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Badminton Rules Made Simple for Beginners (PDF Included)

Image credit: Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/OXGhu60NwxU

This is a beginners guide for the rules of how to play Badminton. We’ll cover all areas including the basic rules, scoring, serving, differences between singles and doubles, common faults and lets.

So what are the basic Badminton rules? You and the opponent hit the shuttlecock back and forth over the net. When the shuttlecock hits the floor the point is over. The winner adds one point to their score. The game is over when the first player gets to 21 with a two-point lead. You can only hit the shuttlecock once to get it over and you can’t let it bounce.

Sounds simple right? Well, this is only a basic summary so if you want to learn the rules for Badminton and how to play then read on. TLDR, want the PDF? Click here to skip to the PDFs.

The basics of Badminton

Before getting into the rules let’s quickly establish the basic structure of a Badminton game.

Badminton is played indoors between two or four people. Badminton is played with racquets, a shuttlecock and with a mesh net separating the two players or pairs.

Both sides hit the shuttlecock over the net using their racquets until someone wins the point. The point is over when the shuttlecock either hits the floor, one of the players or fails to pass over the net.

If you manage to land the shuttlecock in the opponents half of the court then you win the point. If it lands outside the boundaries of their court then you lose the point and vice versa. The shuttlecock is not allowed to bounce, unlike Tennis and Squash.

There are five different categories for playing Badminton, they are:

  • Mens singles
  • Womens singles
  • Mens doubles
  • Womens doubles
  • Mixed doubles

Singles is always played with one player on each side of the court, a one-vs-one match. Doubles is played with two people on each side, two pairs of players. Doubles can be played as all ladies or all men or a combination of a man and a woman paired together against another man and woman.

So that’s the basics of what Badminton is. Now let’s take a closer look at scoring.

Scoring points, keeping score and winning the game

Scoring in Badminton is made quite simple now thanks to the changes introduced by the BWF in 2006. Badminton is rally point scoring, which simply means you can score a point on anyone’s serve. You don’t have to be the one serving to score a point.

You can score points in a number of ways including landing the shuttlecock on your opponents’ side of the court, the opponent hits the shuttlecock out or is unable to return it or your opponent plays a fault. We’ll come back to faults later.

If you win the point then you get to serve or carry on serving. If you lose the point then the opponent gets to serve or carries on serving.

Scoring a game and a match

A game of Badminton is the first to 21 points with a clear two-point lead. This means if it’s 20-20 then to win you have to be two points ahead of the other player. This can carry on all the way up to 29-29 and at that point, the player who wins the next point and reaches 30 is the winner.

In a full match, you play the best of three games to 21. After each game, you change sides of the court and if you reach the third game then you swap sides one last time when the first person reaches 11 points.

This is the basics of scoring, to learn more read our article on Badminton rules scoring.

Serving, how to serve and where to serve from

Serving is crucial in Badminton, much like Tennis it’s the only shot you have full control over. You have the shuttlecock in your hand and are able to start the rally, it’s a big advantage but there are a lot of rules around serving so I’ve made a handy checklist of the essential rules.

  • Your serve must travel upwards first, no serving like in Tennis
  • You must hit the shuttlecock below waist height
  • You must wait for the opponent to be ready
  • You must serve with a continuous motion

If you learn the technique for the forehand or backhand serve then you won’t have any trouble with playing by the rules. See the two videos below that demonstrate the forehand and backhand serve.

Forehand serve

Backhand serve

If the opponent misses or leaves the shuttle and it lands out then you lose the point and the opponent gets to serve. In the next sections, we’ll look at the service areas for what’s in and out for both singles and doubles.

Which side do I serve from?

To figure out who is serving is quite simple, if you won the point then you get to serve. To figure out which side to serve from is also easy, look at your score and if it’s an even number you serve from the right side of your court and if your score is odd then you serve from the left side of your court.

