An Exhaustive Badminton Scoring System Guide

Badminton Scoring

If you are just starting out and want to understand the badminton scoring rules for both singles and doubles, we have an exhaustive guide set up below for you. Not only does this include singles and doubles scoring, there’s information about the historical method of points system in badminton and the reasons behind the changes.

What are the Basic Badminton Scoring Rules?

Badminton is played over a best-of-three games format with the first player or team to get to 21 points with a difference of two points winning the game. Here’s a rundown of the scoring rules in badminton.

  • Match played on a best-of-three-games basis
  • Each game played to 21 points
  • Player or team reaching 21 points with a difference of at least two points wins the game
  • At 20-20, the game continues till a player or team is ahead by two points
  • At 29-29, a player/team winning the next point, wins the game
  • Player/team winning a game begins service for the next game

Best-of-Three Games

A badminton match is played to a best-of-three games with the first player or team to win two games winning the match.

21 Points/Game

Each game would be played to 21 games instead of the various, previously-tried formats of 11, 15 and even seven points per game.

Win with Difference of Two Points

A player or team who gets to 21 points in a game with a difference of at least two points wins the game.

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Rule for 20-20

Unlike during the previous times (check the history of badminton scoring below), there would be no ‘setting’ at 20-20. Instead, the game would continue till a player/team achieved a lead of two points, thereby winning the game.

Rule for 29-29

At 29-29, it’s sudden death. The team or player winning the next points wins the game.

Who Starts Serves in the Opening Game?

The player or team winning the toss opts to start serve in the opening game of the match.

Who Starts Serves in the New Game?

The player or team winning the previous game starts the serve in the next game.

History of Point-Scoring in Badminton

Various point-systems have been tried at different times by BWF before they settled in on the current system in 2005-06. Some of the previous systems have been explained in the brief.

Badminton Point Scoring Before the 2005 Change (Till 2002)

For many years since 1873, badminton was played over three games of 15 points apiece in men’s and doubles competitions and 11 points for the women’s competitions.

However, points were won by only the serving players and if the rally was lost by the player serving in a singles match, the service would transfer to the opponent but no point would be won. In doubles play, each team had two lost serves before the service would transfer to the opposite team.

There was another interesting sub-plot to this. The 15-point game allowed players to choose a ‘setting’ at 13-13 or 14-14 and the 11-point game at 9-9 and 10-10.

What was setting in badminton?

The player who reached 13 first in a game which sees a score of 13-13 would have one of two choices to make; continue playing as is or play a ‘set’, which reset the score to 0-0 and the game would then be played to a set of five points.

Similarly, if the score got to 14-14, the player reaching 14 earlier would be given the same choice – continue as is or play a ‘set’ of three points.

The same would happen at 9-9 and 10-10 in a 11-point game with setting of three or two points each. 21 point-games allowed setting at 19-19 and 20-20 to five and three points respectively.

The setting was removed from the scoring in 2002.

Scoring System Experiment in 2002

In 2002, the BWF decided to change things around in a bid to reduce the uncertainty around the match time. Instead of a best-of-three format, they introduced a best-of-five games format but to only seven points per game. That experiment was short-lived and abolished very soon.

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What Badminton Scoring Changes Occurred in 2005?

The earlier scoring system in badminton saw a men’s game last 15 points and a women’s game last 11 points. This was replaced with a 21-point game in both, the men’s and women’s draw. However, at the same time, players or teams can win points on their opponent’s serve too, which, in turn has reduced the length of matches.

This scoring system has remained in badminton for years now even as there were attempts to change it in 2014 when best-of-five games was reintroduced but to 11 points instead of 21. Again, this system didn’t last too long.

The same, 11X5 system was proposed yet again in 2018 but did not find favour with some members of the BWF and for now matches continue to follow the 21X3 format.

Why Has the Badminton Scoring System Been Changed?

There have been multiple changes to the scoring system adopted by badminton and the reason for the change to the current system is down to how unpredictable the match-timings could get with the previous ones.

The chief reason for this was points could only be won by the serving player, which meant there could be long periods of play in which no points were added to the score because the rallies were won by non-serving players or teams.

This uncertainty about match-timings is multi-pronged issue but one of the biggest problem is sponsors-related in televised sports where the knowledge of how long a game could last plays a vital role in understanding budgets. The current system is also deemed to be very spectator-friendly with each rally counting directly towards the points tally.

Can You Only Score on Your Serve in Badminton?

As mentioned earlier, the badminton scoring system was tweaked around in 2005-06 by the Badminton World Federation and it was during this change, the scoring rule was changed to allow points to be scored even on opponent’s serve.

Earlier, players or teams could only earn points on one’s own service but now every service results in one or the other player/team to gain a point.

How do You Score Points in Badminton Doubles?

There is no difference between the scoring system for badminton singles or doubles. The serving rules change in doubles, obviously, because there are two players in a team instead of one but we have a separate article dedicated to badminton serving for that.

As far as the scoring is concerned, it remains the same as singles with a team scoring a point on winning a rally irrespective of which team is serving.

Badminton doubles also follows the 21X3 system like singles.


We have tried to explain the badminton scoring system to the best of what is needed but if you are still unsure of something related to the scoring rules, get in touch with us by using this contact page here and we will get back to you as soon as possible with the answer.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at

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