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How to choose badminton racquetHave you ever heard about Gear Acquisition Syndrome? The term "GAS" was coined by Walter Becker in 1996 as "Guitar Acquisition Syndrome". The term was used to describe the strong tendency of guitarists to acquire new guitar with the hope that new gear can bring their performance to next level. The term spreads out to other people who has similar tendencies. And GAS became a backronym for "Gear Acquisition Syndrome".
I more or less have this syndrome. At least once. Now with several racquets of different styles, I will not buy new ones for at least a while. My dream of better performance with better racquet never comes true. At some point of the time, I thought I can play better with my new racquet. But when I pick up an old one, it is not bad either. Just more practice and training made the difference.
That doesn't mean all racquets are the same. They do have difference. Different racquet fits different individual and different strategies. You should understand the difference to find the one right for you and your style.
It is not uncommon to think higer the price, the better the racquet. Truth can hardly be further away. The shape, the weight, the balance, stiffness all makes important difference.
A badminton racket comprises a head frame, a gut or string, a shaft and a grip.
FrameThere are mainly two different shapes of frame on the market.
1)Oval Shape. This is the traditional shape of racquet.
2)Isometric/Square Head. This was introduced by Yonex. It has become the most popular shape of racquets.
The difference is the sweet spot. Like tennis racquet, badminton racquet also has a sweet spot. You can use any part of the racquet surface to hit the shuttle. But if you can hit it with sweet spot, the shuttle can absorb more energy. You will also feel less twist. If you pay attention to the sound of hitting the shuttle, you can also find the difference. If you hit the sweet spot, the sound is more solid and crispy. If you clear or drive, hitting sweet spot will ensure you can send the shuttle further. If you can smashing, that will give you more powerful shot, given everything else equal.
Shape of the frame decides the size of the sweet spot. Isometric frame has a 30% bigger sweet spot than traditional oval one. That is why it is much more popular these days than traditional oval frame.
But why we simply all use isometric frame? The smaller the sweet spot, the more concentrated your power. If you are an advanced player, you can always hit with sweet spot but wish you can have more powerful shots, traditional oval frame racquet may be a better choice. But given the advance of other technologies, the difference is becoming less important.
At the same time, bigger sweet spot can give you big advantage when you have difficulty to shoot right in the middle. This is particularly important when you play double. The speed is so fast. Sometime you would thank God if you can barely hit the shuttle.
That is why you see fewer and fewer players using oval head racquet in tournaments.
Overall, you may want to choose an isometric racquet. Unless you are sure you are comfortable with the small sweet spot.
Another interesting about the frame is Ti mesh. Some legendary racquets like Ti10 and AT700 comes with two Ti meshes on the frame. One at the 3 o'clock position. The other at 9 o'clock. This is intended to reduce the twists while not increasing the head weight too much. What is a twist? Think it this way. You stand still. I try to push you back. If I push you right in the middle of you chest. You will fell back straight. But if I push you left shoulder instead. You will fell back, but lean to the right. That is the twist. Though most people including manufacturers tell you this will make the racquet stronger, more durable or whatever. It is mainly use to increase the inertia and reduce the twist. The less twist you have, the more accurate you can control the racquet.
ShaftThe main different between the shafts is the flexibility. If you hold the head and the grid, try to bend the racquet, you will feel the difference of flexibility between them are quite big.
The stiffness the racquet along with the strength of the string decides the time shuttle get in touch with the racquet. The longer the time, the more power you can transfer to shuttle through the racquet.
Now comes to the counter intuitive part. When you found your friend has a racquet with extra stiff shaft and strung at 30lb, you think it is more 'powerful' than your racquet with medium stiff shaft and strung at 20lb. To your surprise, you will find that racquet is more difficult to play. You have to use more power to clear or dirve shuttle to the same distance.
Why? The stiffer the shaft and higher tention the string, the less time will the shuttle kiss you racquet. The less power get transfered. That is why a racquet sounds to be stronger is actually more demanding for your strength.
Then why people still want to use stiff shaft? It is all about control. Stiff shaft and high tention string give you less distortion of the racquet and string surface. That enables you control the shot more accurately.
For a beginer, it is a good idea to choose a medium stiff shaft and setup the string at around 18~20lb. Once you improve your strength and skills, you can pick a stiffer shaft and string your racquet at higher tention.
HandleYou should pick handle with right size for you. It is marked as G2, G3, G4, G5, etc. Normally, you should pick one with smaller handle. You can always wrap overgrip on the handle. Overgrip can absorb impact, sweath and avoid slip.
Comparison of Commonly Seen Racquets