Badminton Shuttlecocks Types
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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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.
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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.
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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.