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Badminton Rules: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s a bird.. it’s a plane… it’s a.. SHUTTLECOCK. Don’t worry.. we can call it a birdie but what is it? What is even involved with a badminton match? Whether you’re looking to pick up a new hobby, or you’re a seasoned athlete looking to try something new on the badminton court, this guide is perfect for anyone looking to learn the rules of badminton.

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    What Is Badminton?

    Badminton is a net sport similar to tennis where the players hit the shuttlecock over the net and attempt to get it to land inside the opponent’s court. However, I think you noticed a huge difference already with badminton from the item they use compared to tennis. A shuttlecock, also known as a birdie, is a open conical shape cork with feathers attached to it. This allows the shuttlecock to fly cork first after the player hits it. Furthermore, a badminton racquet is a lightweight racket exclusively designed for playing badminton. It features a long handle and a head composed of tightly strung strings, providing an optimal surface area for striking the shuttlecock. The start of a match is decided by a coin toss. The winner of the toss gets to decide which side of the court they want to start. 


    How Many Players and Judges Are In A Badminton Match? 

    There are two types of matches in badminton – singles and doubles. In a singles match, the badminton rules dictate that there is only 1 player on each side. In a doubles match, there are 4 players overall on the court (2 for each team).

    As for judges, there is a main referee that overlooks the game from a high chair and makes the main decisions in a match. There are two line judges (one on each back line) that assist the main referee to determine if a shuttlecock is in or out of bounds. 

    What Are The Badminton Guidelines On Court Size? 

    A badminton court has different sizes for singles and doubles. In a singles match, the court is 5.18 m (17.0 ft.) wide by 13.4 m (44 ft.). In contrast, the court is 6.1 m (20 ft.) wide by 13.4 m (44 ft.) for a doubles match. The height of the net is the same for both types of matches. It is 1.55 m (5 ft. 1 in.) high on the edges and 1.524 m (5.00 ft.) high in the center. 

    Badminton player in mid-action, holding a racket high above their head, eyes focused on the shuttlecock, ready to perform a serve. Their body is poised, feet positioned for stability, with a backdrop of a badminton court and a blurred opponent standing ready.
    Photo by Muktasim Azlan on Unsplash

    What Are The Badminton Rules for Serving? 

    Serving is a fundamental aspect of badminton, as it determines the starting point of each rally. To execute a serve in badminton, the server must position themselves in the service court and strike the shuttlecock over the net to the opponent’s court.

    Specific rules govern the serving technique. For instance, the server must hit the shuttlecock below their waist, while ensuring it travels diagonally across the court. On the receiving end, the player must assume the correct position and remain stationary until the shuttlecock is struck.

    A failure to serve the shuttlecock results in the server conceding the serve and awarding a point to the opponent. However, if the server executes a successful serve, a rally commences and both sides hit the shuttlecock until a point is awarded.

    How Do You Score In Badminton? 

    A player can score points in one of 4 ways in badminton: 

    • Shuttlecock lands in bounds on the opponent’s court
    • Opponent hits the shuttlecock into the net
    • Opponent hits the shuttlecock out of bounds
    • Opponent performs a fault

    Each point starts when a player tosses the shuttlecock and hits it underhand over the net. Any back and forth hitting between the players is a rally and it continues until a player scores a point. A match is a best-of-3 games and each game ends when a player reaches 21 points. 

    If both players reach 20 points (20-20), then a player has to win by 2 points to win the game. If the tiebreaker continues until both players reach 29 points (29-29), the final point is a golden point. Thus, the next player to score at 29-all wins the game. 

    The winner of the game gets the first serve in the next game. Once a player wins two games, the match is over. 

    Switching Sides In A Game Of Badminton

    In badminton, players must change ends based on specific conditions. They switch ends at the end of the first game, and if a match needs a third game, they also change ends after the second game. On the other hand, in the third game, the change of ends takes place when one side reaches a score of 11 points.

    Badminton player skillfully performing a drop shot, wrist slightly twisted and racket outstretched, guiding the shuttlecock just over the net. Their body is bent forward, eyes fixed on the target, with a determined expression, all set against the background of a well-lit badminton court with the opponent lunging forward to respond.
    Photo by Muktasim Azlan on Unsplash

    What Is a Fault in Badminton?

    A player performs a fault by doing one of the following: 

    • Player performs an overarm serve
    • Player distracts their opponent
    • Player catches the shuttlecock
    • Player serves the shuttlecock out of bounds or into the net
    • Player doesn’t serve to their opponent diagonally

    If a player consistently breaks the rules of badminton, the judge decides to dock points and/or force a player to forfeit the game and the match. 

    If a let occurs, play stops. As a result, no points are awarded due to an unexpected disturbance. After the disturbance, the play resumes and the player that served the shuttlecock serves again. 


    What are The Badminton Rules for Single and Double Matches? 

    In the exciting world of badminton, we have two awesome game formats: singles and doubles! In singles, it’s all about that one superstar player on each side, showcasing their focus and skill to conquer the game. But in doubles, it’s teamwork time! Two incredible players join forces to outsmart their opponents and create some serious magic on the court.

    While the basic rules stay the same, there are some cool differences in how each game plays. Doubles is like a dance of coordination and strategy, where players take turns hitting the shuttlecock. It’s a beautiful sight to behold! On the other hand, singles lets players unleash their full power and precision, with one chance to strike the shuttlecock like a pro before it crosses the net. Also, the court is bigger for doubles to accommodate having more players on the court. 

    Badminton Tournaments and Events

    There are a series of thrilling tournaments and events that occur for badminton players. Among these is the prestigious BWF World Championships. It stands out as the crown jewel of badminton by attracting top players from around the world. Since the first tournament in 1977, Badminton World Federation (BWF) hosts this international badminton tournament annually.

    Adding to the excitement, the highly regarded Thomas Cup and Uber Cup bring together exceptional teams from around the world. 

    The Thomas Cup is a men’s international team badminton tournament named after Sir George Thomas. He is an Englishman considered as the father of modern badminton. The championships have taken place every two years since 1982, a change made from the previous schedule (every three years) that was established after the inaugural tournament held in 1948-1949. The Thomas Cup features teams representing countries from around the world. Most importantly, teams compete in a series of matches over 1 week, with the winning country lifting the coveted Thomas Cup trophy. 

    The Uber Cup, also known as the World Team Championships for Women, is a prestigious international badminton tournament held every two years since 1950-51. English player Betty Uber, who founded the International Badminton Federation in 1934, is the namesake of the title. Many consider her as the mother of modern badminton. The tournament features teams representing countries from around the world and it usually lasts for around one week. During the tournament, each participating country fields a team of five women players who compete in a series of singles and doubles matches against other countries’ teams. At the end of the tournament, the team with the most points is the winner and takes home the Uber Cup trophy.


    Congrats! You smashed through this article and now you know the basic rules of badminton. Feel free to share with your friends what you learned. I hope you will enjoy the game whether you are on the badminton court or watching from the stands.