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Can You Serve Overhand In Badminton? How and Serve Types

An integral part of starting off any Badminton game properly is to know this popular racket game’s rules regarding serving. If you’ve played games similar to Badminton, such as tennis, you might assume the way to start the game is with an overhand serve, but is the correct or will you be penalized for an illegal serve?

It is generally not permissible to serve overhand in a game of Badminton. However, rule alterations by the BMF in 2018 omitted technicalities that overtly banned overhand serving. Now, players who have agreed to play according to the new rules may serve overhand as long as they hit the shuttle below 1.15 meters from the floor.

In this article, we will discuss the accepted serving rules of badminton in more detail, so you can determine which technique is fair and most beneficial for your style of playing. As you read, you will also learn why overhand serving is typically not beneficial in a game of badminton (if done legally) and what alternative serve types you can use instead.  

Do You Serve Underhand Or Overhand in Badminton?

While the new rules set by the BMF do not strictly prohibit underhand serves, the rules that are in place make this type of serve extremely difficult, if not outright impossible.

An overhand serve is the accepted technique in badminton. More specifically, a legal serve in Badminton requires (source):

  • Both feet of the server and receiver to be on the ground
  • The racket must initially hit the base of the shuttle
  • The whole shuttle must be below the server’s waist at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.
  • The shaft and the racket head of the server’s racket at the instant of hitting the shuttle must point in a downward direction
  • The flight of the shuttle must be upwards from the server’s racket to pass over the net

Many of these are the original rules set by the BMF prior to the alterations in 2018. However, this alteration permits players to legally serve overhand as long as the point of contact between their racket and the shuttle is no higher than 1.15 meters from the ground (3.77 feet).

To accomplish this, the player would likely have to sit or lay on the ground, significantly reducing the effectiveness of the serve, if they even managed to perform it.

In essence, although the rules of badminton do not explicitly prohibit overhand serves, they are built around solely promoting the use of underhand serves.

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Here’s a good video showing step by step how to serve in badminton:

What Types of Serves Are Permitted in Badminton

You might not be allowed to use a classic overhand serve legally in a game of badminton, but that doesn’t mean you are limited to one basic type of underhand serve for every game. In fact, there are several types of serves you can utilize in Badminton to overcome your opponents.

There are predominantly four types of serves players can perform in badminton, either using a forehand or backhand technique. These include:

  • Low serve
  • High serve
  • Flick serve
  • Drive serve

We’ve provided brief descriptions of how to perform each of these serves below as well as discussing what scenarios/outcomes they are best suited.

Low Serve

Alternatively referred to as a short serve, the goal of a low serve is to hit the shuttle lightly enough that it barley clears the net and lands just within the short service line on your opponent’s end. This would force your opponent to rush forward in order to save the shuttle, effectively reducing their ability to perform a strong counterattack and limiting their return options.

This serve is performed much like a standard underhand serve, but with reduced power and careful execution so as to ensure your choice of technique is not obvious enough for your opponent to quickly react.

It is most commonly used in doubles where the service area is shorter, and/or against tall or aggressive opponents.

High Serve

A high serve is much the opposite of a low serve in that it is a more powerful serve that is intended to travel higher and deeper into the enemy’s territory. Ideally, this serve will quickly travel to the back, far corner of your opponent’s side of the court in a high arc that quickly drops towards the end.

  • In terms of technique, this serve is usually performed with the forehand, making it one of the more predictable serves due to the user’s thumb position.
  • Because of this, it is commonly used by beginners, but otherwise, it is most beneficial during singles matches.
  • It can be extremely helpful in tiring out your opponent and limiting their return angles.

Flick Serve

One of the more technically challenging serves in badminton is the flick serve, which is a quick attack serve meant to trick your opponent into thinking you are performing a low serve, when in reality, you intend to aim for the back of their court.

To perform a flick serve, the player will set up like as if they were performing a low serve, but instead of lightly tapping the shuttle, you’ll quickly flick your wrist while applying power with your wrist and thumb. While you can perform this with your forehand, it is more commonly done with the backhand for improved power and deception.

This serve is best used by experts in doubles games. It is a very technically demanding serve that most beginners and intermediates are incapable of mastering, and should focus on perfecting their low and high serves instead. If you are playing a singles game, the best time to use this serve would be when your opponent is standing right along the short service line.

Drive Serve

Another fast and aggressive serve you can utilize is a drive serve, which is similar to a high serve in that it is meant to travel towards the mid-to-far end of the service receiving area or directly at your opponent. However, instead of traveling in a tall arc, a drive serve has a more straightforward path that is meant to travel quickly with the support of ample power.

This is another serve that isn’t commonly recommended for beginners as it is a high risk serve to perform since a ready opponent could return it utilizing the power you placed into the shuttle along with their own.

The best time to use a drive serve is when you believe you can catch your enemy off-guard and/or if the match is becoming too predictable. Once your opponent seems to have a handle on your low and high serves, you’ll want to try your luck with a drive or even a flick serve to gain the upper hand. 

Final Thoughts

Overhand serves might not be legal in badminton in the sense you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample serving options to keep the game exciting. If you prefer the power and strength of an overhand serve, try learning a strong high server or a witty flick or drive.

Having a controlled low serve in addition to these will ensure you are a well-rounded player who can dictate any badminton game from the start.

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