How to aim the cue ball has always been a troublesome concept to learn because aiming a round ball to hit a precise spot on another round ball some distance away requires abstract visualization in the mind’s eye to complete the process. You have to train your brain over time to develop a feel for the correct line of aim. Normally you do this by trial and error until the ball begins to go into the pocket on a regular basis for a particular angle or distance. The brain basically builds a memory for line of aim for each of these shots.
As the angle changes and or the distance increases your brain has to once more go through the process of relearning the line of aim for the new shot. Unfortunately there are thousands of different angles and varying distances to the pocket which takes years to master them all. Add to that your varying state of mind from day to day and you are never quite sure If your abstract point of aim is going to produce the results that you desire.
Over the years I have developed (through lots of trial and error) an aiming system that works well for me. It still requires abstract visualization but is much easier to learn than thousands of shots. I know that you’ve heard this many times before but I will stress it again here because it is the single most important rule for aiming correctly. You must always have the same head and cue alignment for each shot.
If normally your right eye is exactly over the pool cue and you have your nose tilted 10 degrees to the right of the cue you should use this alignment for all of your shots. Here is a simple test to show you how important head-cue alignment is. Aim down your arm like a rifle and point the tip of your finger to a specific spot at a distance of 3 to 9 feet. To dramatize the effect close the eye that is the farthest from your arm. Now while keeping the tip of your finger on the spot rotate your head either to the left or to the right.
You will see that as you rotate your head the point of aim continually changes. That means that if you don’t have your eye aligned with your cue exactly the same way each time your brain will not see the correct line of aim for the way it has learned the shot. There are 4 head alignments that you need to be aware of to develop consistency for head-cue alignment. The key word here is “parallel”. Always strive to keep each of the alignments in parallel with the cue for the best results.
The most obvious alignment of course is how your head is centered over the cue. Many players align their dominant eye over the cue. I prefer to center my chin and nose over the cue. The 2nd alignment is the turn of the head to the left or right of the way the cue is pointing. As you saw in the test above turning your head changes your point of aim. As I center my nose over the cue I can easily tell if my head is pointing in the right direction by the way my nose is pointing. If my nose is aligned with the end of my cue then my eyes have to be aligned parallel to the cue. The 3rd alignment is head tilt. Is your head aligned vertical(90 degrees) to the floor or is it tilted to one side. As this axis alignment is a little difficult to detect by yourself you might ask a friend to verify if you head is vertical to the cue or not. I use my cheek bones as a reference. If one is not higher that the other then my vertical alignment is close and both eyes are parallel to the table. The last alignment is how far you hold your head from the cue. Most players I see don’t have a problem with this except when they are shooting a shot with a difficult stance. When you are in an awkward stance try to be as consistent as possible.
The aiming method I use is a little different than most systems that I have seen. Most aiming methods have you aiming the cue ball at a contact point on the object ball. My aiming method requires that you aim a contact point on the cue ball at a contact point on the object ball. To find the contact point on the cue ball you have to do a little work. This can be done by using the well known ghost ball technique. In the diagram below the 10 ball is to be cut into the corner pocket. Using the 11 ball as a ghost ball your line of aim would be through the center of the cue ball and the center of the ghost ball which is show below with the black arrow. Pay attention to the exact spots on the cue ball and the ghost ball where black line exits the balls.
Next look at the red line that goes through the ghost ball (11 ball) and the 10 ball. Visualize the curved distance on the surface of the 11 ball between the point where the red line exits the 11 ball going into the 10 ball and the point where the black line exits the 11 ball. Transfer this curved distance to the surface of the cue ball using the exit point of the black line on the cue ball as the starting point. Where the transferred curved distance on the cue ball ends is the contact point on the cue ball that you are looking for. I have setup the 15 ball in the diagram below to represent the cue ball to help visualize the curved distance and contact point. The blue arrow is pointing to the curved distance between the 2 exit points made by the green and yellow lines. The exit point of the green line would be the starting point to transfer the curved distance to. Where the yellow line exits the 15 ball would be the contact point that you would aim at the contact point on the object ball.
As you aim through the exact center of the cuball visualize the contact point on the cue ball that you obtained through the above technique and try to make it hit the contact point on the object ball. After a little practice your accuracy should increase significantly on the more difficult shots you normally miss.