Rules of Badminton

The Game, Scoring, and Competitions

Badminton originated from the Indian game of ‘Poona,’ which British army officers learned in the 19th century. The name badminton is derived from the Duke of Beaufort’s country estate, where it was first played in England. However, it is also closely related to the older British children’s games of shuttlecock and battledore. 

You can play the game on indoor courts or lawns. Furthermore, badminton is extremely popular in Asian countries such as India and China. These nations are home to some of the world’s best players. In this post, we explore badminton rules, how it is played, and the nature of badminton competitions. 

The objective of badminton

The objective in badminton is to hit the shuttlecock with the racket, ensuring it lands over the net and in the opponent’s half of the court. If the opponent returns the shuttlecock, a rally begins. To win the rally and score a point, a player must force their opponent to hit the shuttlecock into or under the net or out the court. 

The majority of matches are the best of three sets, and players need to score twenty-one points to win a set. 

How to score and win at badminton 

To score a point in badminton, a player must hit the shuttlecock so that it lands in their opponent’s half of the court. Also, points can be scored from the opponent’s errors, such as hitting the shuttlecock under or into the net or outside the court’s parameters. 

To win a game of badminton, a player must score twenty-one points before their opponent. The first player to score twenty-one points wins the set. There are usually three sets in badminton, and the player who wins the majority is the overall winner. 

When points are level at twenty per player, the player to reach two clear points is the winner. This goes on until points are tied at twenty-nine per player, and then the next player to score wins. 

How badminton is played

Badminton is played in either singles or doubles, with doubles sometimes being mixed. Players use a stringed racket which is similar to a tennis racket, except the head is smaller. They use the racket to hit the shuttlecock, which comprises a small round ball at the base, connected to an open conical shape formed of feathers or a synthetic alternative. 

Players can only hit the shuttlecock once before it goes over the net or hits the ground. It’s best to hit the bottom ball-like part of the shuttlecock, and it will revert ball side down with gravity. 

A badminton court is usually indoors but can also be outside on a lawn. It is rectangular and measures 13.4m long and 6.1m wide. A net runs across the middle of the court, dividing the two sections, which is 1.55m high. Two tram lines are running along each side of the court. The outside line is the parameter for doubles matches, while the inside line represents the parameter for singles matches. 

The rules of badminton

  • Official badminton matches must be played on a court indoors. Matches are played as the best of three games, with twenty-one points required to win each. Every time there is a serve, a point will be scored. The winning side in a match serves first in the next game. 
  • Badminton games are overseen by a referee who overlooks the game from a tall chair. The referee makes decisions regarding faults and infringements. In addition to the referee, some judges monitor whether the shuttlecock is in or out.
  • When a player reaches eleven points, there is a sixty-second interval. There is a two-minute interval between each game. When the leading player gets eleven points in the third game, the players change ends of the court.  
  • In singles matches, the server serves from the court’s right side at the beginning of the game and when the score is even. The server serves from the left side of the court when the score is odd. If the serving player wins the rally, they will score a point and serve again from the court’s alternate side. 
  • If the receiver wins the rally, they will become the new server and win a point. They will then serve from the appropriate side of the court depending on whether the score is odd or even. 
  • In doubles, the server begins on the right side of the court and, as long as they keep winning, they will continue to serve while alternating sides with their teammate. If the receiving team wins the point, they will serve next. Players who did not initially serve for their team will only serve once their side has won the point as the receiving team. 
  • Players must serve diagonally across the net towards their opponent. When serving, the player must hit underarm and below their waist. Furthermore,  overarm serves are not allowed.  
  • Badminton games begin with a coin toss to determine which player serves first. The opposing player gets to choose which side of the court they would like to start from. Players can move around the court at will once the shuttlecock is live. Hitting the shuttlecock from out of the playing area is permitted in badminton.  
  • Players cannot touch the net with their racket or body. This is deemed a ‘fault’ in badminton and leads to the opponent receiving the point. The referee can also call a fault when the shuttlecock is hit twice, is caught in the racket and flung, or a player is deemed to have deliberately distracted their opponent. 
  • The referee may call ‘let’ in certain circumstances, such as when a decision is too close to call, the shuttlecock is served out of turn, or if the shuttlecock gets stuck in the net. If a player continuously infringes the rules, the referee has the power to dock their points or even forfeit the entire set or match. The latter would only happen in extreme circumstances, where persistent fouls have occurred. 

Badminton competitions

Many badminton tournaments happen regionally, nationally, and internationally. The pinnacle of competitive badminton is the Olympic Games, held every four years in the summer months. This makes it the least frequent of all the prestigious badminton competitions, and it also has the most challenging qualifying criteria. 

Some of the other most prestigious badminton tournaments are the BWF World Championships, the Uber Cup, the Thomas Cup, the All England Open, and the Sudirman Cup. Along with the Olympic games, the BWF World Championships offers the most world ranking points and allows players to earn the most prestigious title by becoming the reigning world champion of badminton.  

The Uber Cup, Sudirman Cup, and Thomas Cup are all team-based competitions in which players compete for their country. These tournaments occur every two years. The Yonex All-England Open is the oldest badminton tournament and has been running annually since the 19th century (except for disruption during the Second World War). The All-England Open offers players a chance to win big, with a total prize pool of $1,100,000. 

Other notable but less well-known tournaments are the BWF World Junior Championships, the Para-Badminton World Championships, and the BWF Senior World Championships. The BWF World Junior Championships is the ultimate competition for players aged under nineteen years. Furthermore, the Para-Badminton World Championships is the top competition for players with physical disabilities. 

The BWF Senior World Championships is the ultimate competition for players aged over thirty-five years. This tournament comprises different age categories, including over 35’s, over 40’s, over 50’s, over 55’s, over 60’s, over 65’s, and over 70’s. 

The tournament with the largest prize pool is the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals. Players compete in this competition to win a share of $1.5 million. Winners in the singles events can claim $120,000, and teams in the doubles events can claim $126,000. This competition is held at the end of the year and includes the top eight World Tour Ranking players across five categories: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s, and mixed doubles. 

Top badminton players are required to attend specific tournaments. The top fifteen ranked singles players and the top ten ranked doubles players are obligated to compete in all three of the BWD World Tour Super 1000 tournaments, all five of the BWF World Tour Super 750 tournaments, and four out of seven of the BWF World Tour Super 500 tournaments. Without a valid reason for non-attendance, players can be fined up to $5000.  


Once you know the basics, badminton is a relatively simple game to understand and play. The rules are not as complex or many as some other sports, but it is no less enjoyable to watch and play. There are many international tournaments, and top players can earn considerable sums of money by winning in these.