There is no question that the stroke is one of the most important elements in the game of pocket billiards, snooker, or any cue sport. A smooth, straight stroke is key in pocketing your object balls accurately.
So what’s a good stroke? A superior stroke will allow the cue ball to travel along an exact path to the object ball. In other words, if you aim at some point on the object ball then that should be the point where your cue ball makes contact with the object ball. One way to test your stroke is to practice a straight-in shot with the object ball about 1 foot away from the pocket and the cue ball about a foot away from the object ball. A good stroke should send your object ball straight towards the pocket, if not, then you have an imperfect stroke.
There is no single exact way to execute a correct stroke. Just like the other fundamentals like stance and grip, a good stroke can be achieve by each player differently. However, below are some guidelines that will help you get a good starting point to a better stroke.
- As you do your warm-up strokes, look at your cue ball and find the point where your cue tip should make contact. Once that is set, focus on the object ball for your final stroke.
- Your body must be kept still except for your swinging arm’s elbow down to your hand. There should only be a back and forth motion of your arm and there should be no sideways movement of your arm. Obviously, if there is any sideways movement, then your stroke will not be straight and you won’t hit the cue ball where you intended to, therefore, a missed shot occurs. This is very important: Besides the stroking arm, no part of your body must be moving! This includes the head, the hips, the legs and the upper body.
- Make sure that you cue stick remains relatively level as you do your strokes.
- Follow through your shot, that is, allow your cue stick to extend past the point of contact with the cue ball and let your cue stick come to a natural halt. The illustrations below display the progression of a full follow through.
A smooth pendulum stroke is the ideal way to achieve a perfect stroke. Just like a pendulum of a clock, you stroke should swing straight back and forth smoothly. See illustration below.
Figure 1: Starting Stroke position
Figure 2: The Back Stroke
Figure 3: Follow thru
COMMON STROKE MISTAKES
One of the most common mistakes that beginner players do that causes them to have a crooked stroke is illustrated below. The stroking arm not perpendicular to the table and it either angled ourward or inward. This causes a severely crooked stroke. Note that there are some exceptions – there are a few professional players who have their arm angled outward but they stroke straight as an arrow! The reason for this is because they have been doing it that way since they were children and have found a way to correct their stroke despite the incorrect angle of the arm.
EXERCISE: FIND YOUR STROKE
In order to find out if you have a straight stroke and correct it if it is not straight – you will need to do the following drills. Please read the Stroke Drills articles.