The bound, the wind, and electric crack of a well-executed smash. The shuttlecock coming down like lightning at 200 mph. For fanatics, a pro badminton match is as mesmerizing as the roar of a thunderstorm. And now, you want to get in on the fun. Step one: get a good racket.
Rackets vary in size, flexibility, and weight; each adjustment is made to suit a certain play style. On top of that, you can get a racket for cheap at your local WalMart, or real expensive at a specialty shop. So, what racket should your humble amateur play with? Let’s talk.
How to Choose a Badminton Racket – Buying Guide
Let’s start out with what features make a badminton racket a good partner.
Choosing a Racket Based on Weight
You’re going to be swinging that racket for a long time, so watch the weight. Weight is denoted by a U. But be careful, the smaller the number, the lighter the racket. Here’s a rough guide on the numbers. (Caution: they do differ by brand.)
5 U: around 75 g – 80 g
4 U: around 80 g – 85 g
3 U: around 85 g – 90 g
2 U: around 90 g – 95 g
Now, 5 grams or 10 grams may not seem like much, but badminton games can drag on for over an hour. The racket may feel great in your hand at first, but over time, fatigue sets in. Even a few grams can make a world of difference then.
Lighter Rackets for Easier Maneuverability
Lighter rackets (around 4 U) allow for easier maneuverability–great for older or technical players. It’s easier to switch between different strokes with a lighter racket, or deliver accurate serves.
For the same reason, lighter rackets also tend to work better for doubles players. In a doubles game, smashes come at you much faster, and the ability to seamlessly go from backhand to forehand grip is crucial to a good defense. (They also put less strain on the wrist, reducing the risk of injury.)
Heavier Rackets for More Power
On the other hand, heavier (around 3 U) rackets are power. If your clears tend to fall around mid-court–and then you flinch because you know you’ve set yourself up for a counterattack–then a heavier racket may give you a small boost. Smashers also like heavier options. They’re more stable, good for single players who are forced to return shots in more unconventional ways.
Balance Based on Purpose
Another thing to look out for when choosing based on weight: balance. Rackets that have most of their mass near the top (head heavy rackets) contribute to those long clears and beautiful smashes.
Head light rackets are easier to control and suited for the kind of fine work needed at the net. Rackets with a balance point near the middle are–you guessed it–best for players who play both at the net and in the back.
Choosing a Racket Based on the Flexibility of the Shaft
The shaft of most rackets are categorized as “Flexible,” “Medium,” or “Stiff.” Flexible rackets will bend, store energy, and then snap forward–thus releasing energy–during your swing. What this means is: the player has to exert less force. Of course, with all that bending, it’s more difficult to land perfectly accurate shots. But for beginners, who should be focusing more on form than trying to swing your arm quickly, and for long rallies, the flex comes in real handy.
Stiff rackets don’t bend. A player’s strength is channeled directly to the shuttlecock, making it easier to control the power and accuracy of a shot. And when the shuttlecock hits the strings, it’ll bounce off immediately. Then you get faster shots. But because there isn’t much of the extra repulsion a flexible shaft provides, you need to put more force into your swing. Geared towards intermediate to advanced players with explosive shots.
Choosing a Racket Based on Grip Size
Even with the same racket, you sometimes get different grip sizes. You might see something like “4UG5” written on the back of the racket; U referring to weight and G to grip size. Just like with weight, grip size also functions on reverse psychology–the bigger the number, the smaller the grip. For most makers, the standard is G4 or G5.
Of course, if you have tiny hands, opting for a smaller grip would be a good idea. It then follows that bigger hands should go for bigger grips. Smaller grips are also easier to maneuver, making them ideal for those deceptive shots. Bigger grips are better at channeling power into the shot–for pounding opponents with smashes.
Just keep in mind that when you apply grip tape, it’ll change the size, weight, and balance of your racket.
Choosing a Racket Based on String Tension
Strings and rackets sometimes come separately, and, chances are, you’ll also end up restringing your racket multiple times. However, string tension will affect racket performance, so keep this in mind as you test out your new racket.
Simply put, lower tension strings (around 20 lbs) are suited for beginners. Why? It allows the shuttlecock to bounce off the string bed, resulting in effortless power shots. This also makes the “sweet spot” (the best place on the string bed with which to hit the shuttlecock) bigger. Tighter strings (25 lbs and above) improve control and accuracy–similar to a stiff shaft.
Top 10 Best Badminton Rackets to Buy Online
And here we go, onto the introductions. Rackets for every budget, every play style, and every level.
10. Champion Sports Double Steel Frame Badminton Racket
Dirt-cheap and Gets the Job Done
Can I just get a nice, sturdy racket to bat the birdie around with the neighborhood kids? Well, here you are, the Champion Sports Badminton Racket, there for all your recreational or backyard play needs. It’s heavy with a stiff head, which adds speed and power to shots.
