In the last issue, I told you how I switched to a longer cue in hopes of improving my game. I gave you all the reasons why a 6-foot-plus guy like me, with long arms and legs, should benefit from such a move. I related all the pros and cons I had collected from top players about switching to a longer stick and the two most important observations I made on my own. One: Shorter players who hold the cue in the middle of the wrap have an advantage because the balance of the cue itself helps to keep it on line. Because of this, the best short players almost always have very loose strokes. Two: Tall players, who have to grip the cue stick at the very butt, have a disadvantage. They are pushing the entire mass of the cue from behind. Because of this, the best players almost always have very controlled strokes.
Well, I’d love to tell you that my game went up a ball and a half after switching to a longer cue, but I can’t. I’ve been playing with my new 60” cue from Dennis Dieckman for about two months now, and it’s still a struggle. Sometimes I am hitting the balls with a confidence and power I never experienced with my 58” Joss, but mostly I find myself continually having to adjust things that were nailed down a long time ago. In fact, it seems that the things that I spent the most training time on in the past are now the things that are most out of whack. My power draw shot, for example, went through a period of being unpredictable and, for a few bystanders, even dangerous. Sometimes whitey would refuse to come back, and when I tried to force the issue by cueing lower, I’d send it bouncing off the table. It took a long time to figure out what was happening.
I discovered two things. One: A longer cue balances different then a standard cue, and by that I don‘t mean to imply any fault. My new cue is well-balanced, and the balance point, relative to length, is not much different than my Joss. But it balances, or fits, in my hands much differently. It feels different. I was cramped a bit on the shorter cue, and now that I have the room to stretch out, I am. My gripping hand has a tendency to move toward the rear, and my bridge has a tendency to lengthen. I couldn’t do that before because I ran out of cue stick. This whole phenomenon has thrown off the timing of my stroke, and the cue tip is not always contacting the surface of the cue ball when I expect. I have to reprogram this relationship, and that is going to take some time.
Secondly, and I haven’t exactly figured out why this is so yet, but when I look at the positioning of the cue tip to the cue ball during the set-up, what I see is not accurate. I am addressing the cue ball lower then my eyes and experience tell me that I am. I have to bring it up a bit to get the expected results. This explains the bouncing cue balls, of course, but once again this is going to take some time to establish consistency. I can maintain it in the beginning of a session, but it breaks down over the long term. My body seems to revert to the earlier training as it tires.
Overall, I remain convinced that all this stuff will eventually gel, and I expect to be playing some better pool in the future. Even though this big ole cue sometimes feels like a club compared to my little Joss, I feel stronger at the table and I think that is a good star to follow. Besides, I’m a firm believer in signs, and I’m happy to tell you that in the first tournament I played with my new cue stick, I was the last man standing. That‘s worth a little optimism, not to mention some additional training time.
Good luck good shootin’!