Playing Badminton: Rules, Instructions, and What’s In-Bounds

Badminton is a fun racquet sport. It involves hitting a shuttlecock over a net with a racquet. Games can be played by two people, known as a single match, or with two teams of two people, known as a doubles match.

While badminton has a lot of rules, these are easy to learn through play. In order to help you with setting up your game and understanding how to play, we have provided easy-to-follow instructions on how badminton is played.

Below are also the essential rules for badminton and information about what’s within bounds when playing.

An image of a badminton court and a player.

What Are the Basic Rules for Badminton?

The basic rules of badminton revolve around playing within the correct lines and hitting the shuttlecock legally. If you follow these rules, you will ensure that your points count and the game has order. As the opposite team can gain a point for your fault it’s good to know what behavior is unacceptable on a badminton court.

An umpire oversees the match, usually from a high chair to provide the best vantage point. They decide if a fault has been committed or if the shot lands outside the lines. Line judges are on hand to call if the shuttlecock lands in or out of bounds.

Playing in the lines – rules explained

A badminton court is marked by lines. Which lines you play is dependent on whether you are playing singles or double.

During a doubles match the entire court as marked by the lines is in play, meaning the shuttlecock is only out if it lands outside the outer lines.

In singles match the area of play is narrower, so the sidelines are not the widest lines but the next ones in. If the shuttlecock lands between the parallel lines running on the side of the court during a single match it is out.

Faulty behavior – what “faults” are

If a player commits any of the following actions, they will be at fault and a point will be rewarded to their opponent:

  • Coming into contact with the net with your racket or body.
  • Distracting your opponent intentionally.
  • Hitting the shuttlecock more than once during your turn.
  • Flinging a shuttlecock that has been caught in the racket.
  • Continual rule-breaking during a game.

Want to know more about the most common faults of having your racket across the net? Read this article I wrote: Can a Badminton Racket Cross the Net? (A Complete Guide).

What Are the Basic Skills Needed for Badminton?

The basic skills required include a focus on gripping the racquet correctly, standing in the most effective position, feeling comfortable moving around the court, and how to serve and hit the shuttlecock.

At the professional level badminton is a fast-paced, athletic sport that requires quick thinking and skill. At a beginner’s level, badminton’s small court size and light shuttlecock is an enjoyable activity to get moving and have fun.

Here is a more detailed description of the basic skills in badminton:

  • Grip – Having the right grip is important for controlling shots and avoiding wrist injury. Hold your racquet as if you are shaking someone’s hand. For forehand shots, you want your index finger forward. When hitting a backhand have your thumb forward.
  • Stance – How you stand whilst playing will impact the direction and effectiveness of your shots. Take an attack stance, and face the side-lines, when returning a forehand shot. Use a defensive stance, facing the net, when trying to return a smash shot.
  • Footwork – Playing badminton means you must protect your side of the court; the game is fast, and the court is small so quick footwork is essential. Returning to a central spot after each return is important to be prepared for incoming shots.
  • Serve – Serving is one of the most important skills when playing badminton. A quality service can quickly put you ahead of your opponent during a match.
  • Smash – This is the most powerful stroke in badminton. The aim is to powerfully hit the shuttlecock downwards or towards you the body of your opponent. An effective smash cannot be returned.

How Do You Set Up the Court for Playing?

Badminton is played on a rectangular court with a 1.55m high net in the middle. You will need a specially marked court to play on with the correct lines marked. The court should be 20 feet (6.1m) wide and 44 feet (13.4m) long.

A court will have four lines marking the rectangle of the court, if a shuttlecock lands outside of these lines it is always out. There will be two lines running the length of the court and parallel to the outer lines. Each side of the net will be two smaller rectangles known as service areas. You will always serve in the service area diagonally to where you are stood.

When serving in a singles game you must aim into the service area which includes the space between the backline of the service rectangle and the back of the court.

When serving in a doubles game you must aim into the service area which includes the space next to the outer line of the service rectangle and the outer line of the side of the court.

When setting up a court for playing competitive badminton should always be played indoors to eliminate wind elements affecting the game. Playing outside is more suited to informal games and rally practice just for fun.

Whilst it may sound complicated to read about measurements and lines, once you are on a court playing, the different service areas and play areas will make sense.

An image of a middle-aged badminton players in the park.

Here’s How to Serve and Start the Game

Serving the shuttlecock starts the play of the game. To serve properly you must be stood in the correct place, serve in the correct direction, and legally.

You and your opponent must be stood in diagonally opposite service courts. The shuttlecock must be served diagonally across the net.

To serve you must hit the shuttlecock upwards from a fixed height of 1.15m. In professional games, this will be monitored with special equipment. For beginners, though it’s best to follow the old rule. Serve from below your waist which is considered to be level with the lowest bone in your ribcage.

For your serve to be legal both feet must be on the floor, you need to hit the cork part of the shuttlecock and the serve must be one continuous motion.

If the shuttlecock lands outside your opponent’s service court then they are awarded a point. If your opponent misses the serve you are awarded a point. If the serve is returned a rally begins.

