Badminton Clear: Types of Clears and How to Play Them

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A shuttlecock in motion

The clear is a staple among the badminton shots. Not as fancy as a drop shot or as flashy as a smash, the clear is no less essential, so let’s make sure that you are playing it right.

But before we talk about how to play one, what exactly is a clear?

A clear in badminton is an overhead shot that is hit high and deep from the back of your court to the back of your opponent’s court.

Another two overhead shots are the smash and drop shots and are also played in a very similar way to the clear. It is very important that all of these three shots look the same to your opponent so they don’t know what is actually coming. After reading this article, make sure you go and check out the articles on how to play both a smash and a drop shot

But for now, back to clears. There are two main types of clears, a standard clear and a punch clear. In this article, we will discuss how these two types of clears differ, how and when to play them as well as some useful tips, tricks and drills to improve your clear.

Types of Clears and How to Play Them

  • The Standard Clear
  • The Punch Clear

The Standard Clear

For the purposes of this article, from here on in we will just refer to the two clears as clear and punch clear. You will never hear anyone ever refer to a clear as “the standard clear”. The purpose of a clear is to force your opponent to the back of the court and, depending on when and how it is used, it can be both an offensive and defensive shot. By playing the shuttle high and to the back of the court, your opponent doesn’t have an easy attacking shot to play. In addition, this also gives you the time to get back to the middle of the court, ready for the next shot.  

We have already said that clears and smashes are similar, but a big distinction between them is the point of contact when your racket hits the shuttle. Clears are hit with the shuttle directly above you, whereas you hit a smash when the shuttle is slightly in front of you. 

How to hit a Clear

1) Get Ready

Stand sideways with your non-racket foot closest to the net. Raise both your racket and your non-racket arm. Your wrist and your racket should be pointing upwards. To improve your play from the back of the court, it is important that your ready position is also the same for your smash and drop too. By doing this, it will take valuable seconds away from your opponent as they won’t know which shot you are going to play before you play it.

2) Anticipate the shuttle

Shift your weight onto your rear foot, bend the arm holding the racket and hold your non-racket arm up in the air to counter balance. To help you learn the technique, it is very helpful to use your non-racket arm to point at the shuttle.

3) Pre-shot motion – The backswing

Much like throwing a ball, your racket and wrist are moved behind your head. Reaching down towards your back your racket and wrist should now be pointing downwards towards the floor. This is the backswing. It is also important to bend your knees slightly.

4) Hit the shuttle

When the shuttle is above you, swing the racket over your head, straightening your elbow and contacting the shuttle at the highest point. Hit the shuttle with a flat racket head. When playing a clear, keep your wrist locked to maintain control and direction and make sure your racket comes down and across your body. Upon contact with the shuttle, you should straighten your knees and shift your weight onto your non-racket foot and your racket leg should be stepping forward across your body to become the front leg, giving you a forward motion. You should also squeeze your racket handle on contact with your racket to increase speed at which the shuttle will fly. As you are directly under the shuttle, your swing will naturally direct the shuttle up and out. 

5) Continue the shot

Make sure you follow the shot through, shifting your weight from the rear to the front foot, with your racket swinging down and across your body. Do not finish the swing early thinking that this will take away the power.

The Punch Clear

The punch clear, also referred to as an attacking clear, is similar to a normal clear in that you are still playing a shot from your back court to your opponent’s back court. However, instead of the shuttle being played really high, a punch clear is played much lower and faster. This gives your opponent much less time to react to the shot, giving you the chance to get the shuttle in behind them forcing a weak reply or even winning the point outright. A punch clear is a very deceptive shot, as the shot preparation is the same as a smash or a drop and so your opponent doesn’t know what is coming. It is a good way to vary your attack so that you aren’t just playing smashes and drops from the back of the court.

Have a look here to see exactly how to hit a smash and how to hit a drop so that your punch clear can be as deceptive as possible. 

How to hit a Punch Clear

The general technique of hitting a punch clear is the same as a normal clear. But instead of taking the shuttle above you, like a smash and drop, you hit the shuttle when it is in front of you. 

To begin, ensure that your start position is exactly the same as your clear, smash and drop. This allows your punch clear to be unpredictable. Firstly, make sure you have a loose grip on your racket. Like before, make sure that your non-racket arm is held up as this will with balance, timing and the rotation of your body.

As we have said, make sure you are behind the shuttle with the same technique as smash or drop.

