How to Play Badminton: The Complete Guide

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Featured image for the Article How to Play badminton, with the words "The World of Badminton". An image of the earth from space inside of a badminton racket

Badminton is a fast-paced, fun sport that is easy to play, but difficult to master. It is also a sport that can be played by anyone regardless of age, size, or fitness level. The rules are very simple and it’s easy to learn how to play badminton.

Simply put, players use a racket to hit a shuttlecock (a small feathered or plastic projectile) back and forth over a net and score a point when the shuttlecock goes over the net to land within the opponent’s half of the court.

Badminton shares similarities with other racket sports, such as the precision of tennis or the athleticism of squash, while also possessing its own unique traits. For one, badminton is the fastest racket sport in the world.

There are several disciplines of badminton to choose from, each with its own way of playing the game. The two most popular variations are singles and doubles, which offer different strategies and challenges for players to overcome.

It’s a popular sport for both kids and adults who enjoy it because the equipment is inexpensive and takes up little space. It’s also great for building muscle endurance as well as coordination. And since it’s easy to learn, badminton is a great game to get out and try!

The Aim of the Game

Badminton is a game that is played by 2 people (singles) or 4 (doubles). The game is played on an indoor court with a net dividing the players into two halves.

The object of the game is to score points by hitting the shuttlecock with your racket over the net to land within the opponent’s half of the court. If the shuttlecock hits the line, that is classed as in. Whenever you do this, you have won a rally and won a point; win enough points, and you win the match.

A player will also receive a point if the opponent makes a mistake, such as hitting it into or under the net, out of court, or hitting the shuttle more than once. Unlike volleyball, the shuttle may only be hit once by each side before crossing the net. Once the shuttle touches the ground, that rally is over. This is one way in which badminton differs from tennis or squash, where the ball can bounce.

Each rally begins with one team serving diagonally cross-court, over the net, from one service box to the other service box. A point is scored on every serve and awarded to whichever side wins the rally. The winning side gets the next serve. A typical game lasts for 21 points but we will cover the specifics of scoring later. When played competitively, badminton matches are typically best-of-three games with the first side to reach 21 points winning the game.

Lightening Overview

  • Badminton is played by 2 (singles) or 4 (doubles) players on an indoor court with a net.
  • The objective is to hit the shuttlecock over the net to land within the opponent’s half of the court.
  • Points are scored by winning rallies or when the opponent makes a mistake by hitting the shuttle:
    • Into the Net
    • Under the Net
    • Out of the Court
    • Twice
  • Each rally starts with a serve diagonally cross-court.
  • A typical game lasts for 21 points.
  • Matches are typically best-of-three games.

What Equipment Do I Need To Play Badminton?

As with all sports, there is a wide variety of badminton equipment to choose from, but if you’re looking for the bare minimum to get started straight away, here is what you’ll need:

  • A shuttlecock
  • A badminton racket
  • A pair of badminton or court shoes
  • A court to play on

The Shuttlecock

A shuttlecock (also called a birdie or shuttle) is a cone-shaped object made from either feathers or a synthetic material (commonly known as “plastics”) that is embedded into a round base that is made of either cork or rubber.

Typically, a shuttlecock weighs between 4.75 – 5.50 g and is about 70 mm in length. A feathered shuttlecock contains 16 overlapping feathers and a cork end with a diameter of approximately 25 – 28 mm. The diameter of the circle that the feathers make is around 58 – 68 mm.

Feathered shuttles are generally viewed as better and are what are used at the competition level. However, feathered shuttles are much more brittle than synthetic shuttles and therefore do not last as long. This is why “plastics” are generally more used by beginners.

Image of a plastic shuttle

The Badminton Racket

A badminton racket

A badminton racket is a lightweight implement, with a short handle and a head that is crossed with tight strings in order to hit the shuttle. Modern rackets are made of carbon fiber and have a rubber grip.

Popular brands of badminton rackets include Yonex, Li-Ning, Victor and Carlton.

Badminton Shoes

Most people use their trainers or sneakers to play badminton but these are often unsuitable as badminton is a fast-paced and physically demanding sport that requires both speed and agility. Therefore, to improve your performance and, more importantly, to avoid injury, you should wear the proper equipment.

