The Birth of Badminton
The evolution of badminton as a sport it long and varied. Shuttlecocks were first used recreationally in Ancient Egypt, Ancient China and Ancient Greece. Back then they were kicked from player to player. In the 1860s in colonial India the shuttlecock was hit over a net using a wooden paddle. This game was called Poona and the aim of the game was to sustain the longest rally.
The game was introduced to Great Britain by returning officers and soon became popular. It was given its name in 1863 when it was played at Badminton House at a party hosted by the eight Duke of Beaufort.
Around this time rackets as we recognise them today were first used and the popularity of the sport grew. The rules were introduced in 1877 by the Bath Badminton Club and regulations concerning courts and equipment became established. And since then badminton rackets have evolved their shape and composition to speed up the sport.
The custodian of the modern game is the Badminton World Federation, (formerly the International Badminton Federation) established in 1934. Amongst other things, it determines the allowed shape size and composition of competition rackets.
The anatomy of a badminton racket
The key components of a badminton racket are the head, the string bed, the shaft, the throat and the handle.
Badminton racket heads come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Larger heads offer bigger sweet spots - the point on a head where you get maximum power.
An oval head is more traditional and more typical of lower-end rackets. The head on these is smaller in relative terms and so the sweet spot is smaller too, requiring a more skilled player to get the best from this head shape.
An isometric head, which is squarer in shape and larger too offers a bigger sweet spot and so a greater chance of a better serve and return. Typically isometric heads are the preferred choice.
The string bed
The string bed is flat and the stringing pattern a uniform one. On all rackets it covers the head area. On some it continues down to the throat, this is allowed when the throat is 35mm or less in width and the length of the stringed area is 330mm or less.
Badminton racket strings typically fall within gauges of 20G (0.85-1mm) to 22G (0.7– 0.85mm). Thinner strings usually offer greater power and natural product strings typically outperform synthetic ones. The tension with which they are strung also affects play; generally speaking the tighter the tension the lower the power.
The throat (AKA the T-head) is where the head and shaft connect. There are two types: externally attached and carbon fibre shafts.
Externally attached throats are most often found on rackets where the head and the shaft are made of different materials. It is the job of the throat to connect the two. The throat is proud of the rest of the racket.
Carbon fibre covered throats are a more recent development. As well as being lighter they are also stronger and most rackets now feature this type of throat.
The shaft connects the handle to the head. Shafts are available in varying degrees of flexibility.
Stiff shafts rebound quickly. Badminton shots are best played at the point of rebound, so if your reflexes and hits are fast a stiff shaft is best for you. Fast players using more flexible shafts will compromise their game, if they try to smash the shuttlecock before the racket has rebounded they’ll end up playing a clear.
A slower player benefits from using a more flexible shaft. Flexible shafts complement players who use slowly accelerating strokes. The downside of a more flexible shaft is that accurate shot placement is compromised.
The handle is where you grip your racket and is the part of the racket that usually fatigues the quickest.
It’s wider than the shaft for comfort and there are a variety of grips that come with each racket at point of purchase and many more which can be added once you’re playing regularly.
Obviously you need a handle that’s comfortable for you but you also need to consider the weight of the handle since this is key to you getting the most from your racket.
Most grips are made of synthetic materials like polyurethane. They’re textured like towelling and easy to replace.
Badminton racket frame composition
Early racket frames were wooden and as they evolved new, lighter and more durable materials were introduced like aluminium and more recently graphite, titanium, carbon and kevlar.
Each material offers something different in terms of weight and flexibility. Rackets can vary from 80 to 100g in weight, and those at the heavier end offer greater power.
On some models the head, the throat and the shaft are all different materials giving an incredible choice of strength, flexibility, weight and balance points.
Racket balance point
Every badminton racket has a balance point where you can balance it on the finger of one hand. If that point is closer to the racket handle it has a lower balance point and offers more control to the player. If that point is closer to the head the racket has a higher balance point and offers more power to the player.
In the middle, there is the balanced racket which offers equal power and control. Doubles players like a balanced racket as the game is typically faster-paced and features more power shots.
Once you’ve committed to a racket you can adjust its balance point by simply making the handle heavier and the strings lighter for more control or the handle lighter and the strings heavier for more power.
So, which racket is right for you?
Given all the variables above answer is far from simple.
A weaker, slower player will do best with an isometric head, thin strings, a flexible throat and a head-heavy racket; while a faster, stronger player should consider the opposite.
A newcomer might go for a balanced racket and experiment with different strings and handles to see which works best for them.
The best thing is to try a few before you commit. Ask your fellow players to borrow theirs, see which feels best and then research rackets with similar properties to find the closest match.
Then continue to try others as you improve your game because when you do it will improve your performance even more if you continue to use a well-suited racket.