Matt, I have a question for you?
I'm delighted to be on your About.com mailing list and am glad I signed up on your front page. I really enjoy your emails.
You may be like to know my game has improved since you directed me to the CueTrack. It's been an interesting experience for me. As you may remember my problem has been in the "back" hand grip or at least I've always thought that was the problem with my stroke as I've held the cue in many different ways during my career.
The Dead Hand Billiards Stroke?
I find that Dave Pelz's short game golf instruction also has insights that apply to the pool stroke. He has long recommended "dead hands" for putting, chipping, and pitching. In the same vein, I've found when I try to use finger pressure of any type in the pool stroke the cue stick is easily thrown off line.
In the September issue of Billiards Digest Mark Wilson makes a reference to the problem in a discussion of the slip stroke you describe on your site. The answer may be in your analysis of a "classic" pool stroke which is a "tossing" motion where the rear fingers are allowed to actually come off the cue stick.
That is my challenge. How to make a tossing and gentle motion yet without undue pressure from any of the fingers. It seems very tough to me yet doable as demonstrated by Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante.
Super Wrist Action On The Billiards Stroke?
I'm still working on my stroke hand grip though I'm still making progress... I won a 20-man 9-Ball tournament last Saturday. The stroke trainer you recommend has helped me get "straight" but I still don't draw the ball the way I'd like to... as I mentioned to you I'm trying to get my fingers and hands to behave themselves and remain still during the stroke to avoid twisting.
A very good player up here where I am told me I need to get more "wrist" action in my stroke to draw effectively. How can I develop more wrist action and less fingers and hand movement at the same time. Your thoughts?
Thanks, Bob W.
First, congratulations on the big victory!
For maximum accuracy, and in most cases and for most draw shots, you want no special or "added power" wrist action. Rather, take a regular stroke, softly, and cue the ball as low as you can comfortably. You'll be surprised at how softly you can stroke a ball and get strong draw as well as deadly accuracy.
One reason why is you ought to recognize that two types of momentum operate on the cue ball during a draw shot. I'll put this in lay terms so please don't worry about the technical details and the specific physics of the action. This lay explanation has helped countless numbers of my students.
There's a rolling momentum of the ball with backspin when you cue it accurately below center. The other momentum is the thrust of the cue ball forward along the cloth. This refers to the speed the cue ball is going straight down the table even as it has draw spin rolling against that momentum.
Pound a draw shot too hard and it dies at impact or draws only a little. Hit it quite softly, especially at a nearby object ball, and the lovely backwards roll will be retained. Cueing low on the ball and stroking softly, I can make the ball return to my cue tip not just some of the time, but every time.
On a full hit going straight along, a softly cued draw shot will not only provide lovely draw action but come straight back and on a very predictable path every time. For off angle hits, the results are equally predictable if you understand speed and angles.
Super Powered Wrist Strokes
Now, for those few draw shots where the cue ball is far from the object ball and etc. I want a slightly tighter grip--which tends to reduce wrist action. The super snap-back wrist action is for those rare shots, showing off draw when I'm inches from the object ball and want to fly backwards--with little speed control--and then the thought is "put everything into it" so the wrist and even the whole arm can come into play, and I might even move my feet!
If you want to practice this kind of thing, put the cue ball rather close and full to the object ball and draw the tar out of it--and then you'll develop the wrist action you seek--but soft and low is far more reliable and the preferred method of the pro or hustler.
A Good Method To Avoid Twisting The Cue Stick
As to twisting and gripping the cue awkwardly, remember, gripping an object along its sides rather than along its bottom helps a great deal. Try a V-grip or simply loosen the regular grip over all and keep me posted.
Anyone reading our discussion should grab a nearby TV remote or other small rectangular object to verify the truth of what I'm saying. Stroke a remote like a pool cue while cradling it at its bottom and then do the same stroke while gently cupping its sides... see the difference?
When we see each other in person for a lesson, we'll look at your grip pressure together. Meanwhile, check out this article for more. -- Matt Sherman