This question crops up all the time all over the internet and at badminton clubs all over the world. Because a badminton racket is a personal choice it is quite difficult to answer. We are all different, with our own unique styles, so to actually pinpoint a certain racket for a certain player is going to be hard.
That said, it is possible to give a very basic outline of which racket should be more suited to certain types of players. As far as attempting to recommend an actual racket model for a player, it is always going to be subjective. If you add the extra variables of string tension, weight, grip size, flexibility and balance, then it is almost impossible to fit an exact badminton racket to an exact player type. The fact that you can also customise racquets makes it even more difficult because you can change some of the above variables with nothing more than a piece of tape. The decision of what racket to buy will ultimately come down to you, and what suits you best of all. Forget what anyone else tells you, they don't know your game like you do. This is why i cannot tell you what specific racket to use. However, what i intend to do is give a little list of what racquets, in general, should suit different player types.
Please do not take what i am going to say as gospel, it is just a rough guide to perhaps point you in a general direction. See, i am beginning to regret making this post already, and i haven't even started yet! I guess this post will be more aimed at beginners, or players who need a little bit more information to help make a decision of which badminton racket to choose.
There are many different player types such as the power player, who wants to hit the cover off the shuttle at every opportunity, the touch player, who can put the shuttle wherever they want. There are defensive players, who actually want you to smash at them so they can blast the birdie back at you or place your hardest smash to anywhere they want with a casual flick of the wrist. And there are players who can do all of the above, the all rounder who seems to be able to do everything. The question is, what kind of rackets do these players play with? Is there a common trend between player style and racket?
Well at the professional level there does seem to be a trend towards stiff flexibilty, head heavy balance and high string tension. I have touched on this in a previous post. However, we are not all professional players, so what do we all use?
Well i will use myself as an example. I would describe myself as a bit of an all rounder, with a preference more towards touch and control. I can smash when i need to, but i like to make my opponents run around before i do this. I am 37 years old, and have been playing for around 25 years. I have played county badminton in the UK for many years and i would say i was at an advanced level. I am in no way trying to brag about how good or bad i am, but it would seem a little foolish to write a blog about badminton rackets if i was a beginner, what kind of credibilty would i have to give you advice? All the stuff i write is based on my own experiences with using all kinds of rackets, and if it helps any of you, then i am doing what i set out to do.
Now, what kind of racket do you think would suit my game? I use the Carlton Airblade Tour, which Carlton actually stopped making a few years ago, but you can still buy them if you know where to look. Here is where the fun starts. Looking at the Airblade spec on the internet, one store says this racket weighs 78g and another says it weighs 86g. Looking at some reviews, one person says it is too light, another says it is too heavy. One person says it is too flexible, another says it has a stiff flex. What the hell is going on here? Everyone is saying something different, how do you know what the truth is? See the problem?
From my own experience with this Airblade, i would say it has a stiff flex, and the weight is more likely to be closer to 86g than 78g. However, my regular readers will know that my racket has been modified, and i reckon it weighs in at around 96g. It seems way too heavy to use, but it isn't, not to me anyway. The balance before modification is even, after, it is head light, in fact it is about as head light as i can get it. I have this strung at around 25-27lbs tension.
Does this kind of racket suit my play? Well if i am looking for control, then the higher string tension and stiff flex will help me, so this is on the right track. As far as power goes, i will need to generate this myself, the racket is unforgiving with the string tension and flex. So what i gained in control, i have lost in terms of power. However, the modification of lead tape on the handle will give me more power for the same effort. But, this extra weight has made this racket a bit less responsive in fast, reaction type rallies. So for a control player this will be a hinderance. The truth is that this has been the case. I am getting used to it though, but i needed to do this to prove my little experiment would work.
Can you see the problem here? I have just told you what racket i use and what i have done to it. Does this help you decide which racquet you should choose? Would you go out and by a Carlton Airblade Tour, based on what you have just read? Can you relate your game to mine?
Here is another example. I could go out and buy myself the top Yonex badminton offering, which right now is the ArcSaber 10. Is this the right racket for my style of play? Well, the Arcsaber is stiff, and has a head heavy balance. The balance will help me get a bit more power on the smashes, but in time it will destroy my shoulder. The stiff flex will help my control shots. The weight is the same as my Carlton. Could i play with this racket? Of course i could. If i did buy it, the first thing i would do would be to add my lead tape and make it head light, and then string it at my own tension. I would be happy to play with it. Would it improve my game? No. Why? Because i would have changed it's characteristics to the same kind of spec as my Carlton was. The only difference would be a bit more weight in the racket head, as this is what this bat came with.
So what kind of racket should you use? I can only give you a pointer, because i have no idea what you are going to do with your racquet once you have it. The badminton manufacturers like to think they know what racket will suit which player, and they make them accordingly, or do they? Ok, most retailers will tell you that if you are an advanced offensive player, you need to have a stiff flex racket. These people assume if you are an advanced player then you can generate power yourself, you just need the control that stiff, or extra stiff ratings can give you. Does this mean that i could not use a racket with a medium/ flexible rating? Of course not, i could just make a flexible racket have more control by stringing at a slightly higher tension. I would have more control then. Strings are everything.
Almost every top end badminton racket has a stiff flex rating. They cost the most money because the manufacturers have added all the goodies, like titanium, nano technology, kevlar etc, to make them stiffer. So, the general rule is that advanced players need stiff flexibility. Intermediate players need medium flex, and beginners need flexible rackets. Offensive players need head heavy balance, defensive players need even/ head light balance.
The problem is that it does not work like this. Seriously, if you have a racket and you don't like the feel of it, or the balance, then just modify it before you rush off to try the next best thing that promises to take your game to another level. Experiment with string tension if you feel you lack control or feel. Change the balance with tape, or apply more or less overgrip to the handle to change the balance point. If you need more extreme measures, add lead tape for extra weight, either to the handle or the head depending on which type of balance you are after. The only thing you cannot change is the flexibility, so if you have bought an extra stiff top end Yonex racquet and you now find you are having problems hitting the shuttle from baseline to baseline, you may need to reduce the string tension, or add weight to help you get more power.
This is why you should be careful of extra stiff rackets. I know many people who have fallen for the marketing hype, and bought these types of racket, only to find they cannot use them. Use what you have already. If you are a power player and you have a fast hitting action, you don't have to use a stiff bat just because the manufacturers tell you to do so. You will get more power with a flexible racket. If you need control, then string at higher tension, with the same racket.
I think i am rambling on a bit here, so i apologise. But to try to put this all in context, this is what i would advise..
If i was a beginner/ intermediate player, and i was not too sure what kind of badminton racket would suit me, i would go out and buy myself a neutral bat. By neutral i mean, a medium flex, average weight, ie 85g, and an even balance. This would be my starting point. Bear in mind that as soon as you add your overgrip to the handle, you will have altered the balance. As far as the strings go, just use the factory strings to start off with. Go out and play with it and see what you think. You can change the balance all you want with more overgrip and tape on the handle if you like a head light feel. Or add tape to the head for a head heavy balance. This tape only costs a few pounds, so it won't break the bank.
Play some more with it. Perhaps start thinking about experimenting with string tension for control, or for a bit extra power depending on higher or lower tensions. Keep playing some more until you now know what kind of spec suits you best. Only when you have done this can you think about changing rackets, because hopefully you will now be able to know what you like best. After this you can go out and buy whatever you think will meet your requirements, whatever make or model it may be. The main factor is that you will be able to decide what you want, you will not need to read all these reviews because you will already know that it does not relate to you personally. You will also know all the little tricks to turn almost any badminton racket into one that you can use, and that suits your style.