For doubles, this also tells you who will be serving. For example, the opponent was serving but you won the point so now you get to serve, but does your partner serve or you? Same as before, you look at the score and if it’s even the player on the right side of the court serves and if it’s odd then the player on the left.

In doubles you carry on serving for as long as you win points, you don’t alternate with your partner until you lose and regain the service again.

This covers the basics of serving so you can get started, read our full article on Badminton serving rules for all the details.

Rules for doubles

Doubles is played with four people, as we mentioned earlier this four-player setup can be either four men (mens doubles), four ladies (womens doubles) or two pairs of a man and a woman (mixed doubles).

When playing doubles you need to be aware of five things.

  • Which side are you standing on
  • Knowing who is serving
  • Knowing who is receiving
  • What is in or out whilst serving
  • What is in or out during the rally

Let’s take a look at these points and show you how to stay on top of the rules.

Which side am I on?

The first thing you need to remember when you’re playing doubles is which side you were on when the rally started. It’s important because it determines who does/doesn’t serve or receive next.

When you start a game each player picks a side of the court to start from. After that, you just need to keep track of which side you are on. Important note, during the rally you can move anywhere, you don’t have to stay on your side, just remember which side you were on when the rally started.

When you or your partner is serving and you score a point then you switch sides and the person who was serving continues.

Who is serving?

We mentioned earlier how to work this out. You only get one serve even in doubles so the team that won the last point will be serving. To determine which of the players will serve we need to look at the score.

If the score is an even number the player who was on the right side of the court will be serving. If it’s an odd number the player on the left.

Who is receiving?

Using the same method to figure who will be serving we can work out who will be receiving.

If the serving teams score is even then the receiver on the right side of their court will receive the serve. If the serving teams score is odd then the receiver is the player on the left side.

This is why it’s so important to remember which side you are on.

Serving, what’s in and out?

When serving doubles use the tram lines (the wide service lines, illustrated below) but not the backbox. An easy way to remember this is to remember the service box is wide and short.

Playing the rally, what’s in and out?

In doubles after the service has been returned then everything inside the court is considered in. The only lines you need to worry about are the very outside lines.

Doubles uses with the courts full width and length during the rally so it’s easy to figure if the shuttle is in or out. If it’s inside the court at all then it’s in, if not then it’s out.

This covers the basics of Badminton rules for doubles. See our complete guide on Badminton rules for doubles to get a complete breakdown on all the rules in detail.

Rules for singles

Compared to doubles, singles is a lot more straight forward. You don’t have to worry about who is serving because if you won the rally then you’re serving and continue to serve until you lose a point.

You don’t need to remember which side you started the rally on either because without a partner you and the other player are the only ones who can serve and receive. Just keep track of the score and you’ll know which side to serve/receive from.

What’s in and out? Serving and rallies are the same?

In doubles what’s in and out on court changes for during the service and after during the rally. In singles what’s in and out during the serve and rally is the same.

In singles, the wide boxes (also known as the tramlines) are always out and the boxes at the back of the court are always in.

Interested in learning how the more obscure rules come into to play for singles? Then check out our in-depth article on Badminton rules for singles.

Common Badminton faults

A fault ends the rally in Badminton and awards the point against the person or pair that committed the fault. There are various faults to watch out for while playing Badminton but here are the five most common.

Hitting the shuttlecock before it passes over the net

It should be quite obvious but it’s against the rules to hit the shuttlecock before it passes over the net. For the majority of the time, you never have to worry about this rule, it’s when players play closer to the net that this situation can come up.

Playing tight net shots can create a situation where one player tries to “kill” the other players net shot. They essentially try to tap the shuttlecock while it’s crossing the net for an easy point. See the video below for an example.

In the example above the player of the left has hit the shuttlecock before it crossed the net. This is not allowed as you’re obstructing your opponents shot. What people often think is that your racquet is not allowed to cross over the net but it can, as long as the shuttlecock is on your side of the net.

