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Badminton is a fun court sport game that many people can enjoy, both professional players and those individuals playing recreationally. Similar to other court sports, it requires a few pieces of equipment in order to play.

Beyond a badminton racquet, you will also need a shuttlecock, or badminton birdie.

But which type of badminton shuttlecock will be best for you to use can be tricky and depends on what type of player you are.

When you compare the traits and playability offered by both the shuttlecock options you can better pick the shuttlecock for your needs.

The main difference between the plastic vs. feather shuttlecock is the material used to create the shuttlecock.

These two different materials affect the speed, fall, and distance of the shuttlecock. Each is designed for a specific player type to benefit their needs.

Choosing the right shuttlecock

The shuttlecock is the main piece of equipment used in the game of badminton as it is how a player scores points.

Choosing the right shuttlecock is important, especially for players who are new to the court sport. Beginners may not yet understand the importance of the shuttlecock’s construction, or assume there is only one type.

The shape of the shuttlecock is designed to be stable in the air. This is supported by its construction of a cork and feathers which allows for the shuttlecock to shift cork first as it flies across the badminton court.

The cork is where the feathers are placed creating the narrow cone shape of the shuttlecock.

After the feathers have been placed around the cork’s base, the cork is covered in leather materials. The cork has weight to ensure it flies correctly.

As mentioned, the type of feathers used to create a shuttlecock will impact the speed at which it travels, how quickly the shuttlecock falls and at what angle, and just how far it will travel across the badminton court.

These are the purpose and role the feathers play. There are sixteen feathers on a shuttlecock, each at 70 millimeters long.

These feathers are embedded around the cork’s base and help the shuttlecock fly.

The two feather types are often called either feather shuttlecocks, which are made with real feathers of either a duck or goose, or a plastic shuttlecock.

The second material option is made with plastic or synthetic materials.

Feather based shuttlecocks

Feathered shuttlecocks are badminton birdies made from bird feathers. The most popular feather options used are goose or duck.

When embedding the feathers into the cork of the shuttlecock, only on the wing side is used; the right and left wing are never mixed together.

This is most often the left-wing feathers.

The great thing about these feather types are their ability to produce high speeds.

The speeds require less strength and force as the speed can come from the feather shuttlecock more easily than the secondary shuttlecock option.

The shuttlecock will also travel much farther, covering a greater distance of the court on a steady path.

Once the feather shuttlecock begins to fall the speed will drop much faster.  This allows them to go down in a straight drop.

Even with all the benefits of this shuttlecock type, these are not intended to be used by recreational or beginning players.

Players may not be able to manage the feather shuttlecock, so it is best for professional and tournament players.

Not only are its traits best for professional players, recreational players will need to replace the feather shuttlecock.

The feathers used to create the shuttlecock are not very durable. The brittle nature of the feathers causes them to break often and even too extreme speeds can cause the feathers to fall off.

The low durability of these feathers also means they will need proper humidity before playing with, often four hours in the proper environment to ensure the shuttlecock will fly at the correct speed and distance.

If the feathers are too dry they will break and wobble. Too wet and they will narrow the cone’s shape causing the shuttlecock to fly too fast and too far.

This is why it is not the best for beginners and recreational players, as it will need to be replaced frequently, almost after a single set of games.

But for professional and tournament players will benefit from the speed and stability of the feather shuttlecock.


·       Offer a much faster speed when hit

·       Travel longer distances in straight directional lines

·       Great options for professional players


·       Use of feathers makes the shuttlecock not as durable and prone to damage

·       Loses speed and slows down as drops from the air

·       Needs proper humidity in order to fly correctly and straight

Plastic based shuttlecocks

Plastic shuttlecocks are made with plastic or synthetic feathers rather than actual feathers.

These are the most commonly seen shuttlecocks in stores, usually featuring white or yellow coloring options.

The use of synthetic or nylon materials means the shuttlecock will not need to be kept at a reserved humidity.

This is one of the main perks offered by this type of badminton shuttlecock.

The synthetic materials will not be affected by durability so the feathers will not become brittle or over saturated.

They will also continuously fly straight despite changing conditions.

The second most important feature is the plastic shuttlecocks ability to offer extreme durability.

While a feather shuttlecock is good for a couple of games, at best, as it will quickly lose its ability to travel straight and maintain its sixteen feathers, a plastic shuttlecock can last for a long amount of time.

The plastic feathers will not begin to fall from the shuttlecock’s cork base at increasingly high speeds either.

This type of shuttlecock is also heavier in weight due to the synthetic materials.

When using this shuttlecock then, a player must hit it harder with their racquet and focus more on the direction of their shots.

With increased durability, however, comes some drawbacks. The plastic shuttlecock does not reach the speeds or travel distance as the feather shuttlecock due to the differing materials.

The speeds are slower upon impact with a badminton racquet, but they do not lose at much speed and slow down as they begin their descent.

This means that unlike the feather shuttlecock, which falls more slowly, the plastic shuttlecock will fall at a more diagonal angle.

This is important to take into account when playing as it can affect the landing of your shots.

Though there is less speed and consistency of flight pattern as it crosses across the badminton court, it is a great option for beginning badminton players and those who play recreationally.

This is due to its increased durability. A person will be able to practice and play longer without the fear of needing to purchase many shuttlecocks to continuously play.


·       Has a greater durability and lasts for a long time without being replaced

·       Works well for recreational and beginning players

·       Features a quicker descent speed for throwing off opponents

·       Comes with two different color options


·       Falls from flight path at a diagonal angle

·       Has slower speed and does not reach as great a distance across the court

·       Has a heavier weight so must have stronger impact with badminton racquet

Plastic vs. feather shuttlecock: Which is right for you?

These two different shuttlecock feather types are distinguished by the materials used in their compositions.

The feathers and plastic shuttlecock types may seem similar in their look, but they are both able to produce very different results and traits that distinguish them from each other.

These distinctions help to separate the shuttlecock types from each other and also separates the different players types that work best with each of the two shuttlecock types.

The main difference is the materials used to construct the two different shuttlecocks.

These material’s compositional differences create all the other distinctions between the shuttlecocks and are the main factor for the benefits of each shuttlecock.

The first material option is the use of actual goose or duck feathers to place around the cork base of the shuttlecock.

This type does not have a strong durability due to its material, but it is a great option for professional players and is used in tournaments.

The second option for badminton players to choose from is shuttlecocks made with synthetic materials, which are called plastic shuttlecocks.

This material is very durable and can last for a long time making it the perfect option for beginning players and those who play for fun.

Feathers used to create badminton birdies allow for a strong increase in the overall speed. This is a very beneficial feature as it allows for a quicker game.

The feathers also ensure a greater distance covered by a shot, partially due to the speed increase and the feather’s lightweight nature that carries the shuttlecock across the vast badminton court.

The descent of the feather shuttlecock is much slower though, their speed dropping as they begin to descend to the court surface.

In contrast, plastic shuttlecocks are slower in speed and do not reach as much distance. This is due to the construction of the synthetic materials and the heavier weight.

But this shuttlecock type does not slow speed as it descends. Its weight carries it down quickly to the court surface, making it more difficult for people to recover.

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Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com