Tennis Industry magazine

 

Guide to Ball Machines 2005

No matter what kind of facility you have, a ball machine should be a key component of your business. While you may be put off by the initial investment, you’ll make that money back — and much more — when you have a ball machine available for your members and students. For example, you can let players rent time on the machine by themselves, freeing up teaching pros to work on other courts, or you can use the machine to spice up clinics by working alongside the pro. Whether you’re part of the Tennis Welcome Center initiative or not, as more students come into the game, they’ll be looking for ways to hone their strokes, and that’s what a ball machine will provide, while keeping them on your courts. (For more on making money with ball machines, see this.)

Our 2005 Guide to Ball Machines has all the information you need to help you find the right machine for your business. The Ball Machine Selector charts all the machines available today and what features they offer. Keep in mind that with ball machines, there are a lot of things that you can change about the unit at the time of purchase or later. In our chart, we’ve listed the specs and prices for the most basic model of each machine. Then, if options are offered, we’ve listed the additional cost of adding that feature.

Disclaimers

Specific Features. Keep in mind that whenever you try to develop a chart like this, it is necessary to create some pretty broad, non-detailed features. For example, when we mark that a machine offers random oscillation, it means that the machine can be set to shoot balls to different locations on the court in a random pattern. However, this does not indicate how many different places the machine can shoot the ball. Some machines will just shoot the balls randomly between as few as 2 locations at the same depth, while other machines might be able to shoot the ball virtually anywhere on the court at different heights and speeds.

Durability. There really is no easy way to measure the durability of a ball machine. The only true test of durability is to use the machine for years and see how it holds up. We assume you don’t want to wait that long to see the rest of this information. So, we don’t have a category for durability. However, you can learn more about how long the machines last by talking to the manufacturers and asking for references from people they have sold machines to. Just like we recommend when buying stringing machines, don’t just buy a ball machine based on price. If you buy an inexpensive machine that isn’t designed for the type and amount of use you will be asking of it, it can end up costing you a lot more money down the road than a machine that cost more at first, but was designed for what you have in mind. Make sure you have confidence in the durability of the machine and the customer service of the company to help you when you have problems. You should feel comfortable that the company has a system in place to fix anything that might go wrong with your machine. In some cases, they may have local service reps to come fix it at your facility, while in other cases they should offer a way to ship all or part of the machine back to the manufacturer for repairs.

So, you probably won’t want to buy a machine strictly based on what you read in this chart. Rather, this chart should help you to narrow the universe of machines by eliminating the machines that don’t offer features you really want. Then, when you have narrowed your choices, you can do more research by visiting the websites or calling the phone numbers listed for each company.

Demo Before You Buy. As always, when investing in a piece of equipment as expensive as a ball machine, we recommend that you look for an opportunity to try the machine before you buy it. Ask the manufacturers for ideas about how you can try their machines. In some cases they may be able to send you a sample to try, in other cases they may have sold one to someone near you.

So, now that you know what we’re trying to do, let’s go to the charts.

 

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