Badminton Service Types & Underhand v Overhand Serve Legality

Different Types of Badminton Serves

If you are a badminton player, you probably know how a good serve can be a game-changer. There are several types of services, their techniques, purposes, usefulness and positions that would be discussed in this article other than what can and cannot be done.

If done well, a player can obviously benefit immensely from a good serve. The opponent’s counter would be much less effective if an outstanding serve is being made by a player, as it makes the opponent think more than usual.

Serving is a significant aspect of a badminton match as it sets the flow of the game and dictates the success of the serving player.

Let’s start with answering a basic question that multiple readers of this site have asked us.

Can You Serve Overhand in Badminton?

Till 2018, at the highest level of badminton, players cannot serve overhand with the rule expecting them to serve from below their waist. Some part of both the player’s feet must also be on the ground till the serve is completed.

Since 2018 there was a change in rule which allowed players to serve overarm if pre-agreed on the same before the start of the match or the tournament.

According to this change, there are two rules on offer now – the new rule and the alternative rule. The new rule allows players to serve overarm while the alternative ruleset follows the old set of rules that penalize overarm serves in badminton.

The two rules which were changed and are only a part of the alternative ruleset are the following:

Rule 9.1.6.a:

“The whole shuttle shall be below the server’s waist at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket. The waist shall be considered to be an imaginary line round the body, level with the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib.”

The aforementioned rule implies the shuttlecock should be below the server’s waist-line which in turn makes it difficult to serve overhand in badminton.

Rule 9.1.6.b:

“The shaft and the racket head of the server’s racket at the instant of hitting the shuttle shall be pointing in a downward direction.”

What this rule above means is the badminton racket should be pointing down, which again eliminates the possibility of an overhand serve.

These are now changed to the following in the new ruleset:

Rule 9.1.6:

“The whole shuttle shall be below 1.15 meters from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.”

According to the aforementioned new rule, instead of using the height of the waist, there is a set height of 1.15 meters below which the shuttlecock needs to be at the time of serving.

While this change in rule could technically still allow players to serve overhand, it would need them to bend really low or even squat to make that serve.

Now that we have confirmed the latest rule around underhand versus overhand serves in badminton, let’s move on to the different types of badminton serves.

What are the Different Types of Serves in Badminton?

There are four different types of serves in badminton. They are listed below:

  • Low Serve
  • High Serve
  • Flick Serve
  • Drive Serve

Here’s a brief explanation about how you can make these serves and the differences between them.

Low Serve

Low serves are flexible in nature as you can serve them with either backhand or forehand. With the intention of your shuttle flying just over the net, a low serve is a seamless stroke to the shuttle.

It drops just close to the front line, and will demand that your opponent run ahead and hopefully miss it.

This serve is used in singles as well as in doubles, but the low serve is mostly familiar to players in doubles. It is highly used to prohibit your opponent from making an offensive attempt. However, it does not interrupt your opponent’s footwork.

Initially, practice serving to drop the shuttle straight in front of your opponent.

  • Hold the shuttlecock feather facing down.
  • Then place the racket behind the shuttle.
  • As you let the shuttlecock go, flick your racket delicately while attempting to push your thumb in the direction you want to land the shuttle.

The strength comes mainly from the thumb pressure and the quick wrist flick.

Also Read:

High Serve

The high serves are a strong upward hit with the shuttle, which tend to fly a great upward distance and crash deep into the court’s rear end.

Even though it’s a powerful serve and the common option for novice players, it’s a serve that isn’t as simple to hide when you’re using a forehand grip. Your opponent would expect the shuttlecock to land at the back of the court already.

Try using a high serve to push the birdie far into the court of your opponent while playing singles.

Do not use this serve too much though, because your opponent will study the pattern, start expecting the high serve and stay in the back of the court.

Avoid using this serve during doubles too, because the player receiving your serve will possibly stand in the back court during double predicting a high serve from you.

  • This serve includes underarm movement from the forehand and cautious follow-up.
  • Make sure you’re standing two or three steps behind the service line or allow yourself enough space to follow through properly to make sure the birdie stays in limits of the court.
  • Aim at the opponent’s backhand field with the shuttlecock.

The aim is to compel your opponent into using his/her backhand. Most badminton players, even world-class players have weaker backhands, so this will help you get an advantage over your opponent.

Flick Serve

The flick serve is a popular style among competitive players as it makes your opponent anticipate whether you are going to give a low serve or flick, they won’t figure it out until the point of contact between the racket and shuttlecock.

This makes the opponent hesitant to choose whether they should stay farther from the net, in case you do a flick serve, or should they come close to catch the birdie and strike it in case you do a low serve.

Hence, it is best to use flick serve only occasionally to take advantage of the uncertainty.

This advanced-level serve can be a game-changer in your match, if done right, and should be done by an intermediate or advanced player, those of whom have mastered the art of low serving. The flick serve can be done by both a forehand or backhand serve.

  • Start off with the basics, i.e. the handshake grip on the racket.
  • The finger on the handle will naturally provide the necessary power on impact of the birdie to race forward. Remember that the finger power is the key!
  • Shift your weight to your dominant foot.
  • Face the racket in towards your body and hold the birdie with your non dominant hand only with one feather. This should make your arms, along with the racket and birdie, create an “O” shape all together.
  • Strike the birdie with your racket by rotating your forearm.

The trick is to keep your hand relaxed the entire time while gripping and immediately tighten the grip on impact of the birdie to create a powerful blow.

Use the flick serve to change the position you are in the match, if your opponent is attacking aggressively, turn the tables with the flick serve.

If not used too excessively and with proper tact, the flick serve can cause much damage to your opponent and maybe even score a few cheap points.

Also Read:

Drive Serve

This famous serve, used by the most well-known players like Lin Dan, is another way to go on the offensive.

The drive serve hits the birdie right at your opponent, thus cutting off their options to deal with the serve in any other creative way.

This aggressive style can win you some easy points and is a good tactic to change the pace of your match. But we all know that high rewards come with high risks, hence, this serve can also be a risky one as your opponent could hit the birdie right back at you with the same force if they are prepared and read your moves beforehand.

It should only be used when you are sure that you can win it.

  • This serve is made with the help of your forehand through some underarm action.
  • Keep a comfortable and steady stance with your weight on your non racket leg.
  • While placing your racket below the waist level, hold the shuttle by the feathers and let it drop slightly to the sideways of your body.
  • Strike the shuttle and let it fly through at a straight angle towards your opponent.

The drive serves, as mentioned before, is quite risky but is nonetheless enjoyed by players who are optimistic and keep a combative style of playing.

If you find that your opponent is slow in their reactions and reading movements, this is the best serve to play to end the game in your favor.

However, this serve should be indeed used sparingly as with some others as if your moves are easy to read for your opponent, they will definitely strike back and win the game themselves.

Thus, be sure to keep steady on your toes during this serve and your feet must stay on the ground while doing it.

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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