What Is a Rally in Badminton?

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Like any other sport, badminton is governed by a set of definite rules. These rules and badminton terms can be perplexing for beginners and people with a recent interest in the sport. However, once you know the workings of this game, it can be quite interesting to follow the back and forth of the shuttlecock.

On that note, what is a rally in badminton? Let’s answer this question and talk about and how the scoring system in badminton has changed over the years.

What Is a Rally in Badminton?

A rally in badminton begins when a player serves the shuttle. It ends when either one of the players misses the shot causing the shuttlecock to hit the ground or when the umpire calls a fault. In any case, when the rally ends, one of the players earns a point.

However, it was not always the same. The points scoring system in badminton has changed drastically in the past few decades. These new scoring rules aim to speed up the game and make it more entertaining for the spectators. The new scoring system is known as rally scoring.

Shuttlecock in flying motion

What Is Rally Scoring in Badminton?

Rally scoring in badminton entails that a point is awarded to a player or team regardless of which side served or began the rally every time a rally ends.

On the other hand, only the player or team serving could score a point, according to the original scoring system. In 2006, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) replaced the traditional scoring system with a new one known as rally point scoring.

How Do You Determine a Winner in Case of a Tie?

In rally scoring, a player or team must win by 2 points. Hence, if the score is 20-20, the player or team is required to score two clear points to win the match. However, if the score is tied again at 29-29, whoever scores the 30th point wins.

History of Scoring System in Badminton

Here is how the scoring system has changed in badminton over the centuries:

Around 1877

The original scoring system was created around this year, which was the 15 points system for men and 11 points system for women. The match winners were decided by the best of three sets, or games as known in badminton.

Male badminton player

Since you could only earn the point if you or your team served, the matches would often go on for a long time without any changes on the scoreboard. As the game became an international sport and was commercialized, the unpredictable match duration created issues for the organizers and the spectators.

In 2002

The BWF decided to change the rules and tried a different scoring system known as the 7 points system. The match winners were determined by the best of five instead of three. However, there was little improvement, and the match duration continued to remain a problem.

In 2006

The BWF abolished service-based scoring, and rally point scoring came into effect. The match winners were decided by the best of three games to 21 points.   

Rules of Badminton

Badminton is amongst the most popular indoor racket sports, acknowledged by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Consequently, it has a fixed set of rules, recognized internationally.

Female badminton player

Below, I have listed the rules that are in addition to the scoring rules mentioned above:

  • The player/team winning the game serves first in the next game.
  • The match should be played on a court following official dimensions.
  • The server and the receiver stand diagonally to each other at the start of the rally.
  • A legal serve is hit diagonally.
  • Players must hit the serve with an underarm action, and the racket shaft should be below the server’s waist.
  • The player can return the shuttle from inside and outside of the court.
  • The second serve is not allowed.
  • Touching the net with any body part or racket is considered a violation.
  • The match must include a 90-second rest and a 5-minute rest after the first and second games, respectively.

Related Questions

What Is Serve in Badminton?

The serve is the act of putting the shuttlecock into play. A good serve can be a high long shot, so the shuttle drops steeply towards the back of the opponent’s court. It can also be a low serve, where the shuttle flies just above the net and lands towards the front of the opponent’s court.

What Is Ace in Badminton?

An ace is a badminton term, which refers to a player earning an outright point from a serve that the opponent did not return; instead, the shuttle was grounded. Archaically, it is used to define any point that has been scored.


Essentially, a rally is a moment in badminton when the shuttle is airborne but not in play. A player or team loses a rally when the shuttlecock hits their body or clothes or fails to pass over the net. The point goes to the side that wins the rally.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.