The mechanics of hitting feather vs plastic shuttles. Or why badminton should be play
... played with feather shuttles.
I used to play plastic shuttles but now play only feather exclusively. I was just thinking about the differences recently and wanted to share what I suspect are the major differences between how and why feather and plastic shuttles hit and feel the way they do.
It all comes down to this one thing: shuttle skirt rigidity.
This explains why feather is so much more tactile and easier to hit with in terms of both control and power. Other than cost, it is universally agreed that feather has all the advantages over plastic. Some would even argue that badminton with a plastic shuttle is not even real badminton ( ) as there are many touch and control shots that cannot be performed with plastic.
Looking at the slow mo video above (if you pause at point of impact) we can see that the plastic skirt collapses totally and completely on impact, with the cork sinking deep into the stringbed and taking some time to rebound off.
Whereas looking at slow mo videos of feather shuttle impact, the skirt is much more rigid so it doesn't collapse as much on impact. This causes the shuttle to react and rebound off the stringbed faster.
Additionally because of the rigid skirt, it is much easier to control, slice and impart spin. And it's also because of the rigid skirt that provides more exquisite feedback to the hand regarding how the shuttle is behaving on the stringbed, allowing the player finer control of the racket face and power input while performing a stroke.
Finally, if you've never tried feather shuttles, you should at least try it for a few sessions. I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the greater amount of feel and control you can get. Pair it with rough textured thin strings at high tension to maximize feel, rebound and control, it'll take your game to a whole new level... the way it's meant to be played.
Also because of the rigid skirt and the faster rebound and greater feel it allows, hitting feather is particularly satisfying in terms of its "crispness". When you hit it right with the right technique and timing, that crispness alone is worth the cost of a feather shuttle.
And it is this crisp feedback that allows you to constantly adjust and improve on your timing and technique... especially important for beginners and intermediates.