A Guide To Speed Control in Pool

Posted by : Liz Ford

Speed Trap Ahead - A Guide To Speed Control in Pool

No cop will write you a ticket for going the wrong speed on the pool table, but, oh, you'll pay a fine.  Your cue ball might act out “Cannonball Run” or inch along a la “Up in Smoke” – either way, if your speed is off the cue will miss position and seemed possessed...  like “Christine.”  Bad movie-related analogies aside, speed control is among the most difficult skills to learn as a beginner and a seemingly intangible quality to manage as a competitive player.  Fear not, drivers, here's some AAA help for ensuring that you keep your cue ball within the legal limits. 

1. Get sensual.

Your athletic skills don't respond to verbal commands. The best way to program an action is to imagine it in as much vivid detail as possible: what will it look like, sound like, feel like?  For speed control, imagine the shot in real time – how long will it take for the cue ball to stop rolling?

2. Tight grips sink ships.

 A steely grip, or one that clamps down mid-stroke, will work against you by stopping the movement and follow-through of the cue stick.  A muscle-locking death grip will also keep you from feeling the fine gradations of stroke speed needed to control the cue ball.  

3. Long and the short of it.

In one game, you might be called upon to produce shots that run the gamut from your softest stroke to your most powerful. One thing is for sure: the same speed of stroke does not work for every shot.  One way to manage different stoke speeds is to differ your stroke length, both how far you pull back and how far you follow through – shorter for softer shots and longer for more forceful ones.  

4. Build the right bridge.

The correct bridge length can act as a conduit to producing the right type of stroke.  A longer bridge is a runway for your cue to get up to speed on fast shots, a shorter bridge a more secure cradle and physical reminder not to take too big a stroke on soft shots.

5. Grip position.

Keep the same distance between your two hands no matter what bridge length you choose.  A short bridge and a grip that's too far back will be as awkward as a long bridge with a choked-up grip. 

6. Warm it up.

Practice strokes help you fine-tune your speed.  Some people even take a few air guitar-like swings before they get down over the shot, just to program the feel of what they want to accomplish.  Down over the ball, try to make your practice strokes a preview of the way you'll deliver the ball, both in length and speed.

7. Sloooooow backswing.

Give your body a chance to coordinate the programming and put it all together by taking a smooth and controlled final backswing.  A short and jerky backswing will only lead to short and jerky delivery, which will only produce unreliable results.

8. The heat of the battle.

Speed is hard to control under pressure because your internal conditions aren't the same as in practice.  Adrenaline can cause strange things to happen to your stroke, from over-hitting to killing your action with a twitchy grip.  Make sure to breath, have fun and put yourself in as many pressure situations as possible so that you can learn how to manage yourself. 

9. Maintain good habits if your speed is off.

Pick a point where you want the cue ball to land, not a general area, so that you're able to observe and correct over or under-hitting.  Maximize your flexibility by playing into areas where there's more than one possible shot in 8-Ball and 14.1 and choosing position routes without potential blockers or scratches in 9-Ball.

10. Mix it up.

Playing on the same table all the time can fool you into thinking that you have it all figured out, until you move to a table that's faster or slower.  Real and lasting control of your cue ball will come from mastering speed under all sorts of different conditions, both internal and external.