What are the Rules of Badminton?

Badminton can be played as game of singles between two players or doubles as a game of four players. Equipment includes a racquet and the shuttlecock. Also known as the birdie, the shuttlecock is batted back and forth over the net and, occasionally, winds up as a very funny sight gag by landing in the mouth of a contestant. Well, that’s what happened on an episode of Gilligan’s Island, anyway, so I assume it could happen in real life. Badminton became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain.

Scoring in badminton is accomplished by hitting the shuttlecock over the net in such a way that it either lands on the court or cannot be returned by an opponent. Doing so earns the server or serving team one point. If the serving team is unable to return the birdie, the opposing team does not earn a point, but instead wins the right to serve.

The winner of a badminton match is the player(s) who win two games out of three. A game is won by being the first to reach 11, 15 or 21 points. The point total needed to win depends upon the particular rules of the governing body overseeing the match. Each game must be won by at least two points and a number of systems are available for extending a game where a score of 10-10, 14-14 or 20-20 has been reached.

The server is not allowed to serve until his opponent is ready. If the opponent attempts to return service, he is deemed to have been ready. Both the server and the opponent receiving the serve are required to stand so that some part of both feet remains in contact with the surface of the court while in a stationary position until the service has been delivered.

A serve is considered good if it crosses over the net and lands between the long and short service line in singles play. Should the server make contact with a boundary line or should the shuttlecock fail to be served into the required area, the serve will be passed to the opponent.

If the service is good, the receiver is required to return the shuttlecock. The shuttlecock can be hit just one and it must fall within or on the boundary line. A rally takes place when both sides legally return the shuttlecock without it going out of bounds or falling to the floor or being hit into the net.

Service alternates between the right and left halves of the badminton court. Service begins from the right with every game. After each of the first two games, players change ends. If the match goes to a third game, players change ends halfway through the final game.