Badminton is pretty easy to start playing (especially if you follow our quick starter guides for singles or doubles), but after a little while of playing, you’ll probably want to know a bit more to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal. In this post, we’ll go over the top 10 most common faults that we see in amateur (and even professional) play. Make sure to avoid doing these the next time you go play badminton!
1. Striking the Shuttle Too High During Service
Players must hit the shuttle below 1.15 meters (3.77 feet) when they serve. However, it’s quite easy and common to hit the shuttle at a higher height. Players, especially professionals, usually try to push the boundaries of badminton in order to gain the biggest advantage that they can. In the case of serves, hitting the shuttle at a higher height allows them to get a better angle on their short serves and also decreases the time it takes for the shuttle to cross the net.
While professional matches have dedicated service judges, amateur games usually won’t – making it difficult to tell if a player served too high or not. Perhaps an easier way to determine this is to use the old badminton service rules, where a serve is considered a fault if it is above the player’s waist, which is defined as the player’s lowest rib. In either case, we suggest practicing your serve and getting feedback from a friend to make sure you’re serving legally. Even though you may not be called out on this fault, it may make others a bit unhappy. Perhaps it should also be added to the list of unspoken practices of badminton etiquette.
2. Double Hits
A double hit is when one or more players on the same team hit the shuttle consecutively before it goes back over the net. This usually occurs in doubles when a player barely misses the shuttle but ends up brushing it instead, allowing the back player to hit the shuttle. It’s usually pretty obvious when this happens because the shuttle typically wobbles or changes paths even with a small touch.
In any case, the bottom line is that you can only hit the shuttle once before it goes back over the net. This ain’t volleyball.
3. Hitting the Shuttle Before it Crosses the Net
Players are not allowed to hit the shuttle before it crosses the net. However, players do not need to wait for the entire shuttle to cross the net before hitting it. As long as the point of contact is on their side of the court, it is legal. In fact, the follow through of a hit can go over the net, just not the initial point of contact.
And if you’re wondering, if the follow through is interrupted by the opponent (say, if the opponent puts their racket in the way), it’s a fault on the opponent.
4. Racket Pointing Up During Service
Rackets must be pointing in a downward direction when the shuttle is struck. It cannot be flat either. What this means is that only underhand serves are allowed. This fault is surprisingly common in doubles since players often try to get the shuttle heading in a downward direction in a short service. Striking the shuttle with the racket in a flat or upwards orientation makes it much easier, but is illegal. Watch out for this in your games and make sure you’re not doing this!
5. Touching the Net
Only the shuttle is allowed to touch the net. Anything else, like your body, racket, clothes, hair, etc are not allowed to touch the net and is considered a fault. You are, however, allowed to be near or under or over the net as long as you do not interfere with your opponent’s game play, such as during a follow through for a net kill. During this motion, it’s common for a player’s foot to be under the net and racket to go above and across the net after striking the shuttle. This isn’t a fault as long as the player does not touch the net and the shuttle is past the net at the point of contact.
Note that touching the net after a rally is over is not considered a fault. The moment the shuttle hits the ground, the rally is over. Players may run into the net while doing a kill but if the shuttle lands before the player touches the net, there is no fault.
6. Moving Before the Service
No player can move their feet off the ground until the serve is struck. The moment the serve is struck (which is when the server makes contact with the shuttle), players can move freely. There’s a common misconception that the shuttle must go past the net before players can move, but this is not true. This allows players to rush serves or get into position as soon as possible.
7. Carrying the Shuttle
Each hit in badminton must be made “immediately“ and cannot be held on the racket before being slung back to the other side. This is a bit of a grey area since it can be up for interpretation. Generally, though, shots in badminton happen very quickly and even having your racket in contact with the shuttle for a full second is likely a carry. You’ll have to use your judgement to call faults for this but in general, shots should be a single, fluid motion with a single, distinct point of contact on the string bed.
8. Touching the Shuttle with Your Body
The shuttle can’t touch any part of your body, clothes, or hair. This is pretty similar to the fault about not touching the net. Only your racket and racket strings are allowed to touch the shuttle. Fun fact – it used to be a fault to hit the shuttle with your racket frame but was eventually made legal in 1963. It was called a wood shot since the racket frames were made of wood back in the day. If you would like to learn more about the history of the wood shot, check out BWF’s article about it here. We have many more fun badminton facts you probably don’t know over here.
9. Hitting the Shuttle’s Feathers First During Service
According to BWF’s Laws of Badminton, “the server’s racket shall initially hit the base of the shuttle”. This means that you cannot initially hit the shuttle’s feathers. This rule was implemented because of how the service situation was abused by what was called the “S serve”, named after the legendary Sidek brothers from Malaysia. The S serve was a technique where the feathers of the shuttle were struck first to make the shuttle spin wildly and therefore made it very difficult for the opponent to return. It was so effective that there is now this rule to prevent striking the feathers first.
Here’s how it looks like. Remember that it’s illegal so don’t try it in actual games.
10. Multiple Service Motions
Using multiple start/stop motions during service is a fault. In other words, the serve must be a single continuous forward motion. In amateur games, it is somewhat common for players to try to trick players as to when or how they will serve by using multiple movements and motions. Obviously, with this rule, it’s a fault.
BWF’s Laws of Badminton does describe this rule but in a somewhat confusing manner and more so as a combination of multiple rules. Here are the ones related to this rule:
- “on completion of the backward movement of the server’s racket head, any delay in the start of the service shall be considered to be an undue delay;”
- “Once the players are ready for the service, the first forward movement of the server’s racket head shall be the start of the service.“
- “the movement of the server’s racket shall continue forwards from the start of the service until the service is delivered”
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