Badminton rules and regulations for singles

Badminton Rules and Regulations For Singles

In almost every game or sport in the world, there are rules. Rules and regulations are needed to maintain order in the games and badminton are no different. Thus, here I am making a post about badminton rules and regulations for singles players for those that want to get started playing.

Lines and Scoring

One of the most fundamental parts of badminton is scoring. There are two players in badminton singles; one on each side. To get points, the shuttle must either land in on your opponent’s side or land out on your side. Simple right? The whole point is to hit the shuttle within the court dimensions to somewhere your opponent can’t get it.

Usually, the first person to 21 points wins but if a deuce happens, one player must win by two points or until someone reaches 30 first. For example, if the score is 20-20, a player could not win 21-20, but they could win 22-20, 23-21, 24-22, all the way until 30-29. Matches would also usually be best of three.

Generally at 11 points and between games players get a short 30-second break where you can drink liquids, towel yourself down, and have your coach talk to you. You will also switch sides between games and at 11 points if you’re playing the third set.

Now, you need an understanding of what is out and what is in. A badminton court has two lines that run vertically and two lines that run horizontally. In singles, the court is long and narrow and thus we use the inner two vertical lines and the horizontal back line.

badminton singles lines
Badminton singles lines highlighted in blue

Anything that lands within the box or right on those lines is in, and anything outside those lines is out.

An interesting scoring system that was used about a decade ago required a player to have the service to score. For example, if I was playing against you and I was serving, I could score points on you, but you couldn’t score points on me. To score points on me, you would have to hit the shuttle down onto my side and reverse the service. During that time, players also played to 15.

Now you don’t have to worry about the old scoring system anymore. You can gain points no matter who’s serving!

If you play competitively, you should also note about challenging individual calls. Usually, the player who’s on the side that shuttle landed on gets to make the call if there are no umpire or line judges. There’s not much you could do if they call out a shot that you don’t agree with unless you are playing higher grade tournaments where you can challenge the call.

Unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Service and Starting A Game

Now that you understand how to win a badminton game and the scoring system, it’s time to talk about service and starting an actual game of badminton.

Before you start, you must decide who gets to serve. The official way to determine who gets to serve is by a coin flip. One person chooses heads, the other tails. Whoever wins the coin flip gets to decide who serves. This is the way they will do it in BWF tournaments and most significant matches.

However, there are other ways to start a match as well, and it’s often dependent on your tournament’s rules. One of the most common ways to start a game is by hitting the shuttle up and then giving the services to whoever the spinning shuttle points to.

Before you start the game, you should also know that in many cases both players can be granted a practice serve. If they don’t outright give you a chance to practice serve, make sure you ask if you’re allowed one should you need it. It all depends on the official tournament rules.

When serving, players should be behind the service line, which is the closest horizontal line to the net,

and on either side of the vertical line that runs through the middle. The side is determined by the score. Serve on the right side if your score is even and the left side if your score is odd. For example, if you are 2-0 against your opponent, you would serve on the right side while if you 1-0, you would serve on the left.

badminton score sides
Red when your score is odd, blue when your score is even

Hitting the shuttle must also be done in a certain way. The shuttle must land on or cross the service line of your opponent’s side, and your racket contact with the shuttle must be below 1.15 meters. Although this rule has been controversial because tall people have to bend down to serve while short people might even be able to serve above the waist, it does provide a more objective call compared to the previous rule, serve below the waist which had problems with judges being unable to identify the waist because of longer shirts and different body proportions.

Serving below the waist still works as the general guideline and the rule is still used in many lower level tournaments and gameplay. You can definitely continue using this rule unless you’re over six feet tall in which you may need to bend your legs a little.

If you’re in a match, after each game, the person who won will serve first.

Double Touch, Carries, and Other Faults

During the game, you may encounter several controversial shots that could be argued over. Many common ones are the shuttle hitting the ground and a player scooping it up to return it or if a player hits the shuttle multiple times while it’s still on his side.

Another common one is that if you touch the shuttle and it goes out, it is the opponent’s point. Sometimes players may decline that they touched it and if you don’t have an umpire making those calls, the two players must sort it out themselves.

Take note of some of these faults and watch out for them. They can be quite subtle.

Another thing to watch out for is how you move on the court between each rally. Tournaments generally don’t like it when you step off or walk around for too long. Trash talking and poor attitude can also be called out and punished. Just respect others, and you will be fine.

Playing Around The Net

One of the frequent calls argued over other than line calls in badminton is when a player hits the shuttle at the net. Here are some rules for net play.

  1. You cannot hit the shuttle while it’s on your opponent’s side.
  2. Your foot cannot be on the other person’s side when hitting the shuttle.
  3. You cannot hit the net with your racket or other parts of your body when playing the shot at the net.

These rules always create a setting for argument as the net game is so fast and hard to watch and make a call. It’s especially argued over when a player net kills, and the other player’s racket is up and blocks the net kill. They often have to play it in slow motion to figure out what was the best call.

Unfortunately, casual players don’t usually have an umpire sitting and watching the net from an unbiased perspective, and as such, the two players must make the call themselves.

One common misconception around badminton rules and regulations though is that if the shuttle hits the net, it’s out. This is not true as wherever the shuttle lands after hitting the net will be a point for one of the players.

Tournament Specifics

badminton rules infographic

Badminton rules and regulations always vary little by little. Although what I said was pretty standard and equal to the officialBWF rules, each tournament might have their own little rules depending on certain factors.

Let’s take, for example, school badminton. In school, at least for me at the time, because of the restriction on time and space, matches were best of one and played to 15 with no deuces. Playing in school gyms also introduced a new variable of the ceiling which most called as out and even a rule of re-serving when players cannot agree with one another.

Also because of time and restricted space, some tournaments make it a rule that your coaches cannot talk to you at 11 points or even at all until you reach playoffs. Sometimes, things like how big the logos on your shirt are, what color your shirt and what shoes you wear can be rules as well.

Every tournament might be slightly different, but the general idea is not to complain but adapt. It’s part of the reason we tell you to play more badminton tournaments. You become more adaptable to different situations, and you won’t be relying on comfort rules and courts.


Did I miss anything? Comment down below on what you thought of this post! After seeing these rules, you should be okay to get yourself a game of badminton singles set up!

Additionally, click here to see rules and regulations for badminton doubles!

As always, good luck in your games and have a great day!

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