To mimic a smash make sure you have a fast racket speed and then on contact with the shuttle, instead of hitting it down, keep your racket head flat to hit the shuttle out and to the back.

To mimic your drop shot, begin with a slow swing speed and then, at the last minute, increase your swing speed, keep your racket head flat and hit the shuttle hard and out.

One of the most important things to do when playing a punch clear is to make sure that you generate enough power, as if your shot lands short of the baseline, the low height will make it a great shot for your opponent to smash. To ensure you have enough power, squeeze grip on contact with the shuttle.

The Benefits of using a clear

Give you time. A high defensive clear is a good way to get yourself back into a rally that your opponent is dominating. A good clear can give you time to get back to the middle and reset your posture and your footwork ready for your opponent’s next shot. It also has potential to stop your opponent’s attack as it is very difficult to play a good smash from a high clear that is right to the back of the court. Your opponent will either avoid smashing or play a much weaker smash that you can then capitalise on. Plus they will have further to move to get back to the middle of the court. 

 Slow down the rally. Similar to the previous point, high defensive clears are good to slow down a rally. If the rally is fast paced with lots of drives and smashes, sometimes, when you are on the back foot, it is good to slow the rally down with a good high clear that will allow you to reset, and go again.

 Moving your opponent around. By also adding both normal and punch clears to your game, you are able to move your opponent around the court, right back to the baseline, where it is harder for your opponent to get back to the middle from. By moving your opponent around, you can then create an opening that you can go on to exploit and win the rally.

Keeping your shot selection varied. By also playing clears, you are keeping your shots varied so that your opponent doesn’t learn to expect what shot is coming next. Often your opponent will adjust their stance to the speed of your smash and drop shots, and will bring their base forward. By adding in a punch clear occasionally, you will force your opponent to change where they stand and move to the back during defence. This can give you valuable time and could make the difference between winning and losing the rally.

Deception. Specifically for punch clears, the deception that they bring can really help you towards winning the rally. Whether it is an outright winner by a shot that your opponent wasn’t expecting or by forcing a weak reply, the deception of the punch clear is a great benefit.

When to use a Clear in Badminton

So far we have talked about the types of clears, how to play them and the advantages that they bring. However, when you play a clear is just as important, if not more important. We will go into specifics for both singles and doubles, but you will find that a clear is much more often played in the discipline of singles. As doubles is much more attacking, playing a clear more often than not just leads to you losing the attack.

When to use a Clear in singles

When you are on the back foot

As we have already said numerous times, a high and long clear is a good defensive shot. In singles, when you are under pressure from your opponent, it is a good opportunity to play a clear that will give you time to recover, get back into position and hopefully stop your opponent’s attack. Remember, the higher the shuttle goes, the more time you will have to recover.

Consistency is king

Singles is often a game where being consistent and not making mistakes, will win you the rally. High and long defensive clears can be a good option when you want to stay in the game and let your opponent make the mistake.

To vary the pace

By adding both types of clears to your game, along with your more traditionally attacking shots, you can vary the pace of the game, leaving your opponent constantly guessing what shot you are going to play next.

To the your opponent's backhand

It is not controversial to say that most players have a weaker backhand, especially at the back of the court. By using a clear, you can exploit this weakness, either by forcing them to play a shot or by getting them out of position when they take the shot using a around the head forehand.

When to use a Clear in Doubles

Although we have said that clears are mostly for when you are playing singles, there are some cases when a clear can come in handy during doubles.

As a surprise

When a doubles pair lifts to one corner, the pair should move over to that side. One player will over the straight smash and the other the middle and the cross court smash. This offers you a good opportunity to play a punch clear cross court. Your opponents most likely won’t be expecting this shot and so you will have the element of surprise. Also, it is a long distance for your opponent to travel to return a shot they weren’t expecting.

When you are in position and ready

As you are most likely to place a punch clear during a doubles match, you must ensure that you are ready and balanced. Deception is key when playing a punch clear and so if you don’t look like you can play a smash then the deception won’t be effective and neither will your shot. 

When not to play a Clear in Badminton

We have talked about some of the best times to play a clear in a badminton match, but when should you not play a clear?

For the most part, there isn’t a time when you definitely shouldn’t play a clear, it is a defensive shot that can help you get back into position which isn’t a bad thing.

