badminton service rules for beginners

Badminton Service Rules For Beginners

Serving in badminton has a surprising number of technicalities and rules which govern how it is performed. Luckily for you, we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to understand. So here are the basic badminton service rules for beginners.

Before we get into it, for your own curiosity, might want to check out the tactical implications of the service in the various disciplines:

  1. Serving In Singles
  2. Serving In Doubles
  3. Serving In Mixed Doubles

The service is the most important shot in badminton so it’s important you understand the rules surrounding it!

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Badminton Service Rules For Beginners – Singles

Who Serves First?

The initial serve is determined by a coin toss on the professional circuit. Each player chooses a side of the coin. Whoever wins the toss decides whether they will serve or receive or decide which side of the court they would like to start on.

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An umpire asks players to choose a side of the
Image: Risdain

A more common approach among amateur players is to hit the shuttle into the air. Whoever it points to when it lands will serve. Players usually take whichever side they happen to be on!

How The Serve Works In Singles

The first serve is performed by whoever is determined to serve first by one of the methods above. After this initial serve, whoever wins that rally will serve next. Therefore if the server wins the point, they will continue to serve. If they lose the point, the serve will pass to their opponent for the next rally. The serve will pass back and forth between the two players, depending on who wins the preceding rally.

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So for example, let’s assume player X serves first. If they win 21-0 that means they would have served throughout the whole match because they didn’t lose a point. If the score is 21-1, their opponent must have served once because they won a point. Each time the serving player loses a point, the serve passes to the opponent.

Where Should You Stand When Serving In Singles?

So now you know how the service works, but where do you serve from? It’s pretty straightforward as there’s only one of you on either side of the court!

Badminton Service Rules For Beginners - Singles
Singles Badminton Court

There are only three situations you need to remember.

  1. When the score is 0-0 the server stands on the right hand side of the court
  2. If the score of the server is even, they serve from the right hand side of court.
  3. If the score of the server is odd they serve from the left hand side of court.

This ultimately means you will be serving alternatively from the right and left service court as you win points.

For example, player X initially serves from the right service court at 0-0. They win the point, The score is 1-0 in player X’s favour. So they serve from the left side of the court. Now they win the second point. The score is now 2-0. So you guessed it, they now serve from the right!

Now let’s assume their opponent Y wins a point, The score is 2-1. So player Y now has the serve as they won the preceding rally. Player Y will serve from the left service court because their score is an odd number.

Because the player’s score will alternate between odd and even numbers, so to will the side from which they serve.

Singles Service Court In Badminton

Ok, so you know where to stand now. But where do you hit the shuttle to?! Well, the serve must be played diagonally to the opposing player’s court.

Badminton Service Rules For Beginners - Singles

However, there are certain boundaries that the shuttle must fall within for the service to be considered valid. The shuttle must land:

  1. On or beyond the short service line
  2. On or before the back line
  3. Inbetween the centre line and the inner tram line (including on the line itself)

The above image highlights the area you can serve in. This assumes you are serving from the right service court. If serving from the left service court, the same is true of the other side.

Badminton Service Rules For Beginners – Doubles

Who Serves In Doubles First?

In singles, who is serving is pretty obvious as there’s only one player on either side of the court. But doubles is a little bit more complicated. Similarly, to singles, on the pro-circuit, a coin is flipped to decide which team will serve first. If the winning pair choose to serve, they will decide among themselves which of the two of them will serve first. Likewise, the opposing pair will choose who will receive the service first.

As mentioned above, we mere mortals will usually use the shuttle to decide which pair will serve first. It’s up to the pairing as to which of them will serve initially.

How The Serve Works In Doubles

Think of the court for the service as four quarters. There are only ever two relevant quarters during a serve. These are where the person serving, and the person receiving will be. Once each pair decides who is serving and who is receiving, that will determine the order in which everyone else serves.

But just a note, please do not think of each player belongs in one quarter. After the service, all players can move all over the court during the rally. But during the service, the server must be in the relevant service court depending on the score, and the receiver must be in the relevant service court relative to their starting position in the previous rally.

Example Of Service Situation In Doubles

In the first image (left) we see that A serves at 0-0 and therefore from the right-hand side of the court and diagonally to C. Let’s assume AB win the rally. A keeps the serve but this time serves from the left-hand side because AB’s score is an odd number (1-0). Notice that they are now serving to D.

