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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
Up To The Challenge
January 2018

Challenge yourself with cue ball control drills.

I canít stress enough how meaningless it is to just throw balls out onto the table for practice. Practice needs to have purpose. Additionally, if you do practice with purpose, you donít have to stay at the table for hours on end. You can get more out of two hours of good practice than you can out of eight hours simply banging balls around the table. Thatís why I have developed so many drills. They hold my attention, challenge me to improve and allow me to increase difficulty as I do improve. Here is a pair of drills that prove those points. The first drill is a great warm-up and also great for amateurs that are trying to develop good cue ball control. In fact, many of the drills I put together are based on cue ball control. I am a firm believer that, ultimately, cue ball control will always outlast pure shot making over the long haul. Look at players like Buddy Hall, who played top-level pool for a very long time. Why? Because his cue ball control and pattern play were always perfect.

In a nutshell, pattern play is all about cue ball control and staying on the right side of the object ball. These drills challenge you to accomplish those tasks.

Diagram One is a fairly simple drill. Make the balls in the bottom left corner pocket in rotation. The cue ball is not allowed to touch another object ball, which is also critical in rotation games. Kissing balls is just asking for trouble.

The best way to play this drill is to go two rails with the cue ball on every shot. It is a great way to get a feel for the speed of the table and the action of the rails. For amateurs, this can be like a straight pool challenge. Try to establish a new high run every time you set up this drill. One day you may only get to the 5 ball. Really focus on reaching the 6 the next day. It is a great way to gauge improvement and gives you a good understanding of just how much easier the game is when you can control the cue ball. I have students message me months after learning this drill, excited that theyíve reached the 8 ball. Itís a fun challenge.

The drill in Diagram Two, which I call ďDynamiteís Ultimate Pattern Drill,Ē is used a lot in snooker because, done right, it keeps you around the area where the black is spotted. (In this case it is the 5 ball.)

The goal is to shoot the 1 through 9 in rotation without contacting another ball. Shoot the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 in the bottom left corner, and the 2, 4, 6 and 8 in the bottom right corner.

The drill is super tough for any player at any level, but, again, it is a great way to chart your improvement. Reaching the 5 ball is a massive achievement. You are sure to be frustrated at the start, as I was. But it is really rewarding when you progress, and it will reward your overall game. You have to stay sharp because any lapse or loss of feel for the speed will stop your run in a hurry.

This is one of my favorite drills. You will see that if you play good patterns and stay on the right side of the balls, rotation can be made simple. Remember, donít give up. Aim to beat your personal best on a daily basis.