I’ve played with the same badminton racquets for over 12 years, it wasn’t until I broke one of only two racquets I had (a Yonex Armortec 900 Power) that I realised I might need to get some more but after 12 years with the same racquets how was I going to be able to pick a new one right for me?
The best way to find the racquet which is best for you is based on a number of factors including; physical strength and attributes, playing ability, play style and price and feel. Looking at these six things in combination let’s see how we can pick the best racquet for you.
Physical Strength and Attributes
The biggest reason why physical strength matters in racquet selection has nothing to do with how “hard” you can hit the shuttle but has more to do with your force on the racquet. Racquets have something called flex or stiffness depending on which brand you buy, for our purposes we will refer to this as flex. Different brands have different scales for flex but most have four to five levels of flex for their racquets ranging from very flexible to extra stiff. The flex is in relation to how bendy the shaft of the racquet is, the shaft is highlighted below.
The purpose of designing racquets this way works like this; the more flexible the racquet the easier it is to get the racquet to bend when you play a shot. The bend in the racquet allows the racquet to recoil and generate more power, it acts sort of like a whip.
So flexible racquets make it easier to get the power for players who are either beginner level or simply lack the physical power to get the bend in a stiffer racquet, however this does have a downside. The racquet has a natural limit for players who are much stronger and those players will find after a certain point the racquet won’t give them more power no matter how much effort they exert which is why there are stiffer racquets.
Stiff and extra stiff racquets are more suited to advanced and physically stronger players who have the technique and the power to get the stiffer racquets to bend. A stiffer racquet will recoil with greater force because it takes a greater force to bend it. Imagine a tree sapling and a old oak tree on a windy day, the sapling will bend easily in the wind without much effort but the oak tree won’t budge at all.
A trait about racquets not often talked about is the racquets weight and grip size. These both relate to a players physical attributes rather than his strength. Players with greater racquet control tend to go for racquets with smaller grip sizes for more refined touch and feel but this can be difficult for beginners or if you have big hands so might be better suited to a racquet with a slightly bigger grip size.
The same racquet can also come in different weights and based on the player it might be better to have a lighter version say if you don’t have a particularly strong wrist or if you play more doubles and need shorter sharper shots which will be easier with a lighter racquet.
Your level of playing ability relates to your experience and playing level in badminton. If you’re a beginner you’ll be more suited to pick an all round racquet that is easy to play with to build on basic skills and fundamentals.
If your an intermediate that has a moderate amount of experience and plays at a decent level you’ll more likely need something above the all round level of racquets that presents a bit more of a challenge to master.
If your an advanced player you’re more likely to know how you play, your level of play and need something that provides a real challenge to play with but once mastered provides you better control, more responsiveness and accuracy in your shots and generate more power.
How you play also matters a great deal, there are two more racquet attributes to take into consideration which are the balance and weight of the actual racquet.
What is meant by balance?
Balance, or often referred to as head balance, relates to how the racquet weight is distributed throughout and how the racquet. There are three different types which are head heavy, head light and balanced. If you take a balanced racquet and balance it using just one finger you’ll find that the balancing point is in the middle. If you take a head heavy racquet you’ll find the balancing point nearer the head of the racquet and for head-light closer to the handle. This is by design and each type provides a different feel and has pros and cons.
Head-heavy racquets are favoured for these pros:
- With the majority of the weight in the head of the racquet the head follows through with the swing with more momentum which generates more speed and therefore power
- It’s easier to feel the end point of the racquet due to the weight and therefore develops more control
Head-heavy racquets have natural cons though including:
- With the extra weight in the head of the racquet it becomes harder to play defensively as defensive shots require shorter, sharper, faster movements
- They can be quite draining as you need to control the racquet more after strokes to stop yourself from dropping the racquet too low after each shot
Think of head-heavy racquets like a big sledge hammer, they provide a lot of oomph but also require a lot of strength and dexterity to control due to their imbalance. Singles players often love playing with these types of racquets because they have more time between shots unlike doubles play which means better net control and a more powerful smash outweigh the cons related to fatigue and defensive sharpness.
Head-light racquets are favoured for these pros:
- They feel light in hand even though they may be the same weight as another racquet which makes them less tiring to play with
- It’s easier to play shorted sharper shots without losing control of the positioning of the racquet head
They’re opposing cons are:
- People can try too hard to generate more power in smashing the shuttle with these racquets as the momentum of the racquet doesn’t naturally follow through which could result in shoulder or elbow injuries
- Controlling the head of the racquet is considerably easier but it is harder to feel the end point of the racquet and how much it is dipped for a tight spinning next shot for example
Head-light racquets are much more suited to doubles players who need fast reactions and even faster racquet skills. They’re much like a fencing sword, easy to flick and whip shots but no as adapt at delivering heavy blows.
Balanced racquets provide a good experience between head-heavy and head-light racquets, the are good all rounders without having any major standout advantages or disadvantages.
Not to be overlooked but the price of the racquet matters as well. The price matters less if you know the racquet is the best one for you but having said that I always have at least two of the same racquet in case one breaks or a string goes then I can switch racquets without disruption to my game. So being able to buy more than one can matter and if it’s very expensive your wallet will be weeping if you ever need to buy another.
Last but not least is feel something else not often discussed but how a racquet feels when you play with it is like first impressions. When you meet someone for the first time you tend to get a feel for the person very quickly, you quickly understand whether you like them or not and whether you will get along with this person. This can likely change over time but how you feel about and around that person is unlikely to change a great deal. It’s the same for racquets, when trying a racquet for the first time you can get a feel very quickly whether you’re suited for it or not.
If you feel good playing with the racquet sometimes that’s all that matters. If you don’t feel good playing with a racquet or if it feels difficult and alien then it’s probably not the right racquet for you. Practicing more with a racquet can change that but that will take time and adjustment to work.
To sum it all up, it all comes down to you as an individual, you can look at this racquet and that and measure the differences but if you look at the best players in the world they don’t all use the same racquet because there is simply isn’t one racquet that is best for everyone. Everyone is different, everyone is unique and you should try a few racquets that have different head balance, flex, weight, grip size and prices to find the racquet which is best for you.
Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player and creator of BadmintonsBest.
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