Orange badminton shoes

Badminton shoes typically have extra traction and the right support and cushioning to help you move around the court quickly and land safely after jumping. Also, the bottom of badminton shoes is made of rubber, which keeps the shoe from leaving marks on the floor. This is important in places where it is not allowed to make marks or scratches on the floor.

A Badminton Court

Though technically not a piece of equipment, the place where you play badminton is crucial. Though many people play badminton outdoors in places like a back garden or on a beach, if you want to take badminton more seriously, the best place to play is indoors on a specific badminton court. Playing indoors stops any interference from the wind, which even the slightest of breezes can change the flight direction of the shuttle. Playing on a regulation-size court also helps a player learn to feel when a shot is sailing out-of-bounds.

A regulation-size badminton court is 13.4 m long and 6.1 m wide.

The net is 760 mm in depth and a minimum of 6.1 m wide. The top of the net from the surface of the court is 1.524 m at the center of the court and 1.55 m over the sidelines.

A grey badminton court

The Badminton Court

To understand how to play badminton, we should first talk about the badminton court itself. There are two aspects to the badminton court, the dimensions of the court and its boundaries. There are five different disciplines in badminton, Men’s singles, Women’s singles, Men’s doubles, Women’s doubles, and Mixed doubles and the dimensions of the court differ depending on whether you are playing singles or doubles.

The dimensions of the badminton court are as follows:

The court is 13.41 m (44 ft) long by 6.1 m (20 ft) wide with a net height of 1.55 m (5 ft 1 in) at the polls and 1.52 m high (5 ft) in the middle where it dips.

Each side of the badminton court is made up of a short service line, the service court, and the tramlines. A serve must pass the short service line, which is 1.98 m (6.5 ft) from the net. Beyond the short service line, there is a line that runs down the center of the court which splits the left and right service courts.

The court then differs slightly depending on whether you are playing singles or doubles. When serving, the shuttle must pass the short service line for both singles and doubles. But in doubles, the shuttle cannot go past the long service line; which is the first line at the back of the service court and is 0.76 m (2.5ft) in from the baseline. Whereas in singles, the service boundary is the baseline, giving you an extra 0.76 m to serve into.

Another difference between singles and doubles is the width of the court. The tramlines of the court are out when playing singles making it only 5.18 m (17 ft) wide.

A schematic demonstrating the areas that are playable during a singles and a doubles badminton match

The Scoring System in Badminton

As discussed earlier, all singles and doubles matches are the best-of-three games with the first side to reach 21 points winning a game.

At the elite level, the first serve is often determined by a coin toss. At an amateur level, players usually throw the shuttlecock up in the air, let it land, and whichever side the shuttlecock points to is the side that serves first. The player serving first stands in the right-hand side box, called the right service box, and serves cross-court over the net, into the opponent’s right service box. The rally then commences and a point is awarded to whichever player wins the rally. A point is scored on every serve and the winner also gets the next serve too. The badminton game then progresses like this with the winner of the previous rally serving to begin the next. Each player will retain serve for as long as they keep winning points. It is easy to remember which box to serve from (provided you can remember the score!). Serving on an even point is done from the right-hand service box and serving on an odd point is done from the left-hand service box.

A schematic detailing how to score and to know where to serve in a badminton singles match

Example: The score is 13 – 15 to Player B. Player A has just won the point, so Player A serves from the left-hand service box to Player B’s left-hand service box as 13 is an odd number.

This serving pattern is still the same for when playing doubles. Each player starts in their own service box and will swap service boxes with their partner when they win a point. When the score is even, whichever player is in the right service box serves. When the score is odd, whichever player is in the left service box serves. Because a point is won every rally, the serve will cycle through all the players when each team wins a rally (if you never lose a rally, the server will never change!).

A schematic detailing how to score and to know where to serve in a badminton doubles match

Example: The score is 0 – 0 Team A has won the serve. Player 1A stands in the right-hand service box and serves over the net, cross-court to Player 1B, also in the right-hand service box. Team A wins the rally making the score 1 – 0. Player 1A continues to serve but now moves into the left-hand service box as their score is now odd. The next rally is won by Team B making the score 1 – 1. Team B now gets the serve. As they are on an odd number, Player 2B serves from the left-hand service box over the net, cross-court to Player 1A, who is now in the left-hand service box.

