How do different people aim?
“Fundamentals – Part II: aiming” (BD, October, 2008) and “Aim, Align, Sight – Part I: Introduction and Ghost Ball Systems” (BD, June, 2011) articles have some good illustrations and explanations related to aiming. See also: DAM aiming system. Aiming requires good visualization skills, precise body and cue alignment, accurate and consistent sighting, and an accurate and consistent stroke. And most importantly, it requires a lot of focus, and a lot of practice. There are no quick-fix solutions; although, “aiming systems” can help some people (for many reasons).
Top players do not use “aiming systems” other than straight intuition, but they are methodical about aiming and have a solid pre-shot routine. For more info, see DAM and How the Pros Aim. Aiming comes naturally to top players because they have played so much, and they learn from their misses. Here’s a good introduction to aiming from Jerry Briesath.
Cut shot “aiming systems” like fractional-ball aiming, SAM, and CTE can most definitely initially help people who have a lot of trouble aiming, but ghost-ball aiming is a better teaching and learning approach that helps players develop faster. And for players who have trouble visualizing the ghost ball or “seeing the angle,” the techniques demonstrated in this video can help:
These and other approaches that help supplement and speed learning of ghost-ball aiming are covered on How to Aim Pool Shots (HAPS). These approaches help one aim more effectively immediately, and they help one develop naturally toward how most players aim (including the pros). These ghost-ball-based approaches more like “training wheels;” whereas, limited-lines-of-aim systems like fractional-ball, SAM, and CTE are more like “crutches” that help provide support but don’t help as much with development (like “physical therapy”).
It also helps dramatically to work on solid fundamentals, including a consistent and purposeful pre-shot routine (PSR). Aiming comes fairly naturally to most people, but fundamentals and a good PSR don’t. Parts of a good PSR like “aiming while standing” and “dropping straight down with laser focus on the OB” can do wonders for improving how well somebody actually “aims.”
Now, with things like CB control, aiming effectively using sidespin, and kick and bank shots, “systems” can be very useful. These systems help a player become effective immediately, and one can become even more effective over time as one develops experience with the systems.
Well, don’t get me started on aiming systems. I’ll tell you … Maybe they work … but nobody’s telling me the ones that work. Because if they work, first of all you’re not factoring in swerve and deflection. OK, now what if a guy comes up with a delivery system, that’s different. But, aiming’s adorable — but you still have to deliver — so you could aim perfect. If those aiming systems worked, well there would just be like four million people who played like Corey. But it’s year after year and it’s still Corey.
So these aiming systems are overrated, they’re a way to sell videos and books and make people pontificate about their own greatness and believe me if it worked, then they’d be out there winning tournaments, but they’re not.
What Stevie Moore doesn’t get is — Stevie Moore — you could put a bag over his head and he’d run out. He’s a great player. So he’s playing great in spite of his aiming system, not because of it. I mean, think about it: he’s already a great player. He could aim at the wall and he’s still going to make the ball. And it’s a way to give him comfort and confidence. He’s kind of like tricked himself into thinking ‘this aiming system works.’
(John sets up to demonstrate a shot.) I just can’t see how I’m going to use english here and I’m going to aim bottom right english. So I’m aiming out here — it’s going to squirt. Well, what aiming system is going to work for that?! It’s only going to work with center ball. And you know, all these guys with their aiming systems can get like weight from me. And I don’t use an aiming system.
Yeah the one that he’s talking about I haven’t been able to comprehend it yet. It’s something about pivoting the back foot and… I don’t know.
My piece of advice, if anybody cares to the viewers at home: forget all the aiming systems. Just like when you throw a baseball to first, you just do it. Right? There’s no aiming, you do it, you feel it. It’s same with pool. You get a mental picture and you do it. Aiming systems are the most ridiculous, overrated thing…The pros scoff at that stuff, they’re like, ‘aiming systems, really?!’…
If they would quit spending so much time on line and learning about aiming systems and go hit more balls they’d become better players. There’s no short cut to it. Sitting on AZBilliards looking for aiming systems isn’t going to get it. It’s like the golf swing guys. They got a thousand videos. But the guy that goes to the driving range till his hands bleed, that’s the good golfer. You can’t watch it online and go, ‘oh, there’s got to be a system for hitting a four iron two hundred yards on the green.’ It’s the same with pool. We’ve hit a million pool balls — that’s our system. I mean, you’re not going to get good at anything using a system.
I could be wrong, I don’t know if I’m right. I just think aiming systems are crazy. Deflection and swerve is what makes this game so tough. If there was no such thing as that, you know you just hit whatever english, but this thing goes sideways off of your stick. That’s why the game’s so impossible.
from Patrick Johnson:
Many, maybe most, players learn to aim with no conscious technique, just by practice and repetition. Aiming techniques might make aiming easier for you, or you might be one of the many who use no technique. It isn’t necessary to use them in order to play well. None of these techniques are better or worse than others, and it’s not better or worse to use a technique or not. It’s a personal choice.
Two general categories of aiming techniques are:
1. “Exact” techniques produce exact aim in theory, but are limited by our imperfect ability to visualize and execute them. They include:
An advantage of Exact techniques is that they call your attention to the correct cueball/object ball alignment and contact point.
2. “Align & Adjust” techniques begin by aiming at the same part of the object ball each time (center, contact point or edge) and adjust from there “by feel” to the actual aim for the shot. Common beginning alignments are (“CB” = cue ball; “OB” = object ball):
CB Center to OB Center
CB Center to OB Contact Point
An advantage of Align & Adjust techniques is that they call your attention to stick alignment. It’s good practice to “aim with your stick.”
You are correct, that is a fine article. But, as even that author concludes, it will never be “put to rest”. Luckily, it doesn’t really matter. The numerous pros interviewed used a vast and disparate array of aiming techniques. “Ghost Ball” seemed to be the only somewhat-recurring assertion, but not to a dominant extent. There were even one or two who claimed to aim by “feel”.
Personally I use the “ghost ball” technique most often, but not to exclusion of others. I learned to play with no coaching, and “ghost ball” was something I thought I invented . I didn’t learn what everyone else called it until I read “99 Critical Shots”. Now on some simple shots I just let the subconscious handle aiming – all I visualize is the desired result, and it happens, right down to how much the CB path distorts from the draw, and how far it rolls after the second rail. On very thin cuts I may visualize actual ball-to-ball contact points. But on ALL caroms I fall back to an augmented ghost-ball alignment. Most players will hit caroms too thick if they rely on feel.
What I would like to stress from that article is the one thing that everyone interviewed DID have in common – “the balls went in” for them.
The fact that so many different methods will work, and work well, ensures that some will die convinced that “their” way is “the only” way. Clearly all brains are not wired alike, and no one technique is ever going to be a panacea. Use what works for you, as long as it makes sense.
You may find one of the following articles useful. I included the article about finding the center of the pocket because if you don’t know where that is, it’s pretty hard to aim well.
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/1993.pdf (June) — close ball aiming
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/1996.pdf (February) — frozen ball aiming
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/1997.pdf (April) — finding the center of the pocket
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/1999.pdf (November) — a smorgasbord of systems
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/2000.pdf (June) — analysis of three systems
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/2004.pdf (June) — ferrule system, lights system, overlap system
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/2004.pdf (December) — aiming devices
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/2005.pdf (January) — some more devices
http://www.sfbilliards.com/articles/2005.pdf (June) — a history of parallel aiming
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