There’s a lot of confusion online about the differences or advantages of using either handle and people online say different things so all im going to say is what I have personally noticed in my 18 year playing career and hand you my perspective in a pro and con format.
1) The flared shape prevents the blade from falling out of your hand – This is a real thing and generally why flared blades exist. The flared nature of the blade helps keep the blade in your hand and stops it from slipping out in high powered shots. Of course the blade still needs to fit in your hand well but a well fitted flared handle is nice and stable and helps give you confidence while swinging hard.
2) Forehand dominating players can get better angles on the forehand side both directions – This is what sticks in my mind when using a flared handle. I always felt more confident in my forehand with a flared handle. I felt I could get better angles, more quality shots on and more winners on my forehand. I think the angle of the bat in your hand slightly favours the natural forehand stroke and allows more possibilities, this is only slight though.
3) Head heavy balance which favours attacking – Normally flared blades tend to use less materials in the handles so the handle is lighter which generally makes the blade overall more head heavy. Iv put this in the pro section but its more of a preference. Iv always found head heavy blades to be more attacking and carry more weight behind attacks so if you like this head heavy feeling then a flared blade is a good choice.
1) Some handles are very small and thin and can be uncomfortable – This is my biggest problem by far with flared handles. I have normal sized European hands and some of the flared blades out there are really small and uncomfortable for me and when they are really small it feels like it can come out of my hand during a rally which makes me hold back on big shots. There are a few manufacturers out there trying to cater to the Asian market by producing smaller flared handles to fit the Asian players and instead of having 2 different handles sizes – 1 for European & 1 for Asian – they produce a 1 size fits all handle – im looking at you JOOLA. Joola’s flared handle at the time of writing (2019) is the most uncomfortable flared handle I have ever used, to the point where I couldnt use it. Luckily they have good straight handles. Chinese brands like Dhs & Friendship also have small flared handles that I find rather uncomfortable but they dont produce straight handles. Unfortunately it is something you have to consider now when buying a blade with a flared handle
2) No consistency, flared handles vary in size and shape between brands and even models – Iv used all different brands of blades and nearly all flared handles between brands are different in shape. It feels like a bit of a lottery if your going to get a comfortable flared handle, even between models of blades the handles are different shapes for flared handles. You just never know what your gonna get. Just to compound this as well, manufactuer’s are starting to change the shape of handles of well known models that have been produced for years. So you can pick up an old flared handle of same brand and model and a newer blade will have a different flared handle. This lack of consistency is annoying and unfortunately all manufacturers seem to be doing this. Even butterflys Timo Boll ALC’s Flared handle has changed over the years… I just want consistency!!
1) Better balance between head and handle – Because there is more material in the straight handle this tends to shift the balance more towards the handle. This puts the centre of gravity more in the middle of the blade and it makes it easier to recover from shots and overall makes the blade feel less heavy when you swing.
2) Better consistency in shape – Unlike flared handles there is much more consistency in size and shape between brands and models. I know with a certain amount of confidence I can pick up most straight handles and it will be fairly comfortable in european hands. Most straight handles tend to fall into 2 camps – Straight squared & Straight round. Some straight handles are quite squared (Butterfly tend to fall into this camp) and most other european brands tend to have rounder straight handles. Personally the biggest plus for me is that they are large enough for european hands to fit comfortably.
3) Allows more movement from wrist – The shape of the straight handle allows a more lucid grip and not so much locked in like a flared handle so you have a little bit more freedom of movement in shots. This can be a blessing and a curse but if you have quite wristy shots, in particular on the backhand, you might enjoy a straight handle more because it gives you more flexibility to be creative and you can use your wrist to more effect especially in the backhand shots.
4) Suits backhand dominating players as you can get more angles on the backhands – Just like flared suits the forehand a tad better, straight handles suit the backhand better. Not only because of the flexible wrist you can have in shots but for me personally just like the flared forehands I feel much more confident on my backhand side to play shots and I generally can get better angles and play more winners.
1) Bat is easier to slip out due to the handle shape – There is no flared shape holding the blade in your hand so you have to rely on pure grip and some players do complain that they cant use straight blades because it feels too much like its slipping out f the hand. I personally dont find this but then again I place more value to being able to have a bigger chunkier blade than the shape.
2) Players with smaller hands find them uncomfortable – players with smaller hands in particular will find this blade shape more uncomfortable, it suits a larger hand.
3) Some blades only come in flared – DHS, Friendship & Yinhe generally only make blades with flared handles so you kind of have no choice if you want one of their blades.
4) Less stable grip – Straight handles don’t offer as much stability in the grip as flared handles, this means sometimes you can get a bit of accidental movement by the blade on shots especially high powered shots.
To summarise the main differences between flared and straight handles are:
- Balance: Flared blades are generally head heavy whereas straight handles are more balanced towards the handle
- Forehand and Backhand suitability: Flared handles tend to suit forehand dominating players whereas Straight handles tend to suit backhand dominating players
- Shape consistency: Flared handles are generally smaller and less consistent between models and brands.
- Handle shape: Flared handles offer a more stable ‘locked in’ grip and straight handles offer more flexibility in the grip.
Ok so iv pointed out some differences between flared and straight handles including how they play but they are very very subtle differences. My advice is if you are debating whether to get a blade in flared or straight the most important thing is whats best for you. Use whatever handle feels best in your hand to you. This makes much bigger difference than any of the points iv mentioned. If the blade feels good in your hand and you have complete confidence in it then these other factors will melt away and confidence in your shots will make up for it.
Thats what I do when picking a blade handle. I know that I will feel slightly better playing backhand shots with a straight handles and forehand shots with a flared handle but ultimately I prefer straight handles as they sit better in my hand so I will pick a straight handle. Let your hand pick the blade not the other way round.
As for anatomic handles im not even going to talk about anatomic handles, they are a freak of nature!