Sturdy and built to last, this racket can also be used outdoors. The perfect budget racket for those laughter-filled, impromptu afternoon games.
9. YONEX Muscle Power 8
Lending Power to the Beginners
The Muscle Power 8 is on the heavier side (2U), with medium flex–which means solidity, solidity, solidity. If you’re a beginner but already craving those explosive smashes, then this budget racket will help you take that first step.
However, keep this in mind: it sacrifices speed for power. It’ll be a struggle getting it to dance through the air. Made for attackers, not defenders.
8. YONEX Voltric Z Force II
Speed and Force for Power Pros
This racket isn’t just stiff; it’s extra stiff. It’s also a little heavy in the head, which means you’re going to fast, cracking, beautiful smashes. That being said, it’s compact and takes a lot of finesse to control. You’ll need strength in your wrist to keep the shuttlecock on the court–and because this racket is a bit heavy, carelessness could easily lead to injury.
However, for advanced players, it could add another level of speed to your smash. If you’re an attacker that needs explosive power, definitely give it a swing or two.
7. Victor JetSpeed S9
Light and Lightning Quick
This is a very light racket, on the stiffer side. A real boon for quick, accurate plays pressed close to the net. It’ll shine during doubles matches. But, unless you have real muscle to back up your smashes, your attacks aren’t going to come down like thunder.
All in all, though, this racket is a real joy to play with, swims lightly through the air, good at lightning-quick interceptions. Great for people who have arms of steel.
6. Senston N80
Gentle to the Wrists and Shoulders
What’s in a name? Though you aren’t going to be seeing the N80 at the Olympics anytime soon, it’s a great racket for beginners. It’s very light, graded at 5 U, and fits comfortably in the hand. Kind to the wrists and shoulders too.
Of course, with such a head light racket, the power behind your smash is going to have to come from your core. But if you aren’t looking to put out anyone’s eye with the shuttlecock–or need a cheap first racket for a child–the N80 will swoop in to save the day.
5. YONEX Duora 10
A High-Tech Two Faced Racket
YONEX was really out to impress with this one. The forehand side of the racket features a box frame–giving weight and feel to smashes. The backhand side sports an aero-frame–shaped like a knife, meant to cut through air for backhand drives and fast defense. And, for you skeptics out there, the difference is noticeable during play.
That being said, it takes time to get used to the racket. Unless you’re really skilled, it’ll be difficult to switch between the two sides of the racket freely as well. Like with any shiny new gadget, it won’t magically up your game until you’ve taken the time to get to know it and practiced.
4. Wilson BLX Blade
A Budget Racket That Delivers a Punch
Often overlooked by anyone who isn’t a tennis fan, Wilson has put out a few high-quality, affordable badminton rackets. This one features a flexible shaft and heavy head for smashes that snap like a whip. But it’s not heavy (around 82 grams), allowing beginners to wield it with ease.
It’s also designed to have a large sweet spot. If you’re a casual player who just wants to swing to your heart’s content without calculating each and every shot, the BLX Blade is a sturdy, reliable option.
3. YONEX Nanoray 20
Survive Those Long Training Rallies
The Nanoray 20 shines in the under $100 category. It’s on the lighter side with high shaft flexibility, a reliable force in long rallies. You can lift the shuttlecocks and perform soaring clears without having to push. It flows, slicing through air, and is easy to wield.
Because it’s so light, though, it doesn’t deliver those solid booming smashes. But it’s an ideal first companion for beginners and casual payers who aren’t ready to spend an arm and a leg.
2. YONEX Arcsaber 11
Balanced with High Precision
This racket is stiff, allowing for accurate net work. It’s largely balanced, with just a bit of weight in the head for power. It’s suited for quick work in the mid-court range–giving you the speed and strength needed for drives.
The price tag, of course, is a bit hefty, but the Arcsaber 11 is designed to be a force in any kind of game. If you don’t have a set play style–moving around the court, playing both singles and doubles–then this racket will follow you anywhere.
1. Victor Brave Sword 12
The King of Versatility
The specs of Brave Sword are smack dab in the middle–balance, flex, and weight. It’s light, easy to maneuver, and a reliable defense at the net. There’s also just enough shaft flexibility to make it beginner-friendly–a light push is enough to send the shuttlecock soaring. The swings come clean and fast.
Basically, it’s a trade-off between agility and the sheer force less balanced rackets may give you. An ideal companion for double and technical players.
And there you are, rackets for both big and small budgets, for power and technical players, for clears, drives, drops, smashes, for children and Olympic athletes. Remember, just because Lin Dan uses a racket doesn’t mean that it’s the best racket for you. Every person has his own affinities, strengths and weaknesses, so make sure you choose a racket that answers to you as a player.
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