fcsnooker - Top Quality Snooker Coaching and Instruction in association with Mr Frank Callan - Basic Level -
"Bridge Arm and Cue Arm

One of the essentials that Joe Davis and other top players of his time, Walter Donaldson, John Pulman and Fred Davis, all adopted was to have a straight bridge arm, (Figures 1 & 2). In my opinion, this does not suit many players and now-a-days very few leading players play like this.

One moment they talk about bending the front leg to move into the shot, and the next, when referring to getting down at the table to address the cue ball, they advocate a straight bridge arm. In my opinion this is a huge contradiction. First they are saying move into the shot, then they recommend holding off by having a straight arm.

Instead, why not bend the elbow as you are bending the front knee, in order to get better stability with your forearm? (Figure 3 & 4)

Most of today's top players are adapting to bending the left elbow in order to have a steadier bridge. Strangely, when Joe Davis was playing a shot near the cushion and was not adopting his usual stance, he did himself actually bend his left arm.

The player who bent his arm more than anyone else is ex-world champion Cliff Thorburn. I wonder how many other players around the world have a similar action?.

Regarding the back, or cue arm, Joe claimed that his forearm was completely vertical from the elbow to the wrist when the tip of the cue was in the address position at the cue ball. But I know that he was inside the vertical.

Copies of three pictures taken from Joe Davis's book Complete Snooker confirms the point.

As Figure 5 illustrates, Joe is inside the vertical at the address position.

From the final back swing in Figure 6, he therefore raises his body slightly in order to complete the shot in Figure 7.

If he didn't, his backhand would hit his chest and prevent the cue following through. This entailed him dropping his elbow as he came through so that his cue hand finished towards his chin. Very few top players play like that today.

The trace is taken from pictures specially posed for his book. Joe was not actually playing in a match, but nevertheless he is doing something he never realized he did.

When I tried to put into practice what Joe advocated, especially the cue action with one's forearm acting as a pendulum, I found it difficult because I couldn't get my hand past my chest. I began to experiment to prevent this happening. At first I started to turn my body in every conceivable direction in order to cue along a straight line and get well through the ball.

I found that with my left arm straight, I always felt I was holding myself off the ball. The time had come to experiment with my left arm bent, which meant I could get the whole of my forearm on to the table.

Later it came home just how important it was to have a very firm bridge hand (Figure 8). I got into the habit of not only having a firm base for my bridge hand but also pressing my first finger into the cloth. I realized that a firm bridge hand was a great asset to straight cueing, and this is where the baulk line came into the picture.

As far as I know, no one writing about snooker has used the baulk line before as a guide to straight cueing. Amazing, really, a straight line across the table, which has been there for everyone to see since snooker was invented!

Following this there came a time when friends at my club noticed that on cueing at the cue ball - when I was doing the preliminary waggles - my right elbow was gradually moving over. At first I didn't believe them. In the end to prove what was happening, a friend stood with a cue up - right to one side of my elbow. As I proceeded to waggle my cue, I noticed that my elbow was brushing against the other cue.

I began to work on the problem but found out that I just could not stop moving the elbow. Then it suddenly hit me that while I was dropping my elbow I was still potting balls. Now I returned to the baulk line and to start with put my elbow in the position in which it finished up after completing the waggles. In other words, I was purposely playing like Ray Reardon does - with my elbow well over to the right - and I was still able to make the cue go through straight.

The next stage was to try to play with my elbow tucked in like Fred Davis, exactly the opposite of Ray's stance. What happened? In both cases I was able to pot balls, and this told me that my cue was still going through straight on line despite the elbow being bent one way or the other.

I am convinced that it was not a question of where my elbow was that helped me to pot balls; it was all about sighting. As long as I looked at the correct spot on the object ball, it didn't matter whether my elbow was sticking out right or left. It was not important at all.

Figure 9, 10 and 11 shows the three different positions of the elbow. In Figure 9, the elbow protrudes to the right, a style adopted by Ray Reardon and Cliff Thorburn. Even John Parrott's elbow is slightly to the right. In Figure 10 everything is in line - elbow, left eye and cue, while in Figure 11 the elbow is leaning in towards the body, the style of Fred Davis.

A straight left arm seems to encourage a tendency for the elbow of the cue arm to fall inwards to the body. Strangely enough, having accepted that my elbow was moving, it was not until a good while later that I realized I was no longer doing this, and I haven't done so since.

Steve Davis in the early 80's, developed a good straight cue action. He held his cue with his wrist slightly bent to the right; which took the grip more into the fingers. He continued playing like that until he had won two, possibly three, world championships.

Then Steve actually straightened his hand and everything was in a straight line - wrist, forearm, elbow.

This just proved that while Steve's wrist was cocked slightly to the right, he was still able to send the cue through on a straight line. I have often been asked why Steve changed his grip if it was good enough to make him world champion. It was because, as he learnt so much about the game, he realized that if he was to become the perfect model and absolutely in line with his cue action, the one thing wrong - if you can call it that - was his wrist being slightly cocked outwards.

Steve has so much knowledge and talent that he was able to adapt without any trouble. To us lesser mortals this would have been a problem, but not to him. Everything fell into place and it was easy for him to change.

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