Plastic vs Feather Shuttlecock

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Because of a tiny yet essential aspect of the game: the shuttlecock, badminton is played indoors. The shuttlecock is a little piece of equipment that players alternate hitting during the game. We’ll compare the two varieties (plastic vs feather shuttlecocks) to see which is best for the game.

Plastic vs Feather Shuttlecocks General Overview

Bird feathers are used to make feather shuttlecocks. On the other hand, plastic shuttlecocks are made of nylon or plastic. The feather shuttlecocks provide a high level of aerodynamic lift, while the plastic shuttlecocks are more robust.

Feather shuttlecocks lying on the floor

Players prefer feather shuttlecocks made of duck or goose feathers in professional badminton competitions. However, that is not your only alternative. If you’re new to badminton, you have the option of purchasing feather shuttlecocks or synthetic shuttles.

The Plastic Shuttlecock

The lightweight and sturdy plastic shuttlecock with foam base are suitable for beginners. Its foam base is impact-resistant and resists friction with the net. The plastic skirt is more durable and forgiving of shot alignment faults.

The shuttlecock’s trajectory is also parabolic. The skirt has durable plastic, and the base is made of cork. This base is a little more delicate, but it’s a lot more fun to play with and has a more direct trajectory.

It is heavier than a feather shuttle when used daily and for outdoor play.

Which Type of Players Should Choose Plastic Shuttlecocks?

Plastic shuttlecocks provide a lot of longevity but at the cost of perfect control and feel. If you can relate to several of the items below, we suggest looking into plastic shuttlecocks:

  • You’re either a recreational player or a youth trainee. When you first start playing badminton, you’ll focus on improving your footwork and shot execution. You may not notice the differences between a plastic and a feathered shuttlecock since you haven’t had enough practice with them.
  • You’re looking for a cost-effective choice. The shuttlecock is the only piece of equipment in badminton that needs to be replaced regularly. Because it has a comparable conical form to the feathered shuttlecock, the flight and overall playing experience are not much different, despite the price difference.
  • You appreciate the adrenaline rush of a fast-paced game. Plastic shuttlecocks can travel further into your opponent’s side due to the gradual deceleration they encounter as a result of the reduced drag they face. They create an environment where players prefer to batter the shuttlecock rather than play with elegance.
  • You care about the environment. Each feathered shuttlecock comprises 16 single feathers from a bird – usually, a goose or duck – and is therefore not very environmentally friendly to use.
Two feather shuttlecocks

The Feather Shuttlecock

This shuttlecock is suited for regular to intense play and competitions in ideal playing conditions (68 to 73.4° Fahrenheit indoors). A feather shuttlecock weighs between 0.010 pounds to 0.012 pounds.

It is made up of 16 goose feathers at all times (with duck feathers now also coming into use). You can use it to create a “parachute” trajectory, which is a steady, correct trajectory. The shuttlecock’s speed is affected by the temperature outside.

You create a frictional force proportional to the air’s density when you play it. Warm air is less dense than cold air, and thus if you’re playing indoors at 73.4° Fahrenheit, the shuttlecock will travel faster than if you’re playing outside at 60.8° Fahrenheit.

Which Type of Players Should Choose Feather Shuttlecocks?

Although they have several benefits, feathered shuttlecocks are more expensive than plastic shuttlecocks. If you can relate to most of the following, we recommend looking into feathered shuttlecocks:

  • You’re a player who can tell the difference between plastic and feathered shuttlecocks, as well as between different tiers of feathered shuttlecocks. Players who fall into this category will find that utilizing a feathered shuttlecock increases their pleasure in the game.
  • You’re a skillful player who can manipulate the trajectory of the shuttlecock’s flight to your advantage. The use of feathered shuttlecocks enhances the execution of high and deep clears and sharp drops.
  • You have a high level of technical ability, and control is an essential component of your game. Feathered shuttlecocks are an excellent choice for players who can display precision and accuracy in their shots and swings.
  • If you want to become a professional player, this is the right option. While some grades and models of plastic shuttlecocks are permitted for competitive play, feathered shuttlecocks are used in all significant international badminton competitions.

