FAQFAQSpeed Control in Pool and Billiards

... how to judge and control speed in various types of pool shots.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the AZB discussion forum


for more information, see Sections 3.03 and 5.02 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards
and Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots



Where can I find general advice for improving speed control?

See "Fundamentals - Part VII: speed control" (BD, March, 2009).

Probably the most useful speed control advice is: Use a shorter backstroke for softer-speed shots, and don't decelerate into the CB (i.e., finish your stroke, going through the ball, even with soft speed).

The only way to truly master speed control is to specifically practice speed control with speed control drills.


from MattPoland (in AZB post):

These are the tips that come to my mind. The theme is that not needing precise speed control comes before achieving precise speed control in terms of priority for developing my game.

1) Practice shots you miss until you can execute them with finesse. If confidence goes, finesse goes, and thus speed control goes.

2) Think patterns through so that you don’t need precise speed control. Play shape into (and along) the position area rather than across it.

3) Try not to be too perfect. Playing a longer shot (or generally favoring center-table) lets you get away with being less precise.

4) Get your stroke consistent enough with finesse, smooth pull back and smooth follow through that you can rely on bridge length and follow-through length to vary speed rather than more/less muscle.

5) Move the ball less if possible. Getting good at pocket speed (and slightly more/less) means you become more familiar with small variances in speed. Trying to be precise across a wider range of distances is a bigger challenge.

6) Never underestimate how much spin off a rail can accelerate or kill cue ball speed. Perhaps consider the shot with no side spin and more varying degrees of straight top/center/low.

7) Shoot some ball pocketing drills with and without spin where you need to get the cue ball to a specific location. Repeat until you’re more consistent than when you started.


ball speeds and travel distances

How do cue ball and object ball speeds and travel distances vary with cut angle?

For stun shots, see the graph and summary statements on page 2 of:

TP 3.2 - Ball speeds and distances after stun-shot impact

For roll shots, see the graph and summary statements on page 3 of:

TP A.16 - Final ball speeds, distances, and directions for natural roll shots

and see:

TP B.5 - Rolling CB, direct-hit hop and ball travel distances

Here are some useful conclusion statements from the analyses:

"Fundamentals - Part VII: speed control" (BD, March, 2009) also provides some good illustrations and examples.


What is tip height on the cue ball results in the best speed and distance consistency?

See optimal tip height for speed control.



What are some good drills for practicing speed control?

Many people suggest hitting the CB up and down the table different distances to practice speed control, but this is really good only for judging speed with hitting the CB up and down the table (e.g., with a lag shot or long kick shots). To master the speed control required in most game situations, it helps to specifically practice speed control pocketing balls with different types of shots and over a range of cut angles.

Target practice drills are very helpful for developing CB speed and position control. Drills F2-F5 and F8 in Exam I, and S5 in Exam II of the Billiard University (BU) Playing-Ability Exams are also very useful for practicing speed control with a wide variety of shot types.


optimal tip height for speed control

Where is the best height to hit the cue ball for speed and distance control and consistency?

To help achieve the best speed and distance consistency, it is best to hit the CB at about 20% of the radius above the center (0.2R), which is about 60% of the total ball height (see "d" in the illustration below). For illustrations and explanations, see "The Lag Shot" (BD, October, 2011) and "How High or Low Should You Hit the Cue Ball?" (BD, September, 2011). Hitting above center can also result in a more accuracy with CB direction (see follow accuracy).


cue tip contact-height effects


rail cushion speed change

How much speed does the CB lose when it rebounds off a rail cushion?

For steep angles into a rail, where the CB path is close to perpendicular to the rail (i.e., almost straight into the rail), the CB loses about half of its speed after rebound and skid. For more information and demonstrations, see:

HSV B.15 - straight-on kick shot rebound losses and spin changes for roll, stun, and draw shots

At very shallow angles to the rail, where the CB is moving almost parallel to the rail, very little speed is lost off the rebound.


typical speeds for a range of shots

How fast does the CB travel for a range of shots?

Here are some typical values for various shot "speeds" in miles per hour (mph), feet per second (fps), inches per second (ips), centimeters per second (cm/s) and meters per second (m/s):

soft touch: <1 mph = <1.5 fps = < 18 ips = < 45 cm/s
slow: 1-2 mph = 1.5-2.9 fps = 18-35 ips = 45-89 cm/s
medium: 2-4 mph = 2.9-5.9 fps = 0.89-1.9 m/s
fast: 4-7 mph = 5.9-10.3 fps = 1.9-3.2 m/s
power shot: 7-10 mph = 10.3-14.7 fps = 3.2-4.5 m/s
powerful break: 25-30 mph = 37-44 fps = 11-13 m/s
ridiculously powerful break: 35 mph = 51 fps = 16 m/s

One way to characterize different shot speeds is in terms of "table lengths of travel." Refer to TP B.6 - Cue ball table lengths of travel for different speeds, accounting for rail rebound and drag losses to see how shot speed and "table lengths of travel" are related.

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