The Badminton Bible


All original content copyright © Mike Hopley

Simple rules for beginners

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Beginners don’t need to know everything about the rules. Here are some simple guidelines to get you started.

Experienced players may wish to skip this page, and move on to faults.

The absolute basics

The aim of badminton is to hit the shuttle with your racket so that it passes over the net and lands inside your opponent’s half of the court. Whenever you do this, you have won a rally; win enough rallies, and you win the match.

Your opponent has the same goal. He will try to reach the shuttle and send it back into your half of the court. You can also win rallies from your opponent’s mistakes: if he hits the shuttle into or under the net, or out of court, then you win the rally.

If you think your opponent’s shot is going to land out, then you should let it fall to the floor. If you hit the shuttle instead, then the rally continues.

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 must hit the shuttle once only before it goes over the net (even in doubles). In this respect, badminton is not like volleyball, where multiple players can touch the ball before sending it back over the net.

Badminton is played indoors

Some of you may be familiar with playing badminton on a beach, or in the garden. This is fine when you’re playing it as a casual game, but it doesn’t work when you start to get competitive.

The shuttle is blown off course by even the slightest breath of wind. That’s why competitive badminton is always played indoors.

Setting up a badminton court

Badminton has its own nets and posts; the net is much lower than for volleyball. Sometimes a sports centre will set up the court with a slack volleyball net instead, because the staff don’t know anything about badminton. Ask for proper badminton posts and a badminton net.

If you need to set up the court yourself, then check three things:

  • 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.

Often it can be hard to see the badminton court lines, because lines for other sports are also painted on the floor. The badminton court lines should all be in one colour, so try to focus on that.

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. The only exceptions are the first two shots of the rally; I’ll explain this when we discuss serving.

In total, there are five types of badminton:

  • Men’s singles
  • Women’s singles
  • Men’s doubles
  • Women’s doubles
  • Mixed doubles (each team is a man and a woman)

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, however, women sometimes play against men (e.g. two women against two men).

What are all those lines for?

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

The outermost lines form the doubles court. So in a doubles rally, the shuttle is allowed to land anywhere on the court.

The singles court is slightly narrower 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. These alleys are often called the tramlines or side tramlines, since they look like tram or train tracks.

So here’s another way to think about it: the side tramlines are in for doubles, but out for singles.

All the other lines are for serving

There are still three lines we haven’t discussed yet. 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: someone has to hit the shuttle first! To prevent the server gaining an overwhelming advantage, there are special restrictions 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, the serve must be hit in an upwards direction, with an underarm hitting action. You are not allowed to play a tennis style serve.

The main rule 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 ribcage. In other words, you can serve from a bit higher than the top of your shorts, but not much.

Service courts

The service courts are smaller box shapes inside the court. We’ll look at what they are used for in a moment, 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 centre line. At the front of the court, the centre 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 centre line
  • A singles side line (inside side line)
  • The front service line
  • The back line (the outside one, all the way at the back)

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 (remember: the doubles court is wider); 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. It’s probably the most confusing line on a badminton court, because that’s all it does!

So just to be clear, a doubles service court is made from these four lines:

  • The centre line
  • A doubles side line (outside side line)
  • The front service line
  • The inside back line (not the very back line, but the next one in)

How service courts are used

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, suppose the server is standing in his left service court. The receiver will be standing in his left service court, which is also where the serve has to go.

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 immediately and move anywhere on court.