Shuttlecocks are the most frequently used equipment in the game of badminton. The knowledge about the characteristics of a shuttlecock like weight, specifications, speed, and types will keep you in an advantageous position for the best use of this essential equipment in badminton.
What is a Shuttlecock in Badminton?
A shuttlecock is an essential piece of equipment that is used to hit a racket in the game of badminton. It is formed by inserting feathers or synthetic feather-like material into a rounded base cork. After insertion, feathers take the conical shape which gives the shuttle stability in the air. Whatever the initial orientation is, a shuttlecock always flies pointing the cork base first. A shuttlecock is also called a shuttle or birdie.
Specifications and Dimensions
The specifications of a shuttle, governed by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), are as follows:
- A shuttlecock consists of 16 feathers fixed on the base.
- The length of feathers from the tip to the top of the base is within the range of 62 mm to 70 mm.
- The tip of the feathers forms a circular circumference with a diameter from 58 mm to 68 mm.
- To maintain the stability of the shuttle, feathers are fastened with thread or other suitable materials.
- The base of the shuttle should be rounded with a diameter from 25 mm to 28 mm.
What is Shuttlecock Made of?
A shuttlecock is made of two parts, a skirt, and a base. For the skirt, feathers of the left wings of gooses or ducks (considered low quality) are used. There is also some use of the right-wing feathers, but for a shuttle, only feathers from the same wing (left or right) are considered to conform to the flight characteristics.
Apart from feathers, synthetic materials (Nylon/ Plastic) are also used as a skirt material to enhance the durability of a shuttlecock.
The base of the shuttle is made with cork covered with a thin white layer of leather.
What is the Weight of a Shuttlecock?
The permissible weight of a feather shuttlecock is as under:
- 4.74 grams to 5.50 grams
- 0.167 oz to 0.194 oz
Because of the difference in specific gravity and other properties between feathers and synthetic materials, there is an allowable variance of 10% for non-feather shuttles.
So, the weight of a plastic shuttlecock must be within the limits.
- 4.27 grams to 6.05 grams
- 0.15 oz to 0.21 oz
What are the Types of Shuttlecock?
Depending on the material used, shuttlecocks are three types.
Feather shuttles use the natural feathers of goose as a skirt material. Feathers of 16 numbers are sequenced one after another and fixed in the base made of cork with the help of glue. To strengthen the stability further, two threads are used for fastening feathers. To give the look and feel, a thin white layer of leather covers the round-shaped cock.
As mentioned earlier, non-feathered shuttles use nylon/ plastic as skirt material. Depending upon the quality, there is the use of cork or other synthetic materials for the base of the shuttlecock.
Hybrid shuttles use synthetic materials and end feathers for skirts but the base remains the same, i.e. cork.
Take a quick look at the comparison between feather and non-feather shuttles.
|Feather Shuttle||Plastic Shuttle||Hybrid Shuttle|
|Use natural goose or duck feathers as a skirt||Plastic/ nylon as a skirt||Combination of plastic and bird feathers|
|Excellent flight characteristics||Faster flight than feather shuttle||Flight is better than plastic but not as good as feather shuttle|
|Better control and feel||Less control||Control and touch play is inferior to feather shuttles but better than plastic shuttlecocks|
|Less durability||Excellent durability||Durability is ＞feather but ＜plastic|
|Best for intermediate and advanced players||Best for beginners and amateurs (Cost-effective solution)||Good for practice|
Temperature, humidity, and altitude are the three main factors that affect the speed of a shuttle.
Hot temperature ⇨ Low air density ⇨ Less air resistance
Cold temperature ⇨ High air density ⇨ More air resistance
Due to less air resistance, a shuttle flies faster in hot areas. So to get the precise flight trajectory, you need slow shuttles. The reverse is true for cold environments.
Again, at high altitudes, air density is considerably lower than sea levels. So a slow shuttlecock is suitable for hill areas. Below sea level, fast shuttles are better to use.
The below chart shows the use of shuttle speed in different conditions.
|Shuttle Speed||Suitable Temperature||Suitable Altitude|
|75 – Very Slow||Very Hot (33℃ above)||Above Sea Level|
|76 – Slow||Hot (27 – 33℃)||Sea Level|
|77 – Average Speed||Average (22 – 26℃)||Sea Level|
|78 – Fast||Cold (17 – 21℃)||Below Sea Level|
|79 – Very Fast||Extreme Cold (Below 17℃)||Below Sea level|
In Yonex’s system, the speed rating of shuttles varies from 1 to 5, where ‘1’ represents very slow and the last rating, ‘5’ is very fast.
Also, for nylon shuttles, Yonex uses different color tapes to indicate the speed of the shuttle and suitable temperature ranges
|Green||Slow||22℃ – 33℃|
|Blue||Medium||12℃ – 23℃|
Testing Shuttle for Speed
For testing a shuttle for the right speed, you have to hit it in an upward direction parallel to the sideline over the back boundary line of the court. For correct speed, a shuttle should land within 530 mm – 930 mm short of the opposite back boundary line.
How to care for a shuttlecock
Feather shuttlecocks tend to deteriorate within a short period. To enhance longevity, here are some common practices:
- Feather shuttlecocks become brittle in low moisture content areas. So keep your shuttles away from hot elements like heaters and furnaces.
- To decrease the brittleness of the shuttle, you have to add moisture. Buying a humidome is a good solution that fits at one end of the tube and humidifies shuttles.
- If possible, try to keep shuttles in a humid environment.
- Before passing the shuttle to your opponent or before serving, unruffle the feathers if they get ruffled.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shuttlecocks are also known as birdies because they fly like a bird and bird feathers are used to make them.
To get the best result for speed, spin, and flight, 16 goose feathers are tied in a conical shape to form a shuttlecock.
Every player is allowed to hit a shuttle only once for executing any type of shot.
No, it is right or in. When a shuttle falls, its head first touches the ground, which is a valid shot. In this case, the head first touches the line. So, the shuttle is inside.
The fastest measured sports equipment is the shuttlecock with a whipping speed of 493 km/ h (306 mph), hit by Tan Boon Heong of Malaysia.
As beginners are going through the initial stage of the development of badminton skills, there is a high possibility of wrong hits which may damage the fragile feather shuttle. To use shuttles cost-effectively for beginners, the use of nylon shuttles, like Yonex Mavis 350 or Mavis 600 is a far better option as these shuttles are way ahead of feather shuttlecocks in terms of longevity.
High-quality feather shuttles like Yonex AS-30 or AS-40 are used in leading international tournaments. But from 2021, synthetic feather shuttlecocks also get approval from the Badminton World Federation for use in international tournaments at any level.