On a follow shot, does it matter how high I hit the cue ball, if roll develops naturally?
Yes, depending on the shot speed and distance to the OB. At low speeds and large distances from the OB, it doesn’t matter how high or how low you hit the CB, it will be rolling when it hits the OB (due to drag action). However, for fast shots close to the OB, the tip contact height makes a big difference in how much the CB curves after OB impact (see CB path speed effects).
The other important thing with follow shots is how much spin vs. speed the CB has after OB contact. A fast follow shot will create more follow action when the OB is hit more fully. Most of the speed is lost, but most of the topspin is retained (see follow overspin), and there is more topspin with more initial speed and tip offset.
Why do many top players place the tip only a little above center when setting up for a follow shot?
A good example is Shane VanBoening doing the progressive follow drill in BU Exam I. Here are some possible reasons why some pros do this:
- As mentioned above, with enough distance and/or slow enough speed, topspin develops naturally due to cloth drag. A lower tip position allows one to use a little more speed on the shot (since the drag action slows the CB slightly), which can limit table roll off. Also, with more shot speed, there is less throw and cling.
- Some follow shots do not require full topspin follow (e.g., see tweener shots).
- Some people drop their elbow during the stroke into the ball which results in a higher tip position at impact.
- It is slightly easier to control CB speed with the tip only a little above center (see optimal tip height for speed control).