How to play badminton – basics

How to play badminton

The basics of badminton

The goal of badminton is to hit the shuttlecock with your badminton racket so that it goes over the net and drops inside your opponent’s side of the court. Whenever your shuttlecock touches the ground, you have won the point, do that enough and you win the game!

Your opponent has the same objective. He or She will try to hit the shuttlecock back and toward your side of the court. You can also win from your opponent’s errors. If the Shuttlecock goes into the net, under the net or out of the court. Then you win the point.

If you look and think your opponent’s shot is going to land outside your court, then you should let it fall to the floor. If you hit the shuttle instead, then the rally has to continue.

Once the shuttle touches the ground, the rally is over. In this respect, badminton is not like tennis or squash, where the ball can bounce.

You can hit the shuttle only once before it goes over the net (even in doubles). In this respect, badminton is not like basketball, where multiple players can touch the ball before trying to score.

Why Badminton is played indoors

Some of you may have played badminton on a beach, in the garden, or at void decks below your buildings. This is fine when you’re playing it as a casual game with friends, but it doesn’t go well when you start to get into competitive badminton.

The shuttle is blown off course easily by even the slightest breath of wind. That’s why competitive badminton is always played indoors. Good thing is that there is no Sun!

Understanding the Badminton Court

The badminton court is 44 feet in length and 22 feet in width.

The net is placed at the center of the court at 22 feet in length and should be 5 feet high from the ground.

If you are playing singles, then the width of the court will be 20 feet only as the entire court is used for doubles games. The service should be such that the shuttle-cock should reach to the other side of the court in diagonal form and within the service box on that side of the court.

Setting up a badminton court

Badminton has its own nets and posts.

If you need to set up the court yourself, there are 3 things to check:

  • The net covers the whole width of the court.
  • The net is pulled tight, not slack.
  • The net is in the middle, so that both court halves are the same size.

Sometimes it can be hard to see the badminton court lines, because lines for other sports are also painted on the floor (referring to multi-purpose courts). The badminton court lines should all be in one color, so try to focus on that.

How to play badminton

Singles, doubles, and mixed doubles

You can have either two or four players on a badminton court: one player on each side, or a team of two players on each side. One-against-one is called singles; two-against-two is called doubles.

In doubles, either player can hit the shuttle; you do not have to take it in turns like table tennis. The only exceptions are the first two shots of the rally.

In total, there are five types of badminton:

  • Men’s singles
  • Women’s singles
  • Men’s doubles
  • Women’s doubles
  • Mixed doubles

Men’s doubles and women’s doubles are also called level doubles.

These are the only types of badminton played in serious tournaments. In Casual play, everyone can play with anyone.

What are all those lines for?

When you first look at a badminton court, you could be stressed out thinking it has too many lines. This is mainly because the court is marked up for both singles and doubles, which uses different court sizes.

The most outer lines form the doubles court. So in a doubles, the shuttlecock is allowed to land anywhere on the court.

The singles court is slightly smaller than the doubles court. The singles side lines are not the outermost lines, but the next ones in. Taken together with the outermost (doubles) side lines, these make narrow alley shapes along the sides of the court.

So here is a simpler way to think about it: the side tramlines are in for doubles, but out for singles.

Service Lines

There are still three lines we have yet to mention. These lines mean nothing during the main rally, and only apply when you’re serving. This is similar to how a tennis court has special lines for serving.


Serving is how you start the rally. Somebody has to start the point. To prevent the server gaining the advantage, there are restrictions/rules placed on serving that don’t apply during the rest of the rally.

The receiver is the person who hits the second shot in the rally. In doubles, the receiver’s partner is not allowed to hit this shot.

How to serve in badminton

In badminton, the serve must be hit in an upward direction, with an underarm hitting action. You are not allowed to play a tennis style overhead serve.

The main rule for badminton service here is that when you hit the shuttle, it must be below your waist. To be exact, the rules define this to be a height level with the lowest part of your rib cage.

Service courts in badminton

The service courts are smaller box shapes inside the court. We’ll look at what they are used for in a bit, but first let’s get the right boxes.

Notice that the badminton court has a line down the middle, extending from the back to near the net; this is the center line. At the front of the court, the center line is met by another line; this is the front service line. These two lines form a T shape where they meet.

A singles service court is a box made from four lines:

  • The center line
  • A singles side line
  • The front service line
  • The back line

On your side of the net, you have two service courts: your right service court, and your left service court. The same is true for your opponent.

The doubles service courts are slightly different. They are wider, because they use the outside side line and they are shorter, because they use the inside back line.

That’s what the inside back line is for: doubles service, and nothing else.

A doubles service court is made from these four lines:

  • The centre line
  • A doubles side line
  • The front service line
  • The inside back line

How service courts are used in badminton

Service courts are used for three things:

  • The server must stand inside a service court.
  • The receiver must stand inside the diagonally opposite service court.
  • The serve must travel into the diagonally opposite service court.

For example, assuming the server is standing in his right service court. The receiver will be standing in his right service court, which is also where the serve has to go to.

If the serve is going to land outside the service court, then the receiver should let it fall to the floor. If the receiver hits the serve, then the rally continues even if the serve had been going out.

The server and receiver must stay inside their service boxes until the server contacts the shuttle with his racket. After that, they can leave the boxes and move anywhere.

How to play badminton

Game point basics for badminton

In the game of badminton each serve has a point to be scored.

Since the first serve, you start from the right side of the court. If the serving team scores a point, then the service remains with the same team and service needs to be done from the other side of the service box. If the point is won by the opponent team, then the service goes to them. However, in doubles, each team has just one service at each point. If the team makes a point only then will it get another chance but does not change sides to serve.

How do you score a point in badminton

What is the point of playing a game if you are not able to score?

Here are the examples where you can score a point.

  • If the service does not reach the other side of the court, the opponent gets a point. There is only one serve available for each opponent.
  • Any serve that does not reach the opponents service box diagonally gets a point.
  • If the shuttle cock is hit outside the boundaries designed.
  • If you get hit by the shuttle cock.

How to hit the shuttlecock

Always focus at the shuttle-cock coming your way and position yourself so that the shuttle-cock can be returned to the other side of the court without over stretching yourself.

The shuttle cock’s round center is made of rubber and the top has several feathers on it. You should always aim to hit the center to get the basic shots right. Plan your shots well so that you can get the opponent away from the net to give yourself some extra time to get ready for the next shot.

One of the most frequently used shot when trying to finish the point is a smash. This is a powerful shot which brings the shuttlecock from an upward to downward motion at an extreme speed. Try to aim the shuttle-cock in a place where the opponent is not present or cannot reach.

Some players are good at being either forehand strikers or backhand strikers. The best badminton players are amazing at both forehand and backhand which makes them fierce opponents. Know the rules, learn the tricks and with more practice you will one day be good as well.

The above are basic rules to play a game of badminton. If you want to take it further and get much better, get a good experienced coach to help you improve your technique and game. Do not just look at certification, but past competitive experiences or training experiences.

by Xi An Li

Recommended book

Skills, Drills & Strategies for Badminton (The Teach, Coach, Play Series) 

This book illustrates correct techniques and demonstrates how to achieve optimal results in Badminton. It focuses on skills and drills or program design, and addresses a broad range of strategies specifically designed to improve performance now and in the future.

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