Continuing along with our Billiards 101 series, we will focus on creating a good hand bridge. In the previous article, we discussed getting a good billiards grip. Once you have the stance and grip down, you are now ready to start lining your cue up for the shot. Building a proper hand bridge is an important step towards building your overall billiards shot accuracy.
What Makes a Good Hand Bridge?
The main point to creating a proper bridge with your non-shooting hand is to stabilize and guide your pool cue down your shot line. It is important that your cue is supported during your stroke so it won't wander, wobble or slide. Any sideways movement of the cue during your stroke will most likely result in a mishit.
Another important role of your bridge hand is to elevate your cue. Your cue may need to be at different heights depending on the position near the rail, or a nearby ball obstructing your path. The farther up you need to raise your cue, the more important a stable bridge hand base is to keep the cue straight.
The end result needs to be a consistent and solid base to guide your cue through your shot. While there are a few different styles of hand bridges, most people with use simple open hand or closed hand bridges.
Start with an Open Hand Bridge
The most common form of hand bridge is the open hand. In this configuration, you want to lay your hand flat on the table and bring your thumb to squeeze into your forefinger, protruding a bit above the finger. When done correctly, this will create a "V" where your thumb contacts your finger. This "V" is the place that you want your cue to run through.
Your cue should not be lined up with your fingers. It should run across your fingers a bit. This allows you to minimize the contact your cue has with the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. It also allows for a stable and consistent slide. Your cue should run across your index finger at a bit less than a 45 degree angle.
Your other fingers should be spread on the table to stabilize the hand and provide a good base. Depending on the height that you need for the cue, you may need to "curl" your hand up a bit, raising your knuckles to raise the "V" to the right point. You don't want to raise the hand too high. You want to try to keep the cue as parallel to the table as possible. When you need to shoot over an obstructing ball, raise your bridge hand knuckles until the cue just clears the obstruction. This should provide you with a good shot on the cue ball while keeping your cue as parallel as possible.
Close Your Bridge for Power or Long Strokes
The second hand bridge form is called the closed bridge. Int his configuration, your thumb curls under your forefinger to pinch against the side of your index finger. Your thumb and index finger now form the "V" that we saw in the open hand bridge.
You line up your hand similar to the open hand bridge, using your last two fingers for stability and balance. Once in position, you can now take your forefinger and wrap it around the top of the cue. This will create a closed loop that will add additional support to your cue. It should not be too tight. You do not want to rub heavily against the closed finger as this may restrict your stroke.
The advantage of this configuration is that it provides the additional control and stability due to the finger wrapped around the pool cue. This becomes increasingly important in power shots (like breaking) and shots where your stroke will be longer. It makes it easier to keep the cue on the shot line throughout a long stroke.
Special Bridges for Special Occasions
In some circumstances, you may not have the room you need to use a standard hand bridge. This could be because the cue ball is too close to the rail, or in a position that is too far away. In these instances, you will need to modify the basic hand bridge style for the shot.
When the cue ball is close to the rail, you will need to hold your bridge hand on the rail to support your stroke. A good way to proceed is to lay your cue flat across the rail along your shot line, and gently slide your open bridge hand underneath. Try not to raise the cue any more than necessary. You want to keep the cue as parallel as possible. Spread your fingers across the rail for support.
In some cases, you may need to use a separate bridge head for your shot. This is generally used when the cue is too far away from the edge of the table to get a comfortable bridge hand under the shaft. The bridge head is extended out on the table, supporting the cue through your stroke. Most bridge heads have multiple slots (or V's) at different heights, to help you achieve a stable base at the proper height.