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.

You may have played badminton with a shuttlecock made from plastic, a synthetic material such as nylon or one made of cork and feathers. The important thing is that it should have the feel on your racket and the flight characteristics similar to those produced by a natural feathered shuttlecock that has a cork base covered with a thin layer of leathers. To read more about how to choose the best badminton set for you, click here.

badminton shuttercock

Badminton Shuttlecock Standards

The official rules of badminton say that a badminton shuttlecock should have 14 to 16 feathers fixed in a base. The feathers can have a variable length from 2 ½” to 2 3/4” but must be of the same length in each shuttlecock when measured from the tip of the feathers to the top of the base.

Moreover, the tips of the feathers are to form a circle with a diameter within a 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 which 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, as 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 of badminton 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, with each variety 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, probably made from nylon.

If you are playing with a feathered shuttlecock, the feathers will eventually become frayed which effects 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.

Badminton shuttlecocks available online include:

Halex Shuttlecocks, Assorted Colors, 5-pack
Price: $5.18

GOGO B501 Professional Training A Grade Feather Shuttlecocks, 12 per tube

Yonex Mavis 2000 Nylon Championship Tournament Shuttlecocks, 1 dozen to a tube
Price: $13.98

Dunlop Sports Shuttle Ultraflite TS1 Badminton Shuttlecocks (synthetic), 12 to a tube
(Available in slow, medium and fast speeds)
Price: $14.99

Victor Gold Tournament Shuttlecocks, 1 dozen to a tube
Price: $15.98

Head Air Power 50 Feather Shuttlecocks, 12 pack
Price: $29.99

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 more in the line of the Dunlop Sports Shuttle Ultraflite, 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.