| by Jim Meador
There are many violations of fundamental shooting techniques that are very forgiving, such a stance and bridge. However, other violations are serious. Players who raise the butt of their cue stick to shoot will rarely, if ever, become advanced players.
The cueball reacts dramatically, and at times violently, to the forces applied to it by the leather tip at the end of the cue stick. In fact, the leather tip is designed to apply friction to the cueball in order to make it spin in various ways. Chalk is applied to the leather to make sure the tip "sticks" to the cueball to prevent miscues, or to apply spin. When a cueball is hit to apply an oblique spin, it will start curving after it stops "sliding" and begins to react to the friction of the cloth.
When a shooter places only side spin on the cueball, the ball will not curve off the intended path to any measurable degree. If only top or bottom spin is used, the cueball will still follow a straight path. However, if one attempts side spin, and accidentally (or purposely) puts vertical spin on the ball as well, the spin axis is changed and the ball can curve off the intended path.
By raising the butt of the cue, the shooter, especially a beginner or intermediate player, invites serious problems. It will be very difficult for a student to learn how to aim if the ball does not follow a straight line. Advanced players use curve and massÚ shots to their advantage, but they know how, and it is not an accident. Beginners should never curve the cueball, and raising the butt of the stick invites just such a mistake.
Don't start off with bad habits. Keep the butt of the cue stick as level as possible for all shots. When you become advanced, you will learn when and how much to raise the butt for specialty shots, such as curves, massÚs and jump shots. One side benefit of keeping the stick level: you are less likely to be charged with the cost of replacing the cloth. Driving the stick downward can force the tip into the cloth. The cloth, on most tables, is not glued to the top, but stretched across it. It can easily be torn.
In the first illustration the cueball is hit with left english (spin). As long as the hit is along the equator, with no downward force, the spin will be "flat" and parallel with the surface. The ball will follow a straight path to the aiming point on the object ball.
In the second illustration, the butt of the stick has been raised. Although the hit is still with left english and along the equator, the force of the hit is downward causing the spin axis to be tilted. For a distance that relates to the speed, the ball will slide across the surface on a relatively straight path. However, when the ball stops sliding and the spin grabs the cloth through friction, the ball will start curving left and miss the aiming point on the object ball. Advanced players can use this dynamic to curve slightly around interfering balls. Beginners should avoid it.
Keep the butt of your stick level, and the path of the cueball as straight as possible. Your shot making percentage will improve dramatically.
Never expect immediate improvement when practicing any change in your stroke or method of aiming. Old habits are hard to break, and subconsciously we default, midstroke, to our old ways. Keep practicing and pay attention to every detail after stroking. But keep your head down!