In doubles

Although we have given some ideas when you play a clear in doubles, for most of the game it isn’t a great idea to play a clear. A clear in doubles should be a rare occasion, not a constant.
a good chance that your execution of the shot won’t be as good as a drop shot is all about finesse and accuracy. Therefore, you may end up playing the shuttle into the net or too high over the net, giving your opponent the advantage in the rally.

If you can’t play the punch clear properly … don’t

If your punch clear doesn’t go high enough or far enough to the back, you are offering your opponent an easy opportunity to smash the shuttle right back at you.

How to Defend Against and Return a Clear

So far we have talked about using smashes, but what if your opponent uses a clear, or even a punch clear, against you. Here are some general things that you can do to play against a clear.

Improve your footwork

If you have good footwork, then you have the best weapon to counter everything in badminton. When you are being moved around the court, especially with a clear, having great footwork and getting back to the middle as quickly as possible allows you to be ready for wherever your opponent puts the shuttle next.

Also, having a good split step can help you spring backwards to get a punch clear that has been played in behind you. If you want to improve your footwork then check out our article on footwork drills for badminton.

Work on your core

Having good core muscles is a great way to move around the court effectively. Your core muscles are the bit that connects your leg muscles, needed for a strong hard push off, to the top half of your body, which needs to be relaxed to hit precise shots. Having a strong core will help wonders when you need to get back quickly for that deceptive punch clear that has been played in behind you.

If you want to work on your core, check out our articles One Exercise to Improve Your Movement: Sit-upsBest Plank Exercises: Improving Your Badminton Movement and 10 Best Core Exercises For Badminton Players.

Tips for Improving Your Clear

Bend your knees

By bending your knees when in the ready position, you can then spring forward onto the shuttle which will help with your technique, power and timing. Your racket leg should be more bent than your non-racket leg, this will make you tip slightly back and put your weight onto the racket leg.

Hold your racket loose and low

Holding your racket grip loose in your hand before the shot and squeezing on impact will improve your racket speed which inturn increases the power of your clear. Also, by holding your hand further down the grip creates a longer lever. In physics, the longer the lever, the further the effort acts from the pivot and so the greater the force on the load will be.

Hold the racket further down the grip = More Power

Practice your footwork

Quick and agile footwork to get you in position to play a clear, and recover from one too, is just as, if not more important than the racket swing itself. By having good footwork, you give yourself time to get into position and prepare to play the shot. This is also important for getting back to the middle after the shot so that you are ready for the return too.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And lastly, the best way to improve your clear is to practise, practise and practise some more. You can either improve the power of a shot, you can improve the accuracy of a shot or you can improve the consistency of a shot. If you can consistently hit a clear within 30 cm of the back line then you are well on the way to mastering the clear. One way to achieve this is just by hitting lots of clears.

Badminton Clear Training drills

Here are five clear training drills that you can do to improve your clear. If you want to see a full description of each of the drills check out our clear training drills article.

  1. Clear to Clear Routine (Pair Drill) – A good drill to practise the clear motion. One player begins with a lift and the other player clears the shuttle back. Both players continue to clear back and forth.
  2. Lift-Clear-Drop (Pair Drill) – A good drill to practise a clear with movement. Player 1 lifts, player 2 plays a clear, player 1 plays a drop shot back. Player 2 now lifts and player 1 plays a clear and player 2 plays a drop back. Variations can be added for complexity.
  3. Multi-shuttle Clear Drill (Feeder Drill) – Complex drill for more advanced players. You need to be able to, or have someone that can feed multiple shuttles. Good for practising your clear with full court movement.
  4. Clear Accuracy (Feeder Drill) Using some cones or even some shuttle tubes, make a target area for you to aim your clears into. Have your partner lift shuttles to you and then try and play a clear into this target area. You can make this area bigger or smaller depending on your skill level.
  5. Footwork (Solo Drill) – Not just good for practising your clear, as anytime you are working on your badminton footwork, you’re improving every area of the game from helping you reach the shuttle quicker to returning to the middle of the court faster.

Conclusion

So as you can see from this article, there is a lot to know about the humble clear. Everyone should master the clear, they are one of the most basic but essential shots in badminton. I hope you have gained new insight into the clear and a greater desire to go out and improve your badminton game!

In this article we have talked you through what a clear is, the types of clears and how to play them. From there we went on to discuss the benefits of playing a clear, as well as when you should and shouldn’t play one. We have given you some useful tips on how to defend against a clear and how you can improve yours as well as some training drills to achieve this.

Now that you have mastered the clear, why don’t you look at our net shot article to become a master of finesse!

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