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A shuttlecock (often abbreviated to shuttle) is a high-drag projectile, with an open conical shape: the cone is formed from sixteen overlapping feathers embedded into a rounded cork base. The cork is covered with thin leather or synthetic material.

Synthetic shuttles are often used by recreational players to reduce their costs as feathered shuttles break easily. These nylon shuttles may be constructed with either natural cork or synthetic foam base, and a plastic skirt.

Additionally, nylon shuttlecocks come in three varieties, each variety for a different range of temperatures. These three varieties are known as green (slow speed which will give you an extra 40% hang time/shot length), blue (middle speed), and red (fast speed). The colours, and therefore speeds, are indicated by coloured strips fastened around the cork. In colder temperatures, a faster shuttle is used, and in hotter climates, a slower one is chosen.

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