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How Badminton Works


Badminton Scoring
In badminton, first team to 21 points wins.
In badminton, first team to 21 points wins.
Spencer Rowell/Taxi/Getty Images

To score a point in badminton, you must first play the game. And to do that, you must decide which player will serve first. At professional matches, a neutral third-party often tosses a coin. Other times, a player will simply throw the shuttle into the air; the player it points toward upon landing will serve first, making this method a bit like spin-the-bottle for badminton.

The official Badminton World Federation manual features several pages of rules. For most players, a few basics will suffice. Rule No. 1? Every serve will result in a point, and the first person (or team) to reach 21 points will win the game. Players then compete again to win the best two out of three. This scoring system seems easy enough, but there's a catch: You must establish a two-point lead to take the game. For example, if you have 21 points and your opponent has 20, you can't declare victory. This means that players occasionally rack up more than 21 points so the leader can gain a two-point advantage. Even so, the first player to reach 30 always wins (even if it's only a one-point lead).

You'll also need to know where to stand when you serve. There are service courts outlined within the larger court, and whether the server stands in the right or the left service box depends on whether the score is even or odd. For example, if the score is an even number, a player will deliver a serve from the service box on the right side of the court to the opposing player in the left court. If the score is an odd number, the player will switch to the left service box.

Scoring in doubles is similar, and this tri-fold tip may help you stay in the correct position: When you serve, the service court you stand in will be dictated by the score (even or odd). If you win the rally, you serve again -- but from the other side of your court. Receiving players don't switch sides when they get the serve; they just need to follow the even/odd rule [source: Hopley].

Once you have a clear understanding of the rules under your belt, it's time to perfect your tactics, including the three most popular forehand shots outlined on the next page.