Badminton Shuttlecocks Types

Written by jennifer spirko
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Badminton Shuttlecocks Types
Badminton players can choose among shuttlecock materials and speeds. (playing badminton image by Cherry-Merry from

Badminton has the reputation as a children's backyard game, but enthusiasts hasten to point out that it moves faster than tennis and puts huge demands of speed and athleticism on its players. Instead of a ball, badminton uses a rounded cone-shaped shuttlecock, often nicknamed a "birdie" because it is traditionally made of feathers. These shuttlecocks vary in terms of material and speed, and the type players choose depends on their level and style of play.

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Feather Shuttlecocks

Feathers are the traditional material for shuttlecocks, and they are still used in competition-level equipment—16 feathers, to be exact. Goose feathers are the most prized material, though duck feathers are also used. Feathers wear out quickly; writing for the Harvard Magazine, Craig Lambert reports that in an Olympics-level competition, a feather shuttlecock might last only five minutes.

Badminton Shuttlecocks Types
Competition shuttlecocks are still made from real feathers. (badminton image by Francis Lempérière from

Synthetic Shuttlecocks

Synthetic shuttlecocks might last longer, but "only recreational players use plastic ones," according to Lambert. Typically made of nylon, these synthetics are durable and inexpensive; the U.S. national badminton program recommends them as "ideal" for beginners and cost-conscious players.

Badminton Shuttlecocks Types
Durable, inexpensive nylon shuttlecocks are common in backyard badminton. (badminton 1 image by Jorge Chaves from

Shuttlecock Speeds

According to USA Badminton, players can buy shuttlecocks calibrated for one of three speeds: fast, medium or slow; they recommend medium for beginners. A "slow" shuttlecock weighs 4.8 grams, and it travels about 120cm less than a "fast" one, at 5.2 grams. Speed refers to the distance travelled by a shuttlecock under the force of an average blow; the overall speed and trajectory, of course, relies a great deal on the skill of the players.

Badminton Shuttlecocks Types
Shuttlecocks are calibrated to different speeds. (trois volants image by Francis Lempérière from

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