As we have already said, the match ends when one player gets to 21. However, this does not happen if the score is 20-20. If both sides get to 20, the winning must get two clear points to win the game. To stop a badminton game from going on forever, if the score reaches 29-29, the first to get their 30th point wins.

Now you can score a game of badminton!

Basic Badminton Shots

The variety of shots that can be played in badminton is extensive, each requiring different levels of technical ability. This is what makes badminton so fun to play but also so difficult to master. Here we will briefly go through some of the basic shots you will need to start playing a game of badminton.

Serving

Arguably the most important shot in the game of badminton. If you can’t serve you can continue to win points.

To serve, the shuttle must be hit below 1.15 m, which is about waist height. The server’s racket should be angled downwards when the shuttle is hit. This is to stop over arm serves. When serving the shuttle cannot be hit on its feathers and must be hit on its base. Both players must remain stationary until the shuttle is served and the server must not serve before the opponent is ready (no sneaky serves allowed!).

Generally, there are two ways in which players serve. Either using a backhand grip or a forehand grip. Using both techniques, you can vary how hard and the direction you hit the shuttle to determine where on the court you want the shuttle to land.

Different serves are traditionally used whether you are playing singles or doubles. As the singles court is longer than the doubles court when serving, a long and high forehand serve is often favored. Whereas, often a short serve to the front of the court is used in doubles. A backhand serve is a favorite of the pros in doubles as this also allows you to disguise a hard and fast flick serve to the back of the court if your opponent is coming too far forward.

There is no right or wrong way to serve, as long as you observe the basic rules, so choose what feel most comfortable to you or what you think is best for that moment in time.

For much more information about serving see our article, Badminton Serves: Types of Serves and How to Play Them.

Lift

A lift is when you hit the shuttle, underarm, high, and to the back of the court making this more of a defensive shot. It’s very important to have a good Lift because if you don’t get the shuttle to the back of the court, the opponent will have an easy opportunity to play an attacking shot. A good lift will also give you time to get into position and be ready for the next shot. But, control the strength of your shot, if it’s too strong, the shuttle will fly out the back of the court!

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a lift in badminton

Net Shot

A Net shot is as it sounds, a shot played at the net. If your opponent plays a shot that means the shuttle is destined to land in your forecourt (generally in front of the service fault line), then you can play a Net shot. By gently hitting the shuttle back, preferably when the shuttle is still high, you can make the shuttle drop as close to the net as possible. This can be a winning shot, but more often and more importantly, it will force your opponent to play lift so you can play an attacking shot. Net shots can be executed with both a forehand or backhand grip. For much more information about Net shots see our article, Badminton Net Shot: Types of Net Shots and How to Play Them.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a net shot in badminton

Drive

A Drive is a shot that is hit hard back towards your opponent and is roughly about head height. A Drive will take time away from your opponent as you hit the shuttle hard and low to the net, giving them less time to react. A good time to play a drive is often when receiving a short serve. If you can react fast enough before the shuttle dips too low over the net, then you can drive the shuttle back at your opponent, forcing them to play a weaker shot back that you can then capitalise on.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a drive in badminton

Clear

A Clear is a shot played from the back of the court. It is a high-looping shot played from the back of your court to the back of your opponent’s court. It is a good way to move your opponent around the court and get the shuttle over their head. If you can move them around enough to force them into playing a poor shot back, such as a Clear that does not go to the back of your court, then you can attack this shot. A good Clear also makes it hard for your opponent to play a really good Smash, as the shuttle is at the right at the back of the court, making the Smash weaker. And when played well the shuttle should be coming directly down without much of an angle for your opponent to attack. For much more information about clears see our article, Badminton Clear: Types of Clears and How to Play Them.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a clear in badminton

Smash

A Smash is an attacking shot that is played by hitting the shuttle hard, overhead in a downward trajectory. The aim is to finish the rally by playing a Smash that your opponent cannot get back. The Smash is the fastest shot in badminton with the record currently standing at 493 km/h (306 mph) by Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in 2023. Jumping when you smash will increase the sharpness of the angle you can hit the shuttle over the net, therefore making it harder for your opponent to get back. For much more information about smashes see our article, Badminton Smash: Types of Smashes and How to Play Them.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a smash in badminton

