Last Updated on 11/12/2023 by Kriss
Serving in badminton is more than just a way to start the rally; it’s a strategic play that can set the tone for the entire game. However, it’s not as simple as hitting the shuttle over the net. There are five essential badminton serving rules that every player must follow, both in singles and doubles. These rules govern everything from the position of your feet to the way you strike the shuttle. While they may seem straightforward, they often lead to arguments during matches, especially when there’s no service judge present.
In this guide, we will explore these rules in-depth, clearing up any confusion and ensuring that your serve is always faultless.
Which Side to Serve From
A lot of beginners wonder which side of the court to serve from. Luckily, the rules are actually quite simple.
In badminton, the side you serve from depends on your score. Here’s how it works:
If your score is 0 or any even number (like 2, 4, 6, etc.), you serve from the right side of the court. So if your score is 4-3 or 18-16, you serve from the right side.
If your score is an odd number (like 1, 3, 5, etc.), you serve from the left side.
Example: If your score is 17-14, you serve from the left side.
The team or player who just scored the last point determines the side. If you won the last point and it is your turn to serve, the points from your opponent do not matter. If you are behind 5-7 you serve from the left side and if you lead 5-2 you still serve from the left side. When you win a point, you continue to serve, and you switch sides based on your new score.
If your opponent scores, they have to serve next, and they follow the same rule. The image below shows a simple graphic on what side you serve from:
Simple badminton service courts. You can see the detailed measurements in our post about badminton court dimensions.
The Essential Serving Rules Explained
There are three main areas we will focus on. Your positioning, how you hit the shuttle, and last but not least: the serving motion. Let’s begin with the positioning rules.
Stance and Foot Positioning
Your stance and foot positioning will not only dictate the quality of your serve but there are also a couple of things to look out for when it comes to regulations:
Rule 1: Both Feet have to be in contact with the Floor
As you strike the shuttle, both feet must be in contact with the ground. Lifting or moving either foot off the ground before the serve is not allowed. This rule applies to both the server and receiver, ensuring a fair start to the rally.
Rule 2: You Are Not Allowed to Touch Any Court Lines
Your feet cannot touch any of the lines on the court as you serve or receive. Whether you’re standing in your half or even in the tramlines, you must ensure that you’re not touching any lines or outside of the serving zone.
This does not count for your partner in doubles or mixed doubles. They can stand wherever they want to.
Striking the Shuttle
There are also some things to look for where and how you strike the shuttle. Let’s look at the two important things you need to keep in mind.
Rule 3: You Must Strike the Cork, Not the Feathers:
In badminton, the shuttle consists of two main parts: the cork base and the feathers (See more about real feather shuttles here). The rules specifically state that the server must strike the cork first when serving. This rule was introduced to prevent players from hitting the feathers first, which could create an excessive spin on the shuttle and potentially give an unfair advantage. You are also not allowed to pre-spin the shuttle before hitting it.
Note: There is also a forbidden spin serve that was legal because it did hit the cork first. It was a big deal for a few weeks until the BWF updated their rules. Read more about it here.
Rule 4: The Whole Shuttle Must Be Struck Below 1.15m
A relatively new rule, implemented by the BWF in March 2018, mandates that the entire shuttle must be struck below 1.15 meters from the court’s surface. This rule aims to standardize the serving height across all levels of play. It’s enforced in international tournaments with the help of a special plastic device that measures the height. However, it’s worth noting that this rule is not yet applied in clubs and domestic tournaments, where the old rule of striking below the server’s waist still prevails.
Badminton Serving Motion
Rule 5: The Serve Must Be Delivered In A Forward Continuous Motion:
The serving motion in badminton must be fluid and continuous. Once you begin your backswing, there can be no pausing or hesitating. The serve must flow in one smooth motion from start to finish. Illegal serves under this rule include stopping at the backswing or moving forwards and backwards multiple times before striking the shuttle. This rule ensures that the serve is executed with a consistent motion, making it fair and predictable for both players.
If you want to see all those rules in action – Badminton Insight has a great video showing all the rules:
Is There A Time Limit On The Serve In Badminton?
While serving, timing can be a strategic element. Some players might take a bit longer, either to ensure a quality serve or, at times, to frustrate their opponents by making them wait. This tactic isn’t unique to badminton; sports like tennis have seen similar strategies in play.
The Badminton World Federation Laws of the Game state that “neither side shall cause undue delay to the delivery of the service once the server and receiver are ready.” Although there isn’t a strict time limit set, players have been faulted for taking excessively long. Considering the significance of the serve in badminton, especially in doubles, there’s a growing belief that a specific time frame should be established for the serving action.
Changes and Evolution of Badminton Serving Rules
The Evolution of the 1.15m Rule:
The introduction of the rule that the shuttle must be struck below 1.15m was a significant change in the badminton world. Before this, players had to ensure the shuttle was below their waist when serving. The waist was defined as an imaginary line around the body, level with the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib—the change aimed to bring more clarity and consistency to the serving rules across all levels of play.
The first official World Tour tournament to adopt this rule was the Yonex All England. However, its implementation in clubs and domestic tournaments remains a topic of discussion. The BWF’s decision on when and how to introduce this rule more broadly is eagerly awaited. While smaller players were happy about the change, tall players like Victor Axelsen had more problems adapting.
Mastering all service rules is an essential part of fair play in badminton. We have covered all essential rules so that there is no more room for any argument the next time when you step on the court. Remember that avoiding common faults will keep you from losing valuable points during a rally. A consistent serve lays the base for any good badminton player – so keep practicing.
Service Rules FAQs
Badminton service rules dictate how a player should serve. They must strike the shuttle below their waist, hitting the cork first with the server’s racket head pointing down.
A foul serve, or fault, happens when players break serving rules like striking above the waist level or landing outside of designated boundaries.
In badminton, each side only gets one chance to make a successful serve per rally. There’s no second try if it’s fouled.
You can hit the net during your serve as long as it falls into the opponent’s proper court afterward. If not, that’s considered a fault.
Pro players have an umpire who does a coin toss. The winner can choose which side he starts from or if he serves first. If you don’t have an umpire or coin, you can throw the shuttle into the net and see to which side it points.