Hitting the shuttlecock twice

It doesn’t happen very often but you can’t hit the shuttlecock twice when trying to get the shuttle back. If you could then Badminton would quickly turn into a volleyball type sport.

It normally happens when playing doubles. Your partner or you swings for the shuttle and misses but just clips the shuttlecock whilst it’s passing then you or your partner hits it after that, this is called a double-hit but is essentially the same thing.

A player touches the net or the posts during a rally

During the rally, you’re not allowed to touch the net or posts with any part of your body, clothing or racquet. This is to stop players from disrupting play and from damaging the equipment.

Touching the net or posts after the rally is over is fine though. For example, you could be running forward to kill a shot from the net and run into the net after playing the shot, if the shuttle has already hit the floor then it is not a fault because the rally is over. However, it would be a fault if the opponent got the shuttle back or if the shuttle had not touched the ground yet.

The server commits a service fault

A service fault can be called for a number of reasons including:

  • Service struct above the waist
  • Racquet not pointing in a downward direction
  • The server is standing on the line
  • The server hits the feathers of the shuttlecock first

Basically, anything that goes against the service rules. It’s not something to be worried too much about as a beginner as long as you have the basic serving technique covered.

The receiver moves before the serve is struck

This one can happen quite often if people are unaware. If you’re receiving serve then you’re not allowed to move your feet before the serve is struck. This is to stop players from taking advantage of the short serve.

The receiver must have both feet touching the ground when receiving serve and they must be standing inside there service box.

These are the most common faults, for a complete guide on all the faults in Badminton then check out our Badminton faults article.

Badminton lets, replay the rally

When a let is called the current point is replayed, nobody wins or loses the point but the server restarts the point again. Lets can be called for a number of reasons, here are the three most common lets to know about.

The server serves before the receiver is ready

The rules of Badminton state that the server must wait until the receiver is ready. It wouldn’t be fair if you could serve before the opponent was ready.

People often have little routines for when they serve and when they get ready to serve. For some players, this can be frustrating because they feel they’re taking too long to get ready.

One caveat with this is that if the receiver attempts to return the service and misses they cannot call a let. They attempted to return it so were ready enough to receive.

An unforeseen or accidental situation occurs

This is a little cryptic but it boils down to common decency. Unforeseen and accidental situations can include:

  • A shuttlecock from another court landing in your court during a rally
  • The shuttlecock hits a low ceiling or light fixture above the court
  • The rally is disrupted or distracted by an outside influence

This rule is to protect the payers on the court from carrying on in situations that could be unsafe. Such as a player tripping on a shuttlecock from another court.

The shuttle gets stuck on the top or in the net when passing over

This is very rare and I’ve only experienced it once or twice in all my years of playing. See the video below for an example where the shuttlecock gets stuck on the top of the net.

It can also happen where the shuttlecock rolls over the net but gets stuck in the net before the player hit it. These are both lets every time. The reason is that the other player had a chance to get it back before it got stuck.

People often don’t realise this but it’s important to know for that one in a million situation.

Lets don’t happen very often but they’re important to know. To learn about all the situations where lets occur see our guide on Badminton lets.

Badminton rules PDFs

The BWF provides a nice PDF covering the simplified rules of Badminton and also the full appendix which covers the Laws of Badminton in full. Download them, they’re free.

You can also visit the BWF Corporation website to see all the statutes that cover governance, ethics, judicial process, rules of the game and technical regulations. These don’t really apply to play everyday Badminton but they’re interesting to read.

How many serves do you get in Badminton? You only get one serve in Badminton, it’s the same for singles and doubles, but if you win the point you get to serve again and again until you lose a point. If the opponent is serving and you win the point then you get to serve but if they win they carry on serving.

Who serves first in Badminton? At international play, they flip a coin and the winner of the coin toss can choose to serve first or not. In everyday Badminton, people tend to throw the shuttle up in the air and see who it points to when it lands.

If you found this article useful or know someone who might find this useful please leave a comment and share. 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.


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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