Like all racket sports, badminton has a unique scoring system and set of rules. And if you want to play at your best possible level, knowing the ins and outs of these rules is vital. Because by understanding the laws of the sport, you can ensure that your every move on the court helps you score points and avoid potential faults.
Read on to learn everything you should know about badminton’s scoring system and rules, and how they help determine the winner of every match.
A Quick Guide on Badminton’s Scoring System
Whether you’re playing singles or doubles, the scoring system sticks to the same set of principles. Here’s a rundown on how it all works:
- A badminton match is a set of three games that go up to 21 points each. The team who wins the best of three games wins the match.
- A game can be won by the team who reaches 21 points first – so long as they have a two-point lead.
- A rally begins every time a team serves and always ends with a point being awarded (unless a let occurs.)
- If the score ends up at 20-21, the first team to gain a two-point lead takes the win. If the score becomes 29-all (or 29-29), the team who reaches 30 points first wins.
When you’re just starting out, badminton’s rules around serving, receiving, faults, and lets can seem complex – but the good news is that they’ll become second nature as you progress in your badminton journey.
Aside from equipment and court guidelines, here are the rules to remember in every match:
Serving and Receiving
To start the match, players can use a coin toss to determine who serves first.
From there, the server will stand in their right service court and serve to the player in the opposite diagonal service box across the net. Once the rally begins, it goes until the shuttle is no longer in play.
To sidestep any faults and ensure your shots stay in play, here are the key service rules to remember:
- Once the server and receiver are ready to start the rally, neither team should cause an undue delay in service.
- Both the server and receiver should keep their feet on the ground, inside their service courts, and without touching any boundary lines until the server hits the shuttle.
- Servers should point their racket downward when hitting the shuttle. They should also make contact with the shuttle below waist height. (If you ever have trouble with this, try imagining a line around your lowest rib, and aim to hit under that.)
- If not interrupted, the shuttle’s trajectory should end with it landing in the opposite side’s diagonal service court.
- Lines are considered “in,” both during service and throughout the game.
- Whichever team wins the point gets the next serve.
- After the first serve, the score will determine which side you serve from. Use the right service box when you have an even score, and the left when your score is odd.
Doubles Service Rules
Doubles serving can look a tad bit different than singles — just because you’ll need to add partner rotation into the mix. However, the only time you rotate sides with your partner is when your team serves and scores a point. Otherwise, you’ll stick to the same side during service.
Even though doubles service rotation seems simple at face value, it can be confusing for beginners. So, if you find yourself needing more help, feel free to check out this in-depth guide on the doubles rules and common mistakes to avoid.
Faults and Fouls
Badminton’s faults and fouls are mistakes that can cost you points on the court. These include:
- The shuttle hitting the net/getting caught in the net during service
- The shuttle touching the ceiling or walls
- The shuttle landing out of bounds
- Touching the shuttle with your body or clothing
- Hitting the net with your racket, clothing, or body
- Your racket or body going over the net during an attempted hit. (The exception here is if you make contact with the shuttle on your side, but your racket passes the net as a natural part of the stroke afterward.)
- Your racket or body going under the net in a way that obstructs or distracts your opponent
- Double hitting (making contact with the shuttle twice while it’s on your side of the net — or, in doubles, when you and your partner both hit it)
- Any player purposely distracting the other team
Lets are similar to faults, but they don’t result in lost points. Instead, players will need to halt and replay the rally to correct them. These include when:
- The server hits the shuttle before the receiver is ready
- The shuttle gets caught in the net and stays there during a rally (after service)
- The shuttle breaks apart
- Any other unexpected mishaps occur
Badminton’s scoring system and rules can be tough to master — but the more you play, the easier it’ll become. So, remember to practice, and be sure to check back to this page whenever you need a refresher!
And for more resources about the scoring system and rules, check out the info tab on the Badminton Justin blog today. Or, subscribe to the YouTube channel for training tips, drills, and more to level up your game.