When a serving pair win the point, the person who served (A) will continue to serve and will serve from the left or right service court depending on the score. The receiving team will not switch positions in the service situation if they lose the point. So in the above image, we can see C received the initial serve. Because CD lost the point, A now serves from the left, but because C received the previous serve, D must receive the next one. This is to ensure that A serves alternatively to players of the opposing team.

Now consider if the score is 0-0. A still serves but AB loses the point. Who will serve next? It must be team CD. And because the score is odd (0-1), they must be serving from the left-hand side of the court. C received from the right, therefore D must be serving to B. At this stage, none of the players switches from their original positions. Only the serving team switch position if they win a point. So if D serves and they win the next point (0-2), then D will serve from the right to A. AB do not switch as they are receiving.

This sounds quite complicated but in practice, it’s much easier.

Where Should You Stand When Serving in Doubles?

The same rules apply in singles as in doubles.

  1. When the score is 0-0 the server stands on the right hand side of the court
  2. If the score of the server is even, they serve from the right hand side of court.
  3. If the score of the server is odd they serve from the left hand side of court.

The main difference is that the service will alternate between all four players on the court. The partner of the serving player will generally stand just behind the server so that they can cover shots to the mid or rear court.

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Badminton Service Rules For Beginners – soon you’ll be serving like Kevin Sukamuljo!

Doubles Service Court In Badminton

In doubles, the service court is different to singles. It is often referred to as short and fat.

So for the service to be valid, the shuttle must land:

  1. On or beyond the service line
  2. On or before the outer rear court line
  3. Inbetween the centre line and the outer tram line (including on the line itself)

You can see it’s very different to singles. The area highlighted in the above image is wider but shorter compared to singles. This effectively makes the long serve in doubles quite a skilful shot and makes a good low serve essential.

Other Rules Regarding the Serve

There are further rules in badminton that govern how the service is performed. These are universal rules and apply to both singles and doubles. If any of the below rules are broken, it is considered a fault and the point awarded to your opponent.

When Serving

  • The whole of the shuttle shall be below 1.15 metres from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket. Which basically means you can’t serve above 1.15 meters. Obviously this is hard to measure objectively, so many players not playing tournaments stick to the old rule of serving below the waist (defined as below the lowest rib).
  • The racket must be pointing in a downward direction when the shuttle is hit on the serve. If the racket is pointing upwards, this is a fault and the point awarded to the opposition.
  • The base of the shuttle must be strick first. You cannot hit the feathers first in an attempt to spin the shuttle. You can thank the Sidek Brothers for that! However, a spin serve is still possible by hitting the base first!
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The S serve was banned from international competition
  • The serve should be played in one forward motion. That means you cannot stop and start your swing in order to trick your opponent.
  • You should not cause undue delay to the serve. Aka, do not take too long to serve! While this is often at the disrection of the umpire, about 5 seconds to serve is considered reasonable.
  • Both feet should be in contact with the floor until the serve has been delivered. So you can’t balance on one foot to serve!
  • No part of your foot should touch any of the service boundaries when serving.

When Receiving

  • You cannot move before the opponent has struck the shuttle.
  • Both Feet must be on the floor
  • Do not cause undue delay
  • Your feet must not be touching the lines
  • Your partner cannot take the serve for you.
  • If the shuttle hits any part of your body, you lsoe the point.

Common Questions On The Serve

To conclude badminton service rules for beginners I knew you had some questions so allow me to use my telepathy to help you out.

Q. If the shuttle touches the net but lands in, is it a valid serve?

A. Yes, unlike tennis, it doesn’t matter if the shuttle touches the net. As long as that shuttle lands on the other side, it is a valid serve. If the shuttle does not clear the net or does not land in the relevant service area, you simply lose the point. There is no concept of a second serve in badminton if this occurs.

Q. If the shuttle lands on any line of the service area, is it considered in?

A. Yes. If the shuttle lands on the line and that line forms part of the service boundary, then it is considered a valid serve.

Q. What if I do not hit the shuttle when serving?

A. If you fail to hit the shuttle when serving, you lose the point. I know, seems unfair! If you’re playing socially and your friend doesn’t let you retake it, I would reconsider my friendship with that person…


There are quite a few service rules to remember but the more you play the more you’ll simply remember them until they become second nature. I hope this post – badminton service rules for beginners – helped you understand how the service works more in badminton!

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