Getting A Lock On The Best Shuttlecock!

Published May 28, 2021
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The Squeal For A Birdie

A birdie has a few different meanings to different persons. To a golfer, a birdie is a cause for an exuberant squeal of delight for shooting one point under par for a particular hole. For a parent or grandparent, they delight when they hear that same high-spirited squeal from their small child after pointing to the ‘birdie’ on the grass or in a tree. 

Badminton’s objective is to ensure a cone-shaped feathered projectile, approximately 3 inches in length and 2.5 inches wide, with a cork rubber base on one end, remains airborne. This feathered or synthetic object is referred to as a ‘birdie,’ and the agility of those who keep the birdie in the air without it hitting the court floor can also bring forth squeals of delight from the fans in the stands.

Bye-Bye Birdie 

Unlike the chirping birdies, attributed to God’s creation, badminton birdies are manufactured, not born! The shuttlecock creation begins with, OUCH, the plucking the feathers off live ducks in India or geese in China. We must note such brings a different type of squealing — from these birds held down by handlers as dozens of feathers are pulled off the wings.  

Technicians identify the whiter and lighter feathers they need, feathers with a weight between 1.7 and 2.1 grams. Feathers are also examined for their angle. The feather angle is essential to the shuttlecock’s smoothness of flight when smacked by the racquet. 

Since the curvature of the left and right-wing feathers are different, the manufactured shuttlecock must only use feathers from one side of the goose or duck. The best shuttlecocks that provide the best speed come from the left-wing of geese! The racquet smacking the shuttlecock in competitive badminton can cause shuttlecocks to lose their shape, which means a professional badminton game can use up to three dozen shuttlecocks!  

Varieties Of Shuttlecocks

A professional badminton athlete will usually choose a shuttlecock comprised of real feathers, in contrast to the backyard athlete who is as happy with rubber or nylon synthetic material.
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Feathered birdies are usually white, but depending on the manufacturer, the cork at the end can be a different color. Feathers can be dyed to provide a new color shade.   

The color is an indicator for shuttle speed, the distance that a shuttlecock flies, with synthetic birdies. 

  • Blue: indicates a medium speed and should be used in temperatures of 11 to 21 degrees Celsius.  (50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Green: this shuttle color indicates a slow speed and is used in a temperature range of 19 to 29 degrees Celsius. (66 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Red: a red color indicates a fast speed in temperatures below 14 degrees Celsius.
  • (A Fahrenheit temperature of approximately 6 degrees) 

Blue speed is the most common nylon color.

Other climate conditions that can affect a player’s performance:

  • Humidity: the drier the environment of play, the faster the speed of the shuttlecock.
  • Altitude:  Higher geographic ground brings faster shuttlecock speed. 

A yellow, black, or white synthetic shuttlecock might not be ideal in the brilliance of the sun’s light. However, using such colors indoors can provide a suitable advantage as the birdie hits the walls and ceiling under special lighting conditions. 

With feathered shuttlecocks, the manufacturer uses a number system that can be found on the storage tube. The following are shuttle numbers related to speed: 

  • 74 – 76:  Slow to slowest speed trajectory.  In scorching temperatures, use 76, use 75 in hot countries above sea level, and 74 in high altitude regions.
  • 77:  Excellent for playing in most regions at sea level.
  • 78-79:  is very fast and used in cold areas above sea level, while 79 is fast and works well in cold environments below sea level.

Shuttlecock Designs

The shuttlecock design can enhance or deter overall game performance. Properly designed shuttlecocks are vital to achieving the right speed and arc as it makes its whizzing, ‘squeal’ while passing over the net to the opposing player or players. 

Take note that the cork head, when whacked, will always fly cork first over the net. This attribute is due to the cork’s physics being heavier than the feathers’ lighter cone shape. 

There are three types of shuttlecock designs: 

  • Feathered: The feathered birdie is the shuttlecock of choice for most professional badminton play levels — intermediate to advanced. Spins and net slices and smoother control of the flight direction are had with feathered birdies.
  • Plastic birdies: The durable nylon birdies are perfect for backyard athletic competitions or beginning badminton players. The plastic provides a faster-paced game but with less control as these shuttles decelerate slower than feathers. 
  • Hybrid shuttles are a combination of end feathers of duck/goose feathers and a frame made of synthetic material. The hybrid costs less than a full-feathered birdie, but there is a loss of control in the flight path. Hybrids do have outstanding durability in comparison to conventional feathered birdies. 

Another critical design element is the cork — the shuttlecock’s head provides the racquet’s striking surface! A thin layer of leather or plastic is stretched tightly over the cork material to improve the cork’s aerodynamics.  

Top Shuttlecock Brands

The top shuttlecock brands for the badminton marketplace include: 

badminton racquets. 

  • Wilson:  An American company well known for producing a wide range of sports equipment for all skill levels. Shuttlecock prices vary based on the type of shuttlecock purchased. 
  • Vicky:  The most cost-effective brand of both feathered and synthetic shuttlecocks for those just beginning badminton training.

In conclusion, it is advisable to consult with those experienced in badminton to advise the best equipment purchase based upon individual skill level.

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