Tennis Industry magazine

 

Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe

By Dave Bone

Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe
Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe control panel
Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe
Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe
Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe

As the name would suggest, the Shotmaker Super Deluxe is Sports Tutor’s flagship machine. It offers more features and settings than any of their other machines and is designed to last a long time. It is great for use at clubs or home courts (anywhere that has a secure, dry storage space and a power outlet nearby). It does not have a battery, so it must be plugged in when in use. The Shotmaker Super Deluxe sells for $4,100. To contact Sports Tutor, call 800-448-8867 or visit sportstutor.com.

ASSEMBLY

The Super Deluxe arrives completely assembled. The only thing to do is unpack the machine. There were no unpacking instructions, nor are they needed, and we had the machine unpacked and ready for use in less than 2 minutes.

Once the machine was out of the box, we simply removed the protective cellophane and untaped the remote control from control panel. Big, sturdy 3.5-inch wheels facilitate on-site maneuverability and storage. However, two strong people will be required to lift the machine up and down a flight of stairs. The plastic outer body and sturdy cover should protect against rust and dust. However, Sports Tutor does not recommend storing the machine outside.

USE

We filled the Super Deluxe to its 300-ball capacity. The machine comes with a very short cord, so an extension cord is a must. The balls are fed from a large hole in front. This size opening is necessary because the machine’s shell is stationary, so, the opening must be wide enough to feed balls to both corners of the court and tall enough to feed both line drives and lobs. Balls hit back into the machine are of no concern, for they simply fall through the bottom onto the court.

The Super Deluxe has many settings. You can control ball speed, feed frequency, topspin and underspin, power, elevation, oscillation, remote control, Quick Set-Up, 6-shot program, and program memory. At first, all these different controls can appear intimidating, but the Quick Set-Up buttons, along with the manual, get you going in a hurry. With many high-tech products, a lot of bells and whistles go unused. But, with this machine, it is easy to imagine using all the adjustments with each workout. Pushing the buttons on the remote or machine elicits a handy, but a bit too loud, beep indicating that the command is received. This could be a little annoying to players on nearby courts. It would be nice if you could disable these beeps. Other than the beeps, the machine is very quiet (even at top speeds) and will not disturb players on other courts.

REMOTE CONTROL

A two-function remote control comes standard with the Super Deluxe. It controls ball feed and oscillation and allows you to get to the other side of the court before commencing feeds. The remote oscillation button allows you to stop the oscillation and just keep feeding balls to the location of the previous feed. This is handy if you find one shot is giving you more trouble than the rest and want some extra repetitions to groove that stroke. The program then resumes with a press of the oscillation button. The remote allows you to control the shot locations, duration, and intensity of your workout, while also allowing you to stop feeding so you can gather balls accumulating around the hitter’s feet.

FEED TRAY/INTERVAL

The feed tray did a good job of stirring the balls and letting only one ball into each hole. We experienced no ball jams and only a few misfeeds, which the machine handles impressively. If a ball does not drop through the hole into the feed mechanism, then the feed mechanism does not skip that feed and move on to the next feed direction, but instead simply delays long enough to reload and fire the correct feed. Thus no one misses a feed in a multi-player drill.

The Super Deluxe’s feeding frequency also helps make multiple-player drills a breeze. The programmable interval is between one and six seconds, so players won’t have to wait longer than natural between shots, whether that be a rapid-fire baseline exchange or slower moon-ball rally.

The top feed speed is 95 miles per hour, but only with no spin. With maximum topspin or underspin, the velocity tops out at 75 miles per hour. At 95 miles per hour we couldn’t react in time to volley nor did the ball land in the court. Turning up the topspin brings the balls in, but also reduces the speed. The slowest speed setting with no spin is 25 miles per hour, which drops to 19 miles per hour with full topspin or underspin. However at these speeds, the machine must be closer to the net in order to clear it.

SPIN

The Super Deluxe can feed a ball with topspin or underspin to any part of the court. When the machine is set for full topspin, it feeds a ball that drops quickly and really takes off when it bounces. A full underspin setting feeds a ball that slows down and bounces higher when it lands.

OSCILLATION

The Super Deluxe can feed a ball to any two different court locations on successive feeds. Oscillation is controlled by customizable programs. The oscillation worked very smoothly and quietly. It can also change directions very quickly. This comes in very handy if you have multiple players hitting at the same time. The oscillation feature can be programmed to feed randomly, successively, or in a pattern to any one of seven directions on the court. When the oscillation is engaged, the outer body of the machine does not move. Only the internal components rotate, so it is a little harder to tell in which direction the ball is about to be fed. This is a nice feature when using the random feed setting.

HEIGHT

The height of feeds is adjustable from deep, high lobs to flat balls that are so low they shoot into the net. The control panel has an indicator showing the feed height. This is great because you don’t have to wait for a few feeds to determine the trajectory heights. When combined with the spin settings, the Super Deluxe can feed any type of shot to any part of the court. However, we would have preferred it if the height adjustments could be made in smaller increments.

PROGRAMMABILITY

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Super Deluxe is the two different types of programs it offers. First, it allows you to set a series of feeds (up to six shots) that repeat after all the shots have been fed. The machine divides the court into seven different zones and you can set each ball in the program to go to any one of the seven zones or randomly to any of the seven zones. You can program any of these shots in any order you want to practice. Then, when you find a program you like, you can tell the machine to remember the program. The machine can remember up to nine programs, which is a great time saver. The only thing missing from the programmability is the ability to change the type of shots during the routine. For example, it would be nice to be able to have it feed a deep groundstroke followed by a short groundstroke (for an approach shot), followed by a lob (for an overhead).

If trying to set up a drill to practice all your strokes sounds too complicated, you’ll probably appreciate the second type of program, a convenient feature called “Quick Set-Up.” Quick Set-Up allows you to push one button and the machine automatically adjusts all the settings to feed you balls for comfortable groundstrokes right up the middle of the court. Quick Set-Up offers four settings — beginner, intermediate, advanced, and lob. The first three settings feed the ball at a height comfortable for groundstrokes, while the lob setting feeds lobs to practice overheads. The beginner setting feeds balls slower, with less spin and more time between shots, while the advanced setting feeds balls faster with more spin and less time between shots. This is a nice convenient feature if you just want to groove your forehand or backhand groundstrokes, volleys, or lobs.

Quick Set-Up also serves as a good way to reset all the settings on the machine to a certain level of play. Then, you can customize the direction of the shots or the speed of the shots or any other setting without having to adjust all the other settings.

THE PROS

THE CONS

CONCLUSION

The Sports Tutor Shotmaker Super Deluxe is in fact a super deluxe machine. It does just about anything you could ask for a ball machine to do and yet all the adjustable settings are intuitive and easy to learn to use. Its sturdy construction, frequent ball feed capability, and programmability make it an ideal machine for use at a club or private court. This machine can really make a teaching pro’s life a lot easier.

— Dave Bone

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About the Author

Dave Bone is the CEO of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, and co-publisher of Racquet Sports Industry magazine.

 

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