While we’ve listed our suggestions for which types of players should use particular shuttlecocks, it’s crucial to remember that neither shuttlecock style is specifically designed for one player or the other. Your shuttlecock choices might fluctuate over time as your body, experience, and skill level evolve.

Feather shuttlecocks and Badminton racket

Similarities and Differences

These two shuttlecocks have certain traits in common and others completely distinct. A comparison of the two will help you gain a better understanding of these shuttles and will also aid you in making a purchase decision.

Similarities

  • The plastic shuttlecocks, like the feather shuttlecocks, have 16 marks or arcs. The plastic birdies are designed to resemble feather birdies in appearance.
  • Plastic shuttlecocks, like feathered shuttlecocks, can be preserved and cared for properly to extend their lives. We urge owners of plastic shuttlecocks not to store them in too cold areas since the skirt of a plastic shuttlecock might become brittle if it is too chilly.
  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced players all have both types of shuttlecocks at their disposal.
  • Both shuttlecocks are popular in private clubs, school teams, leisure play, and tournaments.

Differences

Let’s look at the differences between these two in terms of speed, accuracy, durability, price, feel, and material.

Material

Plastic shuttlecocks are composed of nylon or plastic material, while feather shuttlecocks are created from duck or geese feathers.

  • Sixteen feathers are connected to a solid cock foundation on the feather shuttlecocks. The weight of all the feathers is the same. These feathers are held together by two layers of stitching.
  • The plastic shuttlecock’s upper section is not made up of several pieces. It is just a single component.
  • The feather and plastic shuttlecocks have nearly identical cock bases, except that the plastic shuttlecock’s base is slightly heavier than that of the feather shuttlecock.
  • The feather section of the shuttlecock, on the other hand, has a little more weight than the plastic part when it gets to the upper part of the shuttlecock.
A bunch of feather shuttlecocks on a red floor

Weight

The weight distribution for a feather shuttlecock is nearly 0.088 – 0.13 pounds between the top part and the base, but it is almost 0.044 – 0.17 pounds for a plastic shuttle.

  • When it comes to the quality of the shoots, the nylon shuttlecock’s thick cock base isn’t ideal. When we play the game outside, though, this can be beneficial. Even if there is a slight breeze, this weight distribution makes it easier to play the game.
  • On the other hand, Feather birds are better for indoor and professional games. A slight breeze will blow the shuttle away if you play outside using this birdie hence not enjoying the game.

Accuracy

Feather shuttlecocks have higher accuracy than plastic shuttlecocks due to the difference in weight distribution. They can be highly beneficial for a player who can play accurate trick shots.

  • If you play the game for pleasure with your friends or in practice matches, the accuracy disparity does not matter as much. When it comes to professional badminton, though, this makes a significant difference. Feather shuttlecocks are therefore chosen for professional matches. 
  • Also, when compared to feather shuttlecocks, plastic shuttlecocks wobble more, especially for net shots. On the other hand, Feather shuttlecocks are great for playing net shots.

Speed

The speed of the feather shuttles is slower than the plastic shuttles because they are more precise and have a better weight distribution. Feather shuttlecocks have a higher declaration than nylon shuttlecocks because of their stiff structure.

  • When we hit plastic shuttles, they deform more than feather shuttles. The feather shuttles will have a high beginning speed. It does, however, decelerate more quickly due to the increased drag it encounters during flight. As a result, it will travel a shorter distance and fall at a steeper incline.
  • When we hit the feather birdie, it rises higher, whereas the plastic birdie travels at a much more level angle and travels further. 
  • The jump smash is comparably hard to hit with a nylon shuttle due to the flat trajectory of the shuttle. Controlling the plastic shuttle is tricky, and hitting it demands more power.
  • You can adjust the speed of a feather shuttlecock by tipping the shuttle, which is not possible with nylon shuttlecocks. You can change the feathers to speed up or slow down the shuttle. When you’re playing badminton, though, it’s not legal to do so.

