: Tom Simpson
Q: Hey Tom! I took your three day course a few years back and it was exactly what my game called for. Thank you for that.
My question is about tip hardness. If I hit the cueball a little bit to the right of the center of the ball, would I get the same result with all tips no matter how hard or soft they may be? I am under the impression that the softer tip would make contact longer on the cueball than a hard tip and therefore create a little more spin. Am I correct in that assumption? My second question would be do you think a harder tip is more forgiving than a softer tip due to the softer tip being on the cueball longer?
A: There are many myths about tips and their performance. Sometimes it takes a bit of physics background for the truth to make sense. I’m not going to go into the physics here, so please accept that my answers are true in that they are backed up by solid science.
The simple answer to your question about whether or not hitting the cueball a little off-center will produce same result for all tips is yes, it will produce the same result. The slightly less simple answer to this question is that it produces "pretty much the same result.” If the tips are the same shape and diameter, you will get the same result. A more rounded tip can produce more spin for the same amount of offset. A thicker, stiffer shaft can produce more squirt. But, if the shafts are identical and the tips differ only in hardness, you’ll get the same result with both hardnesses.
It’s true that softer tips feature a longer contact time with the cueball. Roughly, two thousandths of a second for soft tips at slow speeds, one thousandth of a second for hard tips, and half a thousandth for phenolic (break/jump) tips. You may feel or hear a difference in the hit, but you pretty much get the same amount of action for your one tip of offset in each case.
The harder tip transfers a bit more speed into the cueball. If the cueball is traveling faster, there is less time for spin to wear off prior to striking the cueball, so from that perspective, it could appear to have more spin. This is a tiny factor.
We can say that a softer tip is “more forgiving” than the harder tip because softer tips hold chalk a little better. Miscues are a little more likely with a hard tip, but unless you're hitting way off from the center of the cueball this should not be an issue. A flatter tip shape could be seen as more forgiving in the sense that a flatter tip hits closer to the center of the cueball for the same amount of shaft offset. Conversely, a rounder tip produces more action for the same offset. The rounder tip requires more precision from the player, and is therefore less forgiving.