How to Play Badminton Singles – A Quick Starter Guide

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Welcome! This guide is for you to get started playing badminton singles as fast and as easily as possible. We’ve kept it to a minimum but it has all the necessary rules to get started. If you’re looking for doubles rules, look at our Doubles Starter Guide. We also highly recommend reading about What the Differences Between Singles and Doubles are and the full badminton rules if you’re getting more serious about badminton and want to know the nitty gritty details. Without further ado, let’s go!

Here’s a short overview of what we will cover:

  1. Objective
  2. How to Start a Match
  3. How to Score a Point
  4. Court Boundaries
  5. Basic Service Rules
  6. Change of Ends

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1. Objective

The objective in a singles badminton match (and also for doubles) is to win 2 out of 3 games, each of which are to 21 points. In each game, the winning team must win by at least 2 points, meaning that if the score is 21 to 20, the game continues on. There is a cap at 30 points, so if the score becomes 29 to 29, the team that wins the next point wins the game. If a team wins the first 2 games, no 3rd game is played.

2. How to Start a Match

A quick way (but not the official way) to start a badminton match is to simply decide which team will start serving with a random coin toss or shuttle toss (whichever team the shuttle is pointing to will serve first). The choice of ends (which side of the net you start at) can be random.

The official way to start a game is discussed in What Does an Umpire Do in Badminton?

3. How to Score a Point

You score a point when one of the following events occur:

  1. The shuttle lands inbounds in your opponent’s court
  2. The opponent hits the shuttle out of bounds
  3. The opponent does not hit the shuttle over the net
  4. The opponent commits a fault

Here are some clarifications of the above rules that come up frequently:

  • Players will score no matter which player serves – this is called rally scoring.
  • Shuttles that land on lines are considered in.
  • If the shuttle hits the net but still goes over the net, it is considered still in play and is valid.

Here are some common faults:

  • Touching the net with your racket, body, or clothing
  • Hitting the shuttle more than once before it goes back over the net
  • Touching the shuttle with your body or clothes
  • Hitting the shuttle before it has passed over the net.

All of these result in losing the point. There are many other faults not covered here, especially in service. If you want more details about it, make sure to read Everything You Need to Know About Service Rules in Badminton.

On a side note, scores are often called out by saying the serving player’s score first and then the receiving player’s score second. This convention makes it so everyone knows which score corresponds to which player.

4. Court Boundaries

Singles uses the inner sidelines of the badminton court and the entire length of the court. This can best be understood by looking at the diagram below. The service has some special court boundaries, which we will cover in the next section.

Badminton singles court space.
Badminton Singles Boundaries

5. Basic Service Rules

The service has special rules in badminton. There are 4 important things to keep in mind:

  1. The server and receiver have special zones they must stand within. Players are not allowed to step on the boundary lines.
  2. The serve is only considered inbounds if it lands in the receiver’s special zone. Lines are considered in.
  3. Your score determines whether you serve from the left or right side of the court – from the left side if your score is odd and from the right if your score is even.
  4. All players must have their feet on the ground until the server hits the shuttle.

Here are the special zones for the server and receiver:

Singles service court, odd score.
Badminton Singles Odd Score Service Boundaries
Singles service court, even score.
Badminton Singles Even Score Service Boundaries

Most of the rules in badminton have to do with service – here are a few more important ones:

  • Players may move once the shuttle is hit by the server – the shuttle does not need to go past the net before players can move.
  • You must serve underhand.
  • You only get 1 serve attempt.
  • You must hit the shuttle below 1.10 meters (3.6 feet) from the ground.
  • A let (redo) is played if you serve before the receiver is ready. The receiver is considered ready if they attempt to hit the shuttle.

6. Change of Ends

Players will change ends at the conclusion of each game and at the 11 point mark in the 3rd game, if there is a 3rd game. Changing ends means the player will play from the other side of the net. This is to balance out any advantages/disadvantages players have due to lighting, air currents, or other factors.

That’s all the basic rules you need to know to start playing singles! Once again, these are just the basic and bare minimum rules that you need to know to start playing, if you want to become an expert at the rules, check out some of the other posts below.

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