What Is Rally Scoring In Badminton? A Complete Guide

Written by Amir Bashir | 15 April 2022

A female badminton player handling the shuttlecock to her opponent over the net.

Rally scoring in badminton allows either player or team to win a point no matter which side serves. Under the traditional scoring system, you could only win a point if you or your team served. This scoring system was introduced to modern badminton in August 2006.

This article is going to discuss the most frequently asked questions about the rally scoring system.

Let’s jump into it.

Brief History of Badminton Scoring Systems

Over the years, the game of badminton has gone through three scoring systems:

  1. 15 Points System (15 x 3)
  2. 7 Points System (7 x 5)
  3. 21 Points System (21 x 3)

15-Points System

Also known as the 15×3 scoring system or the “original” scoring system, it was first implemented all the way back in 1877 in British India.

Under this scoring system, each men’s game consisted of 15 points, whereas women’s matches were played to 11 points.

No team or player could win a point unless they are serving. If the server loses a rally, the service is to be transferred to the opponent team.

Given the lengthy time badminton matches took to complete under this system, the International Badminton Federation changed to the 5×7 points scoring system in 2002.

7-Points System

Under this scoring system, the players had to compete for 5 games of 7 points each to win the match.

If the score reaches 6-6 in any game, the first player to score 6 points will decide whether to play for 7 or 8 points.

Lastly, in a scenario where both sides win 2 games, then in the final game, after the score reaches 4 points, the teams will swap the sides.

However, despite the change in the scoring system, the matches continued to be lengthy. BWF (British World Federation) worried that this might affect the commercialization of the game and reverted to the traditional scoring system after the 2002 Commonwealth games.

21-Points System

The 21 points system was introduced at the beginning of 2006. Under the new set of rules, both men’s and women’s players have to compete for three sets of 21 points each.

One of the major changes here was the introduction of the rally point system, which allows both sides to win a point no matter which side served.

BWF also fine-tuned the tie-breaker rules. In case of a tie-breaker, the winner had to grab two successive points to clinch the game.

The doubles also saw a major change. In the previous systems, both players of the team had to serve before it changed hands.

Under the new rules, the serve goes to the other team after the pair drops a point.

Why is Rally Scoring Important in Badminton?

Rally scoring is important in badminton because it has sped up the game and made badminton more entertaining to watch for the masses, resulting in more commercial revenues and higher salaries for the players.

Research has shown that the change in the scoring system has increased the rally time as well as the number of shots per rally. Put simply, it has made badminton more intense.

Which is great news for viewers like me who were previously bored by the sight of serves changing hands with little to no effect on the scoreboard.

With the game now taking less time to complete, we’ve become aware that anything could happen in a span of 10 minutes or so. This realization prevents us from changing TV channels or browsing mobile phones when our favorite teams are in action.

How is Rally Scoring Used in Badminton?

Here are the key rally scoring rules currently in use in badminton:

  • Three games of 21 points each.
  • Winner of the rally gets one point.
  • In case of a tie, the first player to clinch two successive points wins the game.
  • However, the scoring is capped at 30 points. This means that even if the scores are tied at 29, the first player to win 30 points will win the game.
  • Win to serve. Whichever side won the point continues to serve.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Scoring and Rally Scoring?

There are multiple differences between traditional scoring and rally scoring, including:

  1. Winner of the rally gets a point regardless of who served. This wasn’t the case until as recently as 2005, the year in which the rally scoring system was adopted. Under the traditional scoring system, you had to serve to win a point.
  2. No service-overs. Under the traditional scoring system, service-overs significantly exacerbated the time problem, making the game boring to watch. Luckily, the rally scoring system has done away with service-overs.
  3. Same number of points for men’s and women’s games. This wasn’t the case with the traditional scoring system in which men had to clinch 15 points to win the game whereas women had to make it to 11 points to carry the day.
  4. No “setting” or playing straight through. Before 2002, if the score reached 13-13, the player with the serve had two options. Either “set” (revert the score to 0,0; with the first to 5 points declared a winner) or play straight through to 15.

How Many Points in a Rally Scoring?

Under the rally scoring system, a badminton match consists of three games of 21 points each, with the first player to win two games declared the match’s winner.

If a scenario arises in which both players are matched at 20 points, the first player to win two successive points (i.e., 22 – 20, 23-21, etc.) will win the game.

However, if the tie goes on and both players get level at 29 points each, the first player to score the 30th point will win the game.

This ceiling is placed to ensure that badminton games do not drag on needlessly — an issue that convinced BWF to do away with the traditional scoring system in 2006.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Rally in Badminton?

A rally in badminton is defined as the entire duration for which the shuttlecock remains in play.

This means that a rally begins when you or the opposing player serves and ends when the shuttlecock hits the ground, goes out of play, or a foul is called.

Which Matches Use Rally Scoring in Badminton?

Both singles and doubles matches use rally scoring in badminton, regardless of whether men or women are playing.

What is the Opposite of Rally Scoring?

Serve scoring is the opposite of rally scoring. As the name implies, ‘serve scoring’ entails that only the player making the serve could win a point. That means that if you dropped a shot while serving, the other player would only get the service and not the point.

How Does a Game Start in Badminton?

A game in badminton starts with a toss. The referee tosses the coin in the air and one of the two players calls  “Head” or “Tails”. The winner of the toss has one of two options: choose a side of the court or decide to serve or receive first.

How Does a Rally Start in Badminton?

A rally starts in badminton when one of the players serves. Badminton rules dictate that the serve must be delivered underhand from beneath the server’s waistline. Also, the server needs to have part of both feet planted on the floor.

How is a Rally Lost in Badminton?

A rally is lost in badminton when the shuttle is hit into the net, or over the net but outside of the opposing player’s court, who gets to win a point.

Who Can Score a Point in Rally Scoring?

Both teams or players could score points in rally scoring. This is one of the major factors that distinguish rally scoring from the traditional scoring system, in which only the player with the service could win a point.

Conclusion

Rally scoring system has made badminton more intense for the players, more interesting for the viewers, and more profitable for the authorities as well as everyone involved in organizing and playing the sport.

It is, therefore, a win-win system for everyone involved.

Now I want to hand over the mic to you:

  • Do you like the rally scoring system or one of the previous ones?
  • If you like the previous systems better, why is it so?
  • What’s the one thing you like about badminton the most?

Feel free to reach out to me in the comments section below, I’d love to answer your questions and hear your feedback. We are also on Instagram @healthyprinciples_.

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Amir Bashir

Amir picked up his first badminton racket at the age of 4 and fell in love with the sport. He joined Healthy Principles to help his fellow badminton enthusiasts get better at the game. In his spare time, you'll find him watching long rallies on YouTube. Learn more about Amir Bashir.