Badminton Rules And Scoring

illustration of kids playing badminton in backyard

Introduction to Badminton

Badminton is one of the most widely accessible sports you can play. All you need is a racket, a net, a few birdies—and an opponent.

Read on if you’re about to play your first game or just want to refresh your game knowledge. In this article, you’ll discover a few ins and outs of backyard badminton and how to play for fun. We’ll go through badminton’s basic rules, like how many players you need and a simple scoring system. 

This article is intended to help beginners to understand how to play badminton and have structure to their backyard game fun. It’s also for regular players who want to dive a little deeper into the nuances of the game.

All you need to have fun is a racket, a “birdie” and an opponent. For gameplay, keeping score, and adding a few basic rules, you can include a net and court boundaries.

Badminton Basics

Badminton is played indoors on a court or outside in a field or yard. Players hit a “birdie” or “shuttlecock” back and forth using a badminton racket. The racket is very lightweight and thin, with an oval-shaped webbing at the top where you hit the birdie. 

According to the International Badminton Federation, the court should be 44 feet long. Each side is 22 feet. The width changes depending on the number of players. For singles, where one player plays against another, the court is 17 feet wide. In doubles, it’s 20 feet wide.

Between the opposing players, a net in the middle of the court divides it. The net height is 5 feet in height when measured at the center of the court. To be precise, it should also measure 5 feet, 1 inch in height when measured on the sides of the court, allowing a one-inch dip in the net. the width of the net is 30 inches. The birdie, shuttlecock (or shuttle), must be hit over the net and touch the ground to earn a point. If you never let the birdie hit the ground on your side of the net, you’ll always win. 

Badminton is similar in gameplay to tennis or volleyball in that a match consists of three games. Two games won out of three wins the match, and each game is played to 21. If both sides have 20 points, whichever side has a two-point lead first takes the game. At 29-all, the next score is the winning point.

A game may start with the toss of a coin. Whoever wins the coin toss can choose what side to play on and who may serve first. After each game, the players switch sides. A match is completed when one player or team wins 2 games. If a third game is necessary to declare a winner, players switch sides when one player scores 11 points.

Number of Players in Badminton

You can play badminton in either singles or doubles. In a singles game, there is one opponent on each side playing against each other. There are two opponents on each side in doubles, playing as a team against the other side. Therefore, there are either 2 or 4 players in a game of badminton. 

Badminton for Beginners

If you’re only interested in simple gameplay between friends, you can play any simplified version of badminton you choose. All you need is a racket, a birdie, a net, and an opponent. Actually, you don’t even need the net.

If you’re just a beginner, you can forgo the rules around serving and play a less intensive game. As you get more practice, you can start playing by the service rules, which we’ll outline below. To play without official serves, start by hitting the birdie over the net and start a rally.

Playing without serves can help you get used to hitting the birdie. For badminton beginners, hitting the birdie can take a lot of practice. By not focusing on serves for the first few games, you can get the hang of it. 

Badminton Scoring

To score a point in badminton, you need to hit the birdie so that it touches the ground on your opponent’s side. Every time someone serves, one opponent will score a point—that means every rally is essential to winning a game. 

Either side can score a point on a serve. If the birdie lands outside of the playing court, the other side is awarded a point. The player who scores 21 points first wins the game, and the players play a best of three matches. 

Singles Badminton Rules

For singles badminton, the rules are relatively simple. The coin toss decides who starts the game. After serving, which we’ll discuss shortly, the receiver must hit the birdie back over the net. Whoever hits it onto their opponent’s court wins the point.

For singles, the dimensions of the court are as follows:

  • 44 feet long
  • 17 feet wide

In singles, as the name suggests, there is only one player per side. The first to 21 points wins the game, and winning two games takes the match.

Doubles Badminton Rules

The rules for doubles are almost the same as singles, except for a few differences. The main difference is the number of players—in doubles, there are two players on each team.

The other main difference between singles and doubles is the size of the court. For doubles, the court’s dimensions are:

  • 44 feet long
  • 20 feet wide

Service Rules in Badminton

Serving rules are the most complicated aspect of badminton. There are specific places where the server needs to stand, how the birdie must be hit, and where they need to place the birdie within the opponent’s court. Let’s go through service rules in badminton for both singles and doubles. 

Singles Service Rules

In singles, there is a long and short service line. They create the boundaries the birdie must fall between. If the service falls in front of the short service line or behind the long service line, the server loses the point. The short service line is 6.5 feet from the net. The long service line is the same as the end-of-court line in singles.

The server stands on the right half of the court when their points are even numbers, and on the left side when they are odd numbers. The server must hit the birdie diagonally over the net to their opponent. If the server is standing on the right side of the court, they should hit the birdie to their opponent’s right side of the court.

The server must hit the birdie with an underhand swing of the racket. Both feet must stay in contact with the ground throughout the serve. The birdie must be below the waist of the server when it is hit. The lowest part of the ribcage of the server is considered to be the top of the waist.

Doubles Service Rules

In doubles, the rules are similar but not the same. The short service is the same as the singles game, but the long service line is 2-1/2 feet in front of the end line. 

The server needs to hit it diagonally to their opponent. If the birdie falls before the short service line, after the long service line, or on the wrong side of the court, the server loses the point.

Badminton Terms

  • Alley – The extended side area of the court that falls outside of the singles playing area for use in doubles and measures 1-1/2 feet wide on each side.
  • Back Alley – the area between the back boundary line and the back service court line in doubles.
  • Baseline – The back boundary line on each side of the entire court.
  • Birdie – Or bird. Another name for the shuttlecock.
  • Court – the entire legal playing area of badminton as defined by the boundary lines.
  • Player – A person who plays badminton.
  • Center Line – Center of the court line that separates the left and right service courts.
  • Match – A contest between players to determine the dominant team or player, consisting of 2 or 3 games.
  • Game – A series of rallies where points are won until one side is declared the winner.
  • Singles – A match consisting of one player on each opposing side.
  • Doubles – A match consisting of two players on each opposing side.
  • Racket – Instrument used by badminton players to hit the shuttlecock.
  • Serve – The first hit of the shuttlecock that places it over the net into the service area of the opposing player or players.
  • Serving Side – The player or team which has the right to serve.
  • Shuttlecock – The proper name of the cone-shaped object hit by players in the game of badminton.
  • Receiving Side – The player or team opposing the serving side.
  • Rally – A sequence of legal hits that begins with a serve and ends when the shuttlecock is no longer in play.
  • Stroke – the forward movement of a player’s racket intended to hit the shuttlecock.

Wrapping Up

Although badminton seems like a complicated game, there are many simple ways to play it. Once you get the hang of the rules, it’s a lot like riding a bike—you never forget! So get out there and play a few games. It’s the best way to learn. 

For some interesting badminton facts and an in-depth look at its origins, you can check out my article on the history of badminton. There’s some interesting research that went into it.

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