In our previous Billiards 101 article, Pool Stance Basics: Billiards 101, we discussed the importance of building a stable foundation for your pool cue stroke. The next step is to establish a solid pool cue grip to ensure you can stroke the cue straight through the shot.
We will go over a few of the basics in this article that will help you to develop a solid, repeatable grip on your cue that will continue on our building of a solid foundation. The pool cue grip is an often overlooked, often misused yet very important piece of your overall billiards game. Without a good grip, you will never be able to shoot consistently with the power and control you want to achieve.
Punch the Floor
The first thing to look at when setting up your grip is the positioning of your hand on your cue. What we are most concerned about here is the positioning, or twisting of your wrist. If you hold your hand downwards, envision yourself punching the floor. In this position, your wrist should be straight and not twisted. Your bent fingers should be parallel with the floor. If you picture yourself actually punching the floor (don't actually do it of course), you would see that the flat part of your fingers and your knuckles would contact the floor at the same time.
When your wrist is not straight, and your hand is rotated inward or outward, your fingers and knuckles would not touch the ground together. If you twist your hand inward, your knuckles would be pointing to the ground and you would hit the ground straight on top of your knuckles. Your fingers would never touch.
If you twist your hand outward, you would end up hitting the ground with the smaller knuckles on your fingers, rather than the large knuckles on your hand. Your wrist would again be at an angle, rather than appearing straight through your arm to hand.
The position you want for the best billiard cue grip is to have your wrist straight through your arm and hand. You want to have your knuckles and fingers flat to the floor. Think about "punching the floor".
Relax, You've Got This
Once you know which way you want your hand and wrist to be pointed, you can move on to positioning your arm. You want your arm to be comfortable and straight. Stand with your arms to your side, in a comfortable stance. Your arm should be hanging straight down to your side. If you look at your forearm, it will usually be straight, perpendicular to the floor. This is the position you want your arm to be at the moment you strike the ball.
One huge mistake that many beginners make is that they try to hold their forearm perpendicular to the floor, then they lean into the shot. What this does is change the angle of your arm so the final angle is no longer straight. You want to make sure that your forearm is hanging straight down when your cue contacts the cue ball.
This may take a bit of practice to get right, but is incredibly important to your overall shot. Having your arm straight at the point of contact will give you the maximum amount of flexibility on the length of your billiard stroke. If your arm is too far back, you will be limited on your backstroke. Too far forward, and you will be limited on your follow-thru. Also, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to consistently repeat your shot.
Take the time to practice getting down to your shot and checking your forearm to see if it is lining up straight to the ground. Remember "punching the floor"? Your arm should be in position to punch the floor while you are in your full stance and the cue tip is touching the cue ball.
Grip It and Rip It (Not!)
The last piece to the pool cue grip puzzle is the actual gripping of the cue with your hand. There is a critical mistake that many beginners make. We've all heard "grip it and rip it!". Emotions are high, you want to crack the rack to impress your buddies. You grab the cue, hold on tight and let 'er go!
Unfortunately, all of the tension you built up caused you to grip the cue way to tightly, and not allow it to move correctly through your swing. To show what happens, you can try a little experiment. Stand straight and hold your arm straight down while holding your cue. Your cue should be parallel with the floor, as if you were going to shoot it. Hold the cue tightly, using all of your fingers. Imagine your self smashing the cue ball. Don't let go!
Now, slide the cue back and forward slowly, as if your were watching your shot in slow motion. If you maintain this tight grip with all of your fingers, you will the cue does not remain parallel with the ground. It will rotate downward on your backstroke, and rotate upward on your follow-thru. This is not what you want. You want your cue to remain level with the ground throughout your entire stroke.
Get a Pool Cue Grip, the Right Way
The only way that you can keep the cue level throughout your stroke is to be able to remove some of your fingers from your cue during your backstroke. Some professionals release the front fingers, but most people are more comfortable releasing the last two or three fingers.
To start, place the cue into your hand, between your thumb and forefinger. Wrap your forefinger around the cue and squeeze with your thumb. You should be able to hold onto the cue with just these two fingers. Your other fingers should be relaxed, and free to let go. Now, wrap your other fingers loosely around the cue. They should still be relaxed, but are now able to support the cue.
Now, repeat the experiment we tried above. This time, as you move your cue through your back stroke, loosen up your last fingers. You may even take them off the cue completely. As you move the cue forward, let your fingers find their way back to the cue to support it for the shot. Your cue should now be able to move parallel with the ground, which is exactly what you want.
Practice this motion until it is comfortable for you. Check to make sure the cue remains level throughout your stroke.
If you pay attention to your pool cue grip, you can build on the solid foundation we started in our last article. Combining the proper billiard stance with an effective pool cue grip will help you build a consistent, repeatable shot routine that will set the stage for bringing your game to new levels. Pay attention wile you practice and shoot. Check your angles, check your grip.
Watch your cue while you practice to make sure it stays level. Check your arm to make sure it is hanging straight. Punch the floor. You may find that asking someone to watch you may help. Practicing in front of a mirror or using video are great ways to make sure you are doing it right as well.