This problem I'm addressing with today's question and answer session is so very common for billiards players. But it certainly wasn't nearly a problem 50 years ago--modern televised billiards did this to us in my opinion.
Here's the story. I asked a student recently who is too far away to do lessons other than by e-mail to do some things for me you should be doing as well...
**Here's what I typically recommend:
Hi there. Yes, I'd have you shorten your bridge but probably not in the way you think. We'd adjust the hands, head and feet in ultra-specific ways. There's a tip gap error and a stroke hand error I can fix. But let's do this very carefully and systematically since we're working in photos only... and because you keep changing things--don't worry, I will help you!
First, I want you to do two simple things. 1) Tell me an estimate of how long you think your bridge is, the distance between the loop of your hand where the cue stick slides through and the cue ball itself.
2) Then, I want you to take up a stance just like the one in your photo # 4807 (left hand near the short rail) and then measure that distance or have someone else measure it.
**His response begins:
More practice today and what a swirl of emotions as I cycled through making multiple consecutive very difficult shots and then missing significantly easier ones or had nice draw or messed it up variously. I'll tell you briefly what I think I learned.
1. Body interference and swerving stroke. I frequently find ways to get my body in the way and my arm seems to have learned an almost permanent loop motion. I'm thinking that my good days are those in which I stay with a particular stance and then develop the correct swerve or adjustment for it and things go well, unless I have to shoot at a very different speed (especially softly) and my muscles then don't coordinate the swerve quite right.
2. Body interference gets worse when I get sloppy and my arm lowers in the set position and I'm interfering down at hip level. Keeping the stick higher, more like upper waist seems to give more room.
3. I found on strong draw shots, multiple problems besides whatever things you would add. I found significant body movement (I'll call it lurching) which I mostly solved by getting into a more solid and immobile stance (which I should do more commonly -- I'm often feeling like I'm teeter tottering). I miscued and found my stick tip finishing off to the left of the shot line (which I've seen many times in the past); I seemed to find the fix was actually to move my bridge hand to the right and then my stroke went pretty straight and I stopped miscuing.
I think this issue with the bridge needing to be more to the right is common to all shots. But I struggle to get eye alignment without even more body interference.
On days like this, I feel like a mechanical nightmare.
**My reply starts:
Okay, I understand better now with your photos that you sent me! I can and will help you. Awareness of the bridge is truly half the battle here. I looked at your photos and estimated a 14-inch bridge. That is a HUGE problem. I can send you right now to teachers who will charge you the same hundreds of dollars I charge for a personal lesson or more and will tell you with a straight face your bridge length is okay--and they are WRONG (in my humble opinion, sorry fellow teachers).
The pros LOOK like they employ 14-inch bridges far more frequently than is practical, especially on video taken at odd angles low and near to the table. I use a 7-inch bridge or far less for most shots. I will play anyone golf for any amount of money, Tiger Woods too, if I use regular pro clubs and they use clubs that are twice as long as mine or pool for a 7-inch bridge or less versus a 14-inch bridge!
Think about what I've written above, my friend. If you're ready to follow instructions to correct your bridge the right way we can move forward. Remember the good experience you had using the stance in my book. I have a lot more to offer and the master will "appear" when the student is willing. Your bridge length is killing me and it's killing your pool. All the problems you list below with the possible exception of a bridge off to the left has to do with a "bridge too far"!
I hear what you're saying about playing with a shorter bridge as a bad experience. So tell me HOW you've shortened your bridge when you've tried it on your own and I'll fix your eyes, head, stroke hand, vision center, everything. Trust me!
I will not rest on these issues and others until you feel like you can play near your best every session. I know because I used to play poorly and I haven't had a bad day in years since I did then adapted to permanent what I teach others to do in person and at this About.com GuideSite!Send me an e-mail with your pool and billiards question anytime.