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A Guide to Pool Glasses

Posted by : Tom Simpson Q:  What is your advice regarding pool player eyeglasses? My current glasses are not suitable for pool, and contact lenses are not an option for me.

A:  Over the years, I've had three different pairs of pool glasses. Of course, contacts are better, but if you can't wear them, pool glasses is next best. Here's the problem: Normal eyeglasses are constructed with the "optical center" (the part of the lens where things are in sharpest focus) of the lenses in the portion of the lens that we look through most of the time in daily life. That's the vertical center of the lens, a little below where it would be if you looked straight ahead and slightly down. Unfortunately for lots of pool players, that's not the area of the lens they look through when they're down on a shot. If you tilt your head forward when down on the shot, you are looking through the upper portion of the lens and you are not seeing the shot in full focus.

The other big problem players experience here is that with the forward head tilt, the eyeglass frame blocks their view. Some players develop a squinting action that raises the glasses a little higher, but now they've tensed up their face. Some players look over the top of the frame and sacrifice sharp vision. Not great solutions.

So, what can we do? Years ago, pool players struggling with their frames being in the way realized this problem had been solved by the Sporting Clay shooters. Shooting at airborne targets means these shooters shoot with their eyes looking "up," just as pool shooters do. They used glasses with giant insectoid lenses that went up to your eyebrows and had no frame across the top. I had these, but they sure looked goofy, and they were heavy. But they worked.

The next evolutionary step was to build shooting eyewear that had a frame across the bottom, and lenses that were not as big or heavy as the previous ones, but they looked like upside down eyeglasses. Still goofy.

For the last ten years, I've been using the more modern, small-lensed, rimless glasses. The lenses fit pretty close into the eye socket area, so they don't have to go up to the eyebrows. I dedicated my previous frame to pool, and update the lenses as my prescription changes.

I have three suggestions:
1. Do not get "progressive lenses" for your pool glasses (those lenses that gradually change focal length as you look up & down through different parts of the lens). You want "single vision lenses." The single vision lenses have a much larger "sweet spot," that portion of the lens where things are in focus. With the progressives, you are constantly making micro head adjustments to see sharply. This is tedious, and besides, head movement in pool is not a good idea.

2. Work with your pool instructor to ensure you have found your optimum head position before you make your glasses. Many players tilt their head forward and look through the upper part of the lenses. Some players find that their optimum head position is with their face rotated a little left or right. (FYI, in my pool schools, we help each player discover exactly where their head should be – where does their "vision center" have to be so they see correctly. If your eyes are not where your brain needs them to be, your perception error will cause a lot of misses and frustration. 8 of 10 players at pool school do not have their eyes in the right place.)

3. Explain to your eye doctor what you're trying to do. Once you have decided on a frame, put it on and go down into your pool stance wearing the frame. Position your head precisely where it is for sighting pool shots. Have the eye doctor mark each lens where you are looking through it. When they grind your lenses to your Rx, that's where the optical centers will be. You'll also want to make sure the doc is correcting your vision for things to be sharp at pool distances – about 3 to 10 feet. Note: My optical centers are up and to the right. When my head is in the correct position for me, the balls are sharp. My glasses are heavily optimized for pool, so the time I tried to drive with them I had to give up pretty quickly; unfortunately, your pool glasses may only be useful for pool.