Drop Shot

A Drop Shot is very similar to a Smash in shot motion. However, instead of hitting the shuttle with as much power as you can muster, you instead hit the shuttle with the aim to try and get the shuttle to drop as close to the net as possible. If disguised correctly, your opponent will be getting ready for your Smash and therefore will not be able to make it to the shuttle to return your Drop shot. For much more information about drop shots see our article, Badminton Drop Shot: Types of Drop Shots and How to Play Them.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the flight path of a drop shot in badminton

The shots that have been described here are just a few of the basic shots that you will need to play a game of badminton. There are plenty more complex shots for you to learn after you have mastered the basics making the game of badminton endlessly fun to play.

Fouls in Badminton and How to Avoid them

There are five main fouls that can be committed in badminton. These fouls, otherwise known as faults in badminton, can be committed by the player on offense, defense, or even while serving. These are:

  1. Service Fault
  2. Receiver Fault
  3. Contact Fault
  4. Over the net Fault
  5. Double Hit

 

If a foul or fault occurs during the rally, this is the end of the rally and a point is awarded against the person who committed the fault. So what are they and how can you avoid them?

1) Service Fault

As we have discussed earlier, the Serve is one of the most important shots in the game of badminton. There are several ways in which a serve can be illegal and so by knowing and avoiding these, you will not give away valuable points before the rally even begins.

  • The shuttle must be hit below 1.15 m, which is about waist height.
  • The server’s racket should be angled downwards when the shuttle is hit. This is to stop over arm serves.
  • When serving the shuttle cannot be hit on its feathers and must be hit on its base.
  • You must stand behind the service line.
  • Both player’s feet must remain stationary until the shuttle is served.
  • Your feet can not touch any of the lines.

If these rules are not followed then the rally does not commence and the receiver gets the point.

2) Receiver Fault

There are a few rules that you must also follow when you are receiving a serve from your opponent, but they are very self-explanatory and easy to follow.

  • When receiving a serve you must stand behind the service line. You can’t just stand at the net.
  • Like the server, your feet must not touch any lines.
  • You must stand still until the shuttle is hit by the server.

 

If any of these rules are broken the server gets the point.

3) Contact Fault

A contact fault is when you or your racket touch (come into contact) with something you shouldn’t. A contact fault occurs if:

  • If you and your racket touch the net in the middle of a rally.
  • If you or any part of your body, including your clothes, touch the shuttle in the middle of a rally.

Basically, you can only hit the shuttle with your racket. Check out the article, What Happens When You Touch The Net? for an in-depth look.

4) Over the Net Fault

The over-the-net fault is a bit misleading, it should really be called the “wait for the shuttle to come over your side of the net before hitting it fault”, but that’s a bit of a mouthful.

Basically, you cannot hit the shuttle before it crosses to your side of the net. However, this is where it is a bit misleading, your racket may follow through over the net so long as you have made contact with the shuttle on your side of the net.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the over the net fault in badminton

5) Double Hit

The double-hit fault is simple. It is when you hit the shuttle more than once. You have only one attempt to hit the shuttle per player or team. This also means that in doubles, only one player is allowed to hit the shuttle. If both players touch the shuttle with their racket, this is also deemed a double hit.

For each fault, when it occurs, the rally is immediately stopped and the point is awarded to the player or team that did not commit the fault.

Now you know all of the badminton faults you can avoid giving away silly points, leave that to your opponent.

To Conclude

Bad-Minton is not your neighbour’s naughty dog but a fast-paced and exciting game that has many benefits. It is a great way to stay active and helps to maintain muscle mass, be social with family and friends, and to relieve stress.

In this article, we have learnt the rules and aims of badminton. We have also discussed what equipment you need to start playing. Equipment for the game can be bought at any sporting goods store or online, so it’s easy to get started.

We have also talked about how to score a game of badminton as well as the dimensions of the court.

We have also gone through the basic shots that you can play as well as what not to do so you can avoid committing fouls and give away easy points.

In short, we have learnt How to Play Badminton!

But the most important thing to remember when playing is that it’s all about getting out and having fun, then it doesn’t even feel like exercise! Enjoy!

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