Badminton Shuttlecock – aka Birdie
You can call it a shuttle, a bird or a shuttlecock. But whatever you call it, the badminton shuttlecock is one of the most important—if least considered—elements of badminton.
Badminton is a very fast-paced racket sport. In fact, it is the fastest racket sport around and the badminton shuttlecock can reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour!
Characteristics of the game include quick bursts of intense movement, smashes, and strategy. One could identify with the game of chess! The net is a crucial part of the game yet in medieval times it was played without one. Back then it was a child’s game and even had a different name – Battledore and Shuttlecock!
The badminton net was only introduced in the 1800s solely to make the game even more competitive. The shuttlecocks, also called shuttles and birdies, is used in place of a ball and is volleyed across the net during the game.
Badminton is not only played professionally but also for recreational purposes and as a way of getting exercise. For those who play it purely for one of these two reasons, the badminton shuttlecock that is used is invariably constructed out of plastic.
On the other hand, the shuttlecocks that feature in the competitions and on the professional circuit are made from sixteen real feathers. They are usually made of goose feathers taken from the right wing of the bird.
A badminton shuttlecock is open and conical in shape, along with the feathers has a cork base that is covered with thin leather. Because of the shape of the shuttle, it is very aerodynamic and will always fly cork first.
How the Shuttlecock Got Its Name
Nobody knows for sure how the shuttlecock got its name. But it’s believed that the first part “shuttle” is from the back-and-forth motion it displays during game play. That is similar to the motion of a shuttle on a weaver’s loom. As for the second part of the word or “cock”, it is likely that this originated due to the resemblance it has to the feathers that are found on a cockerel.
Which Is Better – The Feathered or Synthetic Badminton Shuttlecock?
Because of the brittleness of the feathers shuttlecocks tend to break fairly easily and often need replacing during the average badminton game. It is for this reason that the synthetic shuttles have been produced. When it comes to the cost comparison, the price of a good quality feathered shuttle and a good quality synthetic shuttle does not differ much. Many clubs choose to play with the plastic variety simply because they are more durable.
Although the prices are not very different the playing characteristics are. Plastic shuttles do not fly as quickly on impact as their feathered counterparts do. On the other hand, the feathered shuttles tend to slow down more when they reach the end of their flight. Feathered shuttlecocks have been known to reach speeds higher than 200mph but will slow down quickly as they drop. It is for this reason that they make the game look faster but in effect allow more time for the players to play their strokes.
The majority of experienced and professional players prefer using the feather badminton shuttlecock. This is the reason you will always find them used in professional tournaments. Most of the world top players feel that the feathered shuttles are easier to play with. Besides, they can give them better control when compared to plastic shuttles.
You may have played badminton with a shuttlecock made from either plastic, synthetic material such as nylon, or one made of cork and feathers. It doesn’t matter which shuttlecocks you are playing with, but the important thing is that it should have the feel on your racket. The flight characteristics should be like those produced by a natural feathered shuttlecock. It should have a cork base covered with a thin leather layer.
Badminton Shuttlecock Standards
The official rules of badminton say that a badminton shuttlecock should have 14 to 16 feathers fixed in a base. There is the various length of feathers available range from 2 ½” to 2 3/4”. But they must be of the same length in each shuttlecock. Which mean if you take a measurement from the tip of the feathers to the top of the base, the length needs to be the same.
In addition, the tips of the feathers need to be constructed into a circle. The measurement of the circle is with a diameter in the range of 2 ¼” to 2 5/8”. The base of the shuttlecock should be 1” to 1 1/8” in diameter, rounded on the bottom and is to weigh from 4.74 to 5.50 grams.
Plastic Or Synthetic Shuttlecocks
In the case of non-feathered shuttlecocks (made from plastic or some other synthetic material), the skirt should simulate natural feathers.
Because of the difference in specific gravity and the behavior of synthetic and manufactured materials, these badminton shuttlecocks can have up to a 10% difference in the measurements given for feathered shuttlecocks.
Where it gets tricky for non-feathered shuttlecocks is what’s called the rule of pace and flight. To be a regulation badminton shuttlecock, the non-feathered variety needs to have a correct pace. The pace is defined as follows: “when it is hit by a player with a full underhand stroke from a spot immediately above one back boundary line in a direction parallel to the sidelines and at an upward angle, to fall not less than 530mm (1 foot 9 inches) and not more than 990mm (3 feet 3 inches) short of the other back boundary line.”
Aren’t you glad you’re not a shuttlecock manufacturer who has to meet this requirement?
Badminton Shuttlecocks For Backyard Play
If your idea of competitive badminton is a hot game in your backyard, you will most likely be playing with the badminton shuttlecocks that came with your badminton set. As such, the odds are that they will be made from either plastic or some other synthetic material (usually nylon).
Given this, you should be able to play many games with the same shuttlecock. This is due to these versions simply do not wear out as quickly as their feathered cousins.
However, you should still keep an eye on the shuttlecock and send it into retirement when its edges become torn or frayed. Nothing takes the fun out of a good game more than a badminton shuttlecock that refuses to fly straight or that wobbles to the ground like a shot pigeon.
Three Varieties Of Nylon Shuttlecocks
Bet you didn’t know this but the nylon shuttlecocks come in three varieties. Each variety is indicated by a colored strip around the cork. The three varieties are green (slow speed), blue (middle speed), and red (fast speed). This is so a faster shuttlecock can be used in cold climates and a slower one in hot climates.
Competition Badminton Shuttlecocks
When you move from backyard badminton to the competitive indoor game, you may be playing with a true, feathered shuttlecock that has goose feathers.
For example, Wilson offers top grade natural tournament feather shuttlecocks that are said to provide “a consistently accurate flight performance with increased durability.”
However, in other cases, you will be playing with what’s called a “tournament grade” synthetic shuttlecock. It is probably made from nylon.
If you are playing with a feathered shuttlecock, the feathers will eventually become frayed. This will affect the shuttlecock’s flight and trajectory. In this case, you or your opponent can call for a new one.
What Badminton Shuttlecocks Cost
If you are not satisfied with the badminton shuttlecocks that came with your badminton set, or if you’re just worn them out, you can buy new shuttlecocks at your nearby sporting goods store or via the Internet.
If you decide to buy on the Internet, you will find shuttlecocks costing from around $2.50 to $33. The lower priced shuttlecocks will be made from plastic or nylon and available six or a dozen to a pack.
Which type of badminton shuttlecock should you buy? This will depend mostly on your level of competition. For backyard badminton, you can have as much fun with the multi-colored Halex shuttlecocks as the Head feathered shuttlecocks.
But as you work your way up to higher levels of competition, you will probably want to choose something better. You can pick the Dunlop Sports Shuttle Ultralite, the Victor Gold Shuttlecock or the Wilson feathered shuttlecock.
Do keep in mind that when you’re buying packs of 12, each of the better quality badminton shuttlecocks cost only a few cents more than the cheaper varieties.