fcsnooker - Top Quality Snooker Coaching and Instruction in association with Mr Frank Callan - Basic Level -
"The Grip

Most professionals who have written instructional books have assumed that the grip is not very important. Why is this?

Probably because they haven't experienced any problems themselves. Their talent for the game makes the grip come naturally to them.

Readers have usually been advised to pick up the cue as though they were going to hit someone over the head with it, but when it comes to striking a ball I think there is more to it than that, particularly for players who haven't got that natural talent. We are looking for a grip which will enable a player to send the cue along in a straight line, up to and well through the cue ball.

Since top professionals have so many different grips, it would be wrong to suggest which is right and which is wrong, so I am not going to advocate one grip for all players. It will be the right grip if it feels correct for you.

Experiment with several until you find one that suits you.

It could be that your wrist is turned out to the right, which naturally puts the grip more into the fingertips, (Fig 1 >>>>).

Alternatively, you could have the wrist dead straight and in line with the forearm (Figure 2).

Or finally, with the elbow jutting outwards like six times former world champion Ray Reardon's, which takes the grip more into the palm of the hand (Figure 3).

Reardon was thought to be very unorthodox in this respect, but that didn't prevent him from winning six world titles. Could he possibly have done this if his grip had prevented him cueing along a straight line? Is it wrong when a world champion, the best player in the world at the time, has a grip with the wrist cocked slightly to the right? To my mind it isn't.

Steve Davis, won his first two world titles with a grip which many coaches say is wrong, although he has now altered his grip. Ray Reardon won six world titles with another grip, which again according to many snooker coaches is wrong.

What should be noted also is how you grip your cue influences, in some cases, where your elbow is. You just cannot say that one is right and another wrong. Remember that the grip (your back hand) is what you play snooker with, and it should not be dismissed in just a few lines, as in most coaching books.

The grip is all about feeling the cue, and that feeling has got to come into your game when you are playing different types of shots.

In Figure 4, the grip is one where the 'V' formed by the thumb and forefinger is not in contact with the cue. In Figure 5, the 'V' is closed up with a much firmer grip and is in contact with the cue. Billiards players of old had a looser grip because power play seldom came into the game.

Even Joe Davis had to close up his 'V' to get a firmer grip for snooker, which requires far more accuracy in terms of hitting the object ball on the necessary spot.

Cliff Thorburn would be the first to admit that power play is not his forte because of his loose grip, but Jimmy White and John Parrott, both have a grip which is suited for power shots.

What matters in snooker is straight cueing and getting through the cue ball. The right grip allows you to do this and while there are a number of things to look at and experiment with, they all achieve the same objective - sending the cue along in a straight line. If a player feels more comfortable with his hand in a particular position, is able to send the cue along a straight line, can get well through the cue ball, and with that grip is capable of playing all the shots needed, quite simply that is the correct grip for him.

The most common mistake is to grip the cue too tightly (Figure 6) and, worst of all, grip it even tighter when a power shot is required. Clearly, it is very important to keep your cue as horizontal as you can, but if you grip the cue tightly with all the fingers when your cue arm is vertical from wrist to elbow, you will automatically lift the butt end above the horizontal on your back-swing.

This produces a scooping motion instead of a horizontal strike and causes some of the spectacular miscues which are seen when a player attempting a deep screw shot, instead jumps the cue ball over the object ball. When a professional does this it is almost invariably because tension has caused him to grip the cue more tightly than he knows he should.

Many coaching books say that the grip of the fingers should be just strong enough to pick up the cue from the table, but I would stress the importance of easing the grip of the second and third fingers as the cue swings back - which most professionals do instinctively.

If you have a four-finger grip and keep the back finger on the cue on the back-swing, it is bound to lift the cue above the horizontal. I would emphasize that the back fingers should be relaxed on the back-swing. You can even lift the little finger off the cue altogether (Figure 7), as I do not believe that the little finger plays any significant part in the shot itself .

Most books advocate nipping the cue on impact with the cue ball but, once again, if the grip is too slack - if the cue is not in contact with the 'V' - this could lead to a snatch on hitting the ball. With such a snatch, is it likely that you will be able to keep the cue on a straight line as it goes through the ball?

If, as I advocate, you have the cue flush with the 'V', you will feel the cue tighten against the 'V' on the back-swing. By taking the cue back with the first finger and thumb - at the same time relaxing the second and third fingers - you will automatically cock the wrist, (Figure 8). Now there is no need to pinch the cue on impact. I repeat: the thumb and first finger should remain constant throughout the stroke.

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