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If you’re looking to improve your tennis game, a tennis ball machine is one of the best ways to do it, aside from hiring a professional coach or trainer.
These machines help you work on the basics while improving your accuracy, consistency and power.
Repetition is key and being able to rely on muscle memory for those crucial, beginner-level skills is what allows you to build a solid foundation as a tennis player.
Naturally, there are ball machines for every player’s skill level. In this article, we’ll dive into more details about the best tennis ball machines for beginners.
How tennis ball machines got their start
Believe it or not, Rene Lacoste made the first tennis ball machine in the early 1920s. If you’re curious to see what a 1920s tennis ball machine looks like, check out this short video below:
They say Lacoste wore so many of his players out; he sought out training through automation, which led to the idea for his invention.
His ingenuity would spark the modernization of the machine in the 1950s, which began appearing at tennis clubs for players to rent out.
However, it wasn’t until later (late 1960s) that these machines became available for purchase to the player directly.
How beginner tennis ball machines can help your game
While tennis ball machines are no replacement for personal coaching or training, these machines serve as a great supplement for beginners looking to improve their game outside of practice.
After all, no human can throw tennis balls as consistently, accurately or for as long as a machine.
The most common use is for practicing form and proper techniques. You can use machines with slower speeds to ensure you’re swinging correctly, keeping a consistent pace, and practicing various strokes.
If you’re gearing up for a few matches, using one of these machines can help you to prepare by filing the role of opponent.
Be sure to use a beginner ball machine that offers higher speed (up to 60mph) and variety in movement (both vertical and horizontal or at least an option that provides one of the following with random movements) to obtain a similar experience.
What to know before making your purchase
A few common features to consider when purchasing a tennis ball machine.
Stability and mobility
The weight of the machine dictates how stable and solid it will be on the court. Typically, you want to look for machines around 40 pounds.
Most machines have wheels on the bottom to make transporting them easier, but weight is still a consideration for mobility, too.
Generally, rectangular-shaped machines are light enough and easy enough for one person to carry or move.
Be sure to think about how often you’ll be transporting your machine and how often it will need to be stored.
If it’s too heavy to lift or too big for your storage space, you might find you don’t use it as often as you’d like.
Battery operated or plug-in?
When considering usage, it’s important to consider where the machine will be placed most often. Will outlets be available?
Will you play indoors or outdoors?
Most indoor courts have options for outlets, but outdoor courts can be trickier. For courts where outlets aren’t available, consider a battery-operated machine.
These machines (for beginners) can last about 2-4 hours, which still leaves plenty of time to train.
Most people tend think more is better here, but consider that even in a real match, you’ll have time to take a breather.
Use this time to reload your machine.
There are some machines that offer 400-500 balls – but that would be a pretty lengthy training session!
As long as your launcher holds more than 50 balls, you should be perfectly fine.
If you are someone who tends to play longer with less breaks, then you might want to purchase a machine that holds somewhere around 150 balls to be safe.
However, for beginners, 50 balls would definitely be more than enough.
When purchasing a beginner tennis ball machine, it’s important to think about the speed of the balls being launched.
Minimum speeds start around 10-20 miles per hour.
A beginner would likely need no more than 60 mph. Consider how you plan to use the machine and match the speed accordingly.
For example, if you’re wanting to practice your form, slower might be better. But if you’re seeking to gain consistency or improve reflexes during rallies, faster might be more appropriate.
Keep your skill level in mind as well, as a machine that goes too fast or too slow for you won’t do you much good.
Settings and features
Be sure to take a look at the list of available features for tennis ball machines. Some offer some pretty neat settings.
Again, think about how and what you’ll be using it for before thinking you need to have a certain feature.
While it may be cool to have, how often will you really use that particular feature?
Invest in the machine that suits your needs, not one that’s overwhelming because of all of the options.
All machines, to a certain degree, offer a bit of a topspin toss. However, there are some machines that offer more customization here.
If you simply want to improve your flat strokes, the standard option is more than likely just fine.
If you would like to improve upon a variety of strokes, I would suggest a machine that offers some degree of a spin option.
For beginners, this feature might not be a huge consideration, but it’s worth mentioning. Some machines offer options to feed the balls in different directions.
Simpler machines offer simply horizontal movement, but there are others that offer both horizontal and vertical movement.
This consideration is most important when determining how you’d like to practice for matches and less about perfecting form.
If you plan on practicing alone, you might consider a machine that comes with a remote control.
Otherwise, you’ll be powering on a tennis ball machine on one side of the court, and running quickly to the opposite end to hit the incoming ball.
To be fair, there is a delay before the ball is launched to help somewhat, but it’d be much easier to use a remote instead.
The machine you’re likely searching for is to help supplement practice when your trainer, teammates or friends are unavailable to train with you.
Because of this, you’ll want to avoid any handheld tennis ball machines.
Even if you had someone to help, these are the least stable of the machines and aren’t recommended for this usage.
They may be less expensive than the more solid machines, but won’t fill the need for what you’re looking for.
Best Tennis Ball Machines for Beginners
Lobster Sports – Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine – Smaller Battery Operated – Lightweight – Full-Featured Tennis Ball Hopper – Random Oscillation – Battery Charger Included – Optional Accessories
This machine is ranked one of the top tennis ball machines for beginners.
Some beneficial features of this product include:
- Weight (35 lbs)
- Ability to be stored easily
- Battery Operated (perfect for outdoor use) and lasts 2-4 hours
- Ability to Feed 150 Balls
- Speed Range (20-80mph)
- Spin Features (Topspin & Backspin)
- Feed Interval (2-12 seconds)
- Movement (Random Horizontal)
- Optional Remote Control (for added fee)
If you’re looking for a machine that allows for some growth, this is a perfect place to start. The speed range offers plenty of flexibility.
Whether you want to slow things down and practice form or speed things up to simulate a match, this machine has features for it all.
It’s fairly lightweight at 35 pounds, which makes it easy to transport and store while still providing enough stability to give the power it needs feed the balls at the appropriate speed.
It also offers a couple of options for spin features and machine movement, which is perfect for practicing rallies.
Feeding 150 balls at a time, you shouldn’t have to stop and start practicing much at all. This model even offers a remote control option for an additional fee for those looking for easier use.
The one con is that it seems to have a longer recharging time than other models (12-15 hours for a full battery) – so be sure to keep that in mind when you consider how frequently you plan to use it.
View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for your training needs.
Spinshot Pro Tennis Ball Machine
The Spinshot Tennis Ball Machine is another great alternative for beginners looking to improve their game and add to their training.
This product offers a number of benefits, including that it is:
- Battery Operated
- Lightweight, yet sturdy (44 lbs)
- Flexible with Speed Range (18 – 68mph)
- Able to Feed 120 Balls
- Able to Move (Random Horizontal)
- Easy to Store
- Able to Throw Topspin and Backspin
- Able to Feed balls ever 2-10 seconds
- Offers remote control for easier use
This machine offers a lot of similarities to the Lobster Sports model, but has a few additional perks and drawbacks.
Like the Lobster, it’s perfect for beginners who are looking to improve their swing, consistency or form and also has enough features to simulate a match.
It’s heavier than the Lobster at 44 pounds and launches balls 8mph faster. Its recharge time is much faster at only 8-12 hours for a full battery, which is the perfect amount of time to do overnight.
It includes the remote control without a fee, too. The only drawbacks are that it feeds less balls than the Lobster model does and it lacks exact numbers to set speed control and feed interval.
They’re not huge issues, but if you prefer to use exact specifications, you might find the Spinshot’s settings a little lacking.
View at Amazon for more information on how this product may work for you.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @agencyby