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The Billiard Monthly : August, 1912

Things That Matter in Billiards

XXII.-THE CUE SWING

When the eye has become accustomed in billiard playing
to the required angles of divergence of the balls after ball
or cushion contact, and when the mind has grasped the
degrees of contact and power—sometimes accompanied by
enhanced horizontal, vertical, or diagonal rotation of the
cue ball by the application of side that are necessary to
produce the required divergence, little remains to be done
by the cueist beyond that nice adjustment of “strength”
which is essential if all other knowledge and ability are not
to be neutralized and spoiled.

“Strength” really resolves itself into “swing” and in all
strokes except stun, stab, and masse, into free swing; and
probably the best first lesson that a billiard student could
take would be to seat himself for ten minutes in front of a
clock and note the rhythmic and flowing action of its pendulum—
regular, unfettered, and unhurried. Imagining the
right-hand swing of the pendulum to represent the withdrawal
of the cue from the ball and the left-hand swing to
represent the cue swing at the moment of contact, the
student has only to remember that the final forward swing
should be slightly accentuated and the cue held quite horizontally,
and he will have absorbed an extremely valuable
elementary lesson which thousands of players go through
the whole of their billiard life without acquiring or even
dreaming of.

There is no game played with a stationary ball in which
this easy and sensitive swing is not vital. It is the same
in golf, croquet, and hockey, as it is in billiards. The
golfer who swings in his drive instead of striking sends
the ball much farther with half the exertion of the mere
“thrasher,” and exactly the same thing applies to croquet
and to hockey. We are not sure that it does not also apply
to cricket, tennis, and rackets, and that that comfortable
feeling experienced when the ball is returned smoothly and
sweetly off the bat, instead of making its impact felt in an
unpleasant vibration, is not referable to the same source.

In billiards another excellent effect is produced by the cue
swing, which is delightful to note and experience. Not
only does the cue ball under these conditions go on its
mission freely and sweetly, but the object ball against which
it is directed does the same. This is illustrated in a remarkable
manner by the long loser, especially when there is, in
addition to the proper swing of the cue, just a modicum of
top on the cue ball. Two players shall be put to this
stroke, the one flogging the ball and the other restraining
his force but preserving an easy and even cue swing, and
the result will be that, whilst, in the one case, the object
ball lags in a dull, heavy way, in the other it springs from
cushion to cushion as though invested with life and sensibility.

The theory of the swing, as gathered from the pendulum,
is that the ball is swept away the moment the pendulum.

(which in the billiard player’s case is the forearm) becomes
vertical and that the pendulum then proceeds just as far forward
as it had previously been drawn back. Gray has a
way of sending the cue much farther beyond the ball than
he has previously drawn it back and in our judgment this
is a mannerism and a mistake, due to an unnecessary
elaboration and extension of early instructions, which in
themselves were quite right. Indeed, he gives to the forward
action of the cue two distinct impulses, the second
beginning as the other ends. This, of course, does no harm,
as the actual stroke is already completed, and it is certainly
better to carry the cue even farther forward than is necessary
to maintain its flow and straight alignment than not
to carry it far enough.

In addition to the easy and free swing of the cue there is
another vital factor, and that is the looseness or tightness
with which the fingers of the player supply the necessary
pivoting connection. Except in the comparatively rare
instances in which a somewhat heavy handling of the cue
assists in certain effects, there should be no pressure of the
fingers or hand upon the cue whatever, or cue swing and
stroke will be at once spoiled. Perhaps the best way to
experiment in this direction is to place the object ball on
the centre baulk spot and make a chalk mark at equal distances
behind and before it. What has now to be done is
to let the cue lie in a loop formed of the thumb and forefinger
and deliver a gently swinging stroke from chalk mark
to chalk mark without touching the sides of the cue with the
thumb and finger at all. There will be an instantaneous
reward for this class of practice and experiment in the
delightfully easy and resilient way in which both balls will
speed along after the minutest expenditure of energy on the
part of the striker.