Game Starting Tips for Beginners

  • Aim to hit the shuttle just over the net and into your opponent’s service court.
  • Use a flick of the wrist to hit your shuttle.
  • Avoid excessive movement of your body.

Game Starting Tips for More Advanced Players

  • Try a high serve forcing your opponent to return backhanded
  • Facing the net, drop the shuttlecock downward and swing your racquet to hit it upwards.
  • Flip your wrist in the direction you want it to land.

How to Score Points

Points can be scored by winning rallies or by your opponent being at fault. To score a point you want the shuttlecock to land in your opponent’s court, this is achieved when your opponent fails to return your serve or rally.

If a player hits the shuttlecock into the net or is out of bounds, a point will be given to their opponent.

The fun of badminton is using a variation of shots to beat your opponent. Whilst powerful, well-placed smash shots are difficult to return it’s also possible to catch your opponent off guard with a drop shot. Tapping the shuttlecock gently over the net at the right time could be easily missed or returned directly to the net earning you a point. 

Points are scored one at a time.

How to Win a Game

A full badminton match will consist of three games. Whoever wins two of three games will win the match. Players should aim to get to 21 points first to win a game.

If both teams reach 20 points each then you will need two points to break the tie and win the game.

If the game reaches 29 points tie then the first person to score 30 will win and then the game will be complete.

You win a badminton match by outplaying your opponent or the other team, a solid serve and quality rally-ending shots are a great arsenal for defeating your opponent quickly.

Whilst you can gain points due to an opponent’s faults, this should not be the game plan for winning.

Tips on Caring for Your Badminton Equipment After the Game

As badminton is mainly played at sports centers or badminton clubs the court and net will be provided for you. The main piece of equipment you will need to purchase and take care of yourself is a racquet.

Here are the key areas to focus on when taking care of your racquet:

  • Keep your racquet in a safe, dry place. Badminton racquets are fragile and accidentally being bumped into or stood on can damage the frame or break strings. It’s also important that your racquet isn’t put away wet or stored in a damp environment as this moisture can misshape the frame.
  • Replace your strings. If your strings are damaged, they can warp the frame of your racquet. You may also notice the shuttle bouncing off in obscure directions due to unbalanced tension.
  • Only use your racquet to hit the shuttlecock. Whether it’s a superstitious tap on the court before serving or an accidental collision with a double’s partner, an impact on your racquet can cause cracks in the frame. This will mean your racquet will need replacing.
  • Replace your grip. It’s advisable to replace the grip on your racquet around once a month. The moisture collected during play (sweat) can damage the handle. You’ll notice over time that without replacing the grip will become worn.

The life span of a shuttlecock really depends on how frequently you play and what power it’s being struck. With feathered shuttlecocks, if you notice feathers are drying out you can steam them to rehydrate. For beginners, it’s recommended to use plastic shuttlecocks as these are more durable and inexpensive to replace.

An image of badminton shuttlecocks with a racket and a pair of sport shoes.

Badminton Rule FAQs

Let’s make sure we answer all of your questions related to badminton rules. If we don’t cover yours, please use our contact us page to get your question to us. We’ll be sure to update this article and answer your question!

What Happens if the Shuttlecock (Or Birdie) Lands on the Line?

When a shuttlecock falls on the line it is in. The head of the shuttlecock will hit the line first, if the head is touching the line, then the shot is in.

Can You Step on the Lines in Badminton?

When serving you must not be stood on the lines, if you are stood on the lines this is a fault. Whilst the game is in play, players can move about and hit on the lines as long as they are within the permitters of the court for the match.

How Many Times Can You Hit the Birdie?

You must only hit the shuttlecock once on each return, if you hit the shuttlecock more than once a point will be rewarded to your opponent. If during a doubles match you miss the shuttlecock, your partner can still return it as long as it has not touched your racquet.

Can You Smash a Serve?

It is legal to smash a serve as the receiver. Make sure you do not move to smash the service until after it has been delivered. Also, be aware that a good low serve can be hard to smash as it is likely to hit the net.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve covered the rules of badminton, let’s spice things up. Here are Badminton Alternatives: 13 Other Games You’ll Love for when you need something else to play!


Learning from your own experiences is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as a family of sports nuts wannabes.

  • “Badminton.” Wikipedia, 13 Mar. 2022,
  • “Badminton Rules: How To Play Badminton | Rules of Sport.” Rules of Sport, Accessed 22 Mar. 2022.
  • Heda, Raghav. “7 Basic Badminton Skills You Can Learn Without Coaching.” Voice of Indian Sports – KreedOn, 10 Sept. 2021,
  • Ma, Justin. “5 Useful Tips for Taking Care of Your Badminton Racket.” Badminton Justin, 21 Mar. 2022,
  • Peter, Naveen. “Everything You Wanted to Know about a Badminton Court.” Olympics.Com, 13 Jan. 2021,
  • “Simple Rules for Beginners | Badminton Bible.” Badminton Bible, Accessed 22 Mar. 2022.
  • Vidya. “Badminton Service Tips For Beginners.” BG Badminton Academy, 22 Feb. 2020,

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