Updated: Apr 18, 2021
If you are a beginner in badminton and have no idea how to pick out your first badminton racket amongst the hundreds of rackets in a regular sports equipment store, fret not! Like any other purchases you make in your daily lives, be it clothing, furniture or food, there are a few factors that you need to take into consideration and weigh against each other when you purchase a badminton racket.
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So here are the 5 most important things you need to consider before you put your money down on your dream racket.
1. Your budget
For me, the most important thing to consider when buying a racket is your budget. You need to be comfortable with what you are paying for, so set yourself a budget. If you're happy playing with the highest end, most expensive rackets, great! If you have a limited budget, don't worry! There are plenty of rackets at every single price point so there'll still be lots of options.
2. The overall weight of a racket
Everyone wants more power and everyone wants to hit hard. However, our individual physical conditions are all different. So let me break it down for you.
In scientific terms, power = force x speed (or velocity).
From here, force = mass x acceleration.
So overall, power = (mass x acceleration) x speed.
Therefore, the mass of a racket influences the amount of power you can generate when hitting a shuttle.
The overall weight of a modern racket is typically around 80-90g. They are defined in a number of U's for brands like Yonex or Victor. Other brands such as Li Ning use W to represent their overall racket weight.
For Yonex and Victor, The higher the number of U, the lighter it is. for example, 3U is for rackets between 85-89 grams. and 4U is from 80-84 grams. They then go down to 75-79g for 5U and Yonex also renames their 6U rackets with F so also watch out for that. For Li Ning, W3 is their 85-89 grams rackets whilst W1 is 72 - 80g. So make sure you check out each brand's labels before committing.
It does not mean that a heavier racket is always better. If your arms are not strong enough, then a heavier racket would impair your ability to swing it fast enough to generate sufficient power. So always hold a racket (and maybe even have a few swings around) to see if you are happy with its weight. If your arms are not as strong then you might want to consider a lighter racket, which will be easier to play with.
3. The stiffness of a racket
There is no real way of really measuring each racket shaft's stiffness except by holding the racket by its grip and racket head and bending it slightly, then swapping to a second one to feel the difference. A stronger and technically better player would be able to leverage a stiffer racket's potential more efficiently, so if you're a beginner or a physically slightly weaker player, I would recommend leaning towards a less stiff racket.
4. The balance of a racket
This actually means if the racket weight is leaning towards the head of the racket or away from the head.
Head heavy rackets have more mass around the racket head, hence the ability to transfer more energy to the shuttle for the same acceleration. This is why people generally say head heavy rackets are more powerful. However, they also tend to be slower and less agile or nimble around the court so if you lack the required acceleration, it wouldn't work efficiently. If you're a player who wants to be super fast round the net and have an amazing quick-fire defence, a racket with an even balance or one that is leaning towards a headlight model might work better.
Take a look at the list of pro players who have a big smash on the world tour, such as Fu Hai Feng, Tan Boon Heong, Mads Pieler Kolding and Yoo Yong sung. None of them actually uses a super head heavy, ultra-stiff racket. Their rackets all revolve around being even balanced or even headlight with a varying degree of shaft stiffness to suit personal preferences and yet, they are still hitting huge smashes.
So finding the right balance for yourself is key, and not what others are using. The racket might be good for Lee Chong Wei or Lin Dan, but it might not be suitable for us.
5. The grip size
The final spec you need to consider is your racket grip size. Yonex for example uses G3, G4, G5, G6 with the higher numbers being a smaller grip. Personally, I think it's best if you test out a racket and have a feel of its grip. If you cannot decide, always get the smaller grip size because you can always bulk up a grip, but you can't make it smaller easily unless you sand it down.
Check out the racket matrixes!
For a comprehensive overview of a racket's specs, I would certainly recommend that you go through your favourite brand's racket matrixes. They will give you an idea of the rackets' characteristics, and from there you can decide if the racket suits your needs.
For example, if I am looking for a mid-range, head-light Yonex racket, I would have a look at the Yonex catalogue, which will show that the Nanoflare and Nanoray series cater to headlight models. Based on the racket matrix, I can see that models of, say, 370 sharp, 270, 160, or 700 will fit my requirements. From there, I can narrow down my options to the medium to flexible models, which means my ideal racket is either the 270 or 700 models, depending on my budget.
Try before you buy!
The best thing is to really go out and try the rackets. You can always borrow a friend's racket to try and see how it feels, and if you like playing with it.
Check out some great rackets here! Use discount code 'CKYEW' for an additional discount!