service court stretches all the way back the back boundary line.

Serving rules for doubles

In doubles, you only get one serve per side, as soon as one side loses a point the serve switches over to the other pair.

The rules in how you’re allowed to serve don’t change either. You still have to follow the same rules to not be faulted. There is one difference for doubles and one other important thing to be aware of for serving in doubles.

Doubles court lines

The doubles service court is described as wide and short. When you serve the backbox of the service court is out but the wide box is in.

See the image below to get a better understanding. The service box starts with the short service line and the centre line. The outermost sideline is where the service court stops and the service court stretches back to the first long service line.

Receiving serve

An important point to make for beginners, when receiving serve only the receiver in their respective box can return the shuttle. I know, very obvious, but I have seen people get confused before thinking that because their partner has missed it that they can try.

When receiving serve only the receiving player is allowed to return the serve.

Common faults when receiving serve

There are many rules around serving and a lot of restrictions to make sure serving isn’t an overwhelming advantage. Receiving serve has rules as well to balance it all out. Let’s look at these now.

  • The receiver cannot move before the serve is struck
  • The receiver must stand in their respective service court
  • If the receiver attempts to return the serve they will have been considered ready

The first two points are self-explanatory, it coincides with the same rules for the server for the same reasons. The third point is different, let’s explain it.

If the server serves before the receiver is ready then you play a let, you play the service again. However, if the receiver tries to return it in any way then they forfeit that right to play a let. This is to stop players taking advantage and saying they weren’t ready when the opposition plays a good serve.

Again, these are just the common faults to watch out for. Read our complete article on Badminton faults for the full list of Badminton receiver faults.

Being on the correct side, odd and even sides

In Badminton we reference the two service court sides as the “odd” and “even” side. It makes clear which side the players should be on and also is a brief reminder of the score.

The odd side is the left hand service court. If you’re serving and the score is an odd number then you serve from the odd side. The receiver mirrors the servers position by standing in on their odd side as well.

The even side is the right hand service court. If you’re serving and the score is an even number then you serve from the even side. The receiver mirrors the servers position by standing in on their even side as well.

What is a service fault in badminton? A service fault is called when the player serving breaks one of the service rules including; serving above the waist, standing on the line and missing the shuttle whilst serving. A service fault awards the receiving player the point.

Can you smash a serve in badminton? If you’re able to, then yes. Short serves are impossible to smash because they’re hit so low over the net. If the opponent flicks or has a particularly loose serve then, by all means, try to smash it.

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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