Durability

If you ask me which type of shuttlecock is the most durable, I’ll tell you that nylon shuttlecocks are the best option. Because of the plastic material, nylon shuttlecocks are far more durable than feather shuttlecocks.

  • Feather shuttlecocks are easily damaged after only two or three games; however, nylon shuttlecocks can survive up to 6 or 7 games. It depends on the strength of the shots we use. On the other hand, Plastic shuttlecocks can often withstand much more hits than feather shuttles.
  • Nylon shuttlecocks are preferred over feather shuttlecocks when we play badminton for fun. So, nylon shuttlecocks are the way to go for practice games. If you’re serious about badminton, perhaps you should use feather shuttlecocks on a professional level.

If you’re worried that your shuttlecocks won’t last very long, try these two techniques:

Steaming the Shuttlecock

Steaming a shuttlecock is a simple process; all you have to do is:

  1. Put the shuttles you intend to use the following day into a tube. You must follow this procedure a day ahead of time to allow the shuttle to maintain the moisture. 
  2. Have your steaming apparatus ready. Place the entrance end of the tube over the steaming instrument with both sides of the tube open once it’s ready. 
  3. When steam starts to emerge from the tube’s top end, it’s time to remove it from the steamer. In addition, you must rapidly replace the end caps to prevent the steam from escaping. 
  4. Place the tube exit-end up and wait 12 hours for it to settle.

Using a Humidifier

Humidifying shuttlecocks is a simple process that can be done with the help of an easy-to-operate device. This equipment fits perfectly into any size or shape tube, and it’s portable, so you don’t need to worry about where your next match will take place.

Close-up photo of green plastic shuttlecocks

Price

Feather shuttlecocks are often more expensive than plastic shuttles in their prices.

  • If you’re a newbie or want to have some fun with the game, nylon shuttlecocks are the way to go. They’re less expensive and more lasting.
  • Feather shuttlecocks are more costly and less durable than plastic shuttlecocks. If you want your shuttles to last as many games as possible, you must take excellent care of them while playing. Replacing the feather shuttlecocks is inconvenient most of the time.

Feel

A shuttlecock’s feel is a more abstract concept that refers to a player’s sense of connection with the shuttlecock with each touch.

  • A feathered shuttlecock gives a player a better feel. When the shuttlecock comes into contact with the string bed, the natural feather material and composition provide a sharper feeling and a more satisfying explosive sound.
  • Compared to a feathered shuttlecock, a plastic shuttlecock lacks the same level of sensation with each hit. Players frequently report a dull feeling with each shot, but the sound produced by a plastic shuttlecock is more similar to a thud.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The primary distinguishing factor between plastic shuttles and feather birdies is the material used to make them. Bird feathers are used to manufacture feather shuttles. On the other hand, plastic birdies are made of plastic or synthetic fibers.

The feather shuttlecocks provide more aerodynamic lift and are pretty durable, yet the plastic shuttlecocks are not.

When to Use a Plastic Shuttlecock

If you’re a beginner or a low-level club player, you should use a plastic shuttlecock. Since these high-speed shuttles are composed of nylon, they decelerate more slowly than feather birds, resulting in a faster-paced game with little control or touch.

A plastic shuttle is also an excellent option for players who want to have fun while playing badminton. This fun is because it is more durable, costs less than the feathered version, and is environmentally friendly.

When to Use a Feather Shuttlecock

It would help if you used feather shuttles when playing badminton matches or competitions. You must, however, take adequate care of them. They are also more expensive than plastic shuttlecocks, making replacement more difficult.

During competitions, properly humidified feathers flex, improving the shuttle’s speed change and longevity. The shuttle wobbles because dry feathers are delicate and readily break. As a result, you should use this shuttle when the feathers are appropriately humidified.

Conclusion

If you want to pursue badminton seriously or compete in tournaments, you should invest in a feathered shuttle. While the plastic ones are more fun to play with, they are highly unsteady in flight. It’s also tough to move from a plastic shuttle to a feathered one.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.