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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• May 2024
Rehearse Your Lines

• April 2024
Lucky Seven

• March 2024
More for the Road

• February 2024
Four for the Road

• January 2024
Corner the Market

• December 2023
Look Ma, No Cushions

• November 2023
Weíre in the Money

• October 2023
Four-level Drill

• September 2023
More Money Ball

• August 2023
No rails, part II

• July 2023
Look Ma, No Rails!

• June 2023
Triangle To Triangle

• May 2023
Zone Blitz

• April 2023
Money Ball Drill II

• March 2023
Money Ball Drill

• January 2023
The Dreaded Shootout

• December 2022
Alternate Universe

• November 2022
Close Quarters

• October 2022
Corner to Corner

• September 2022
Diamond in the Rough

• August 2022
Draw Bridge

• June 2022
I Detect A Pattern

• June 2022
Stay Close to Work

• May 2022
Amateur Approved

• April 2022
Two for One

• March 2022
The Straight Secret

• February 2022
The Correct Shot

• January 2022
End Game, Part II

• December 2021
Buying Off The Shelf

• November 2021
Look, Ma! No Rails!

• October 2021
The Oval Drill

• September 2021
Getting In Shape

• August 2021

• July 2021
V For Victory

• June 2021
More Pattern Drills

• May 2021
Patterns and speed

• April 2021
See a pattern?

• March 2021
Blind Man

• February 2021
Five Up, Five Down

• January 2021
Donít Lag Behind

• December 2020
Head games

• November 2020
Life on the Edge

• October 2020
The Family Tree

• September 2020
A Dip of the Tip

• August 2020
The Big Diamond

• July 2020
Nine-Ball One-Hole

• June 2020
Youíll Kick Yourself

• May 2020
Tight Quarters

• April 2020
Cue Ball Control

• March 2020
Straight Cueing

• February 2020
Saddle up!

• January 2020
9-ball Crossover

• December 2019
Ride Those Rails

• November 2019
Up and Down

• October 2019
Money Balls

• August 2019
15-Ball, No Rails

• July 2019
One Extra Ball

• June 2019
Two-Pocket Drill

• May 2019
Up and Down

• April 2019
Ultimate Rotation

• March 2019
In A Good Spot

• February 2019
Center Cut

• January 2019
Breaking Bad Habits

• December 2018

• November 2018
X marks the spot

• October 2018
Striking It Rich

• September 2018
So Many Options

• August 2018
Put Hangers On Rail

• July 2018
Mirror, Mirror II

• June 2018
Mirror, Mirror

• May 2018
ďVĒ for Victory

• April 2018
Up and Down

• March 2018
Kick Into High Gear

• February 2018
Up and Down

• January 2018
Up To The Challenge

• November 2017
Taking A Break

• October 2017
End Game Safeties

• September 2017
Get Comfortable

• July 2017
Shape Up For Summer!

• June 2017
The Selection Process

• May 2017
Two For One

• April 2017
A Ghost of a Chance

• March 2017
Bankerís Holiday

• February 2017
Great Eight

• January 2017
Getting Into Shape

• December 2016
Hocus, Focus

• November 2016
Kicking Into High Gear

• October 2016
More Drill Bits

• September 2016
Hand Model

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Captain Zig-zag
September 2019

A great drill to check your game and understand your equipment.

Part of the growth process in pool is gaining a better understanding of your cue and stroke. Understanding deflection is important in having better control on the variety of shots that pop up in every game. Here is a great drill that looks easy but is very effective. Itís a drill that requires stroke, inside and outside English, and touch with and without English. I got this drill from former Team Europe coach Johan Ruysink a long time ago, and I practice this drill whenever I get a new cue, shaft or tip. This drill will give you great feedback about your equipment.

As shown in the diagram, freeze both object balls to the rail and try to pocket as many consecutively as you can while keeping the cue ball within the confines of the boxes (the area between the center of the side pockets and the second diamond, and left of the center line for shots on that side of the table and vice versa for the other side). It is not as easy as it looks. Some shots will require a soft punch, some with English, some without, sometimes a harder stroke. It all depends on the angle you leave for each shot. I usually try to play a lot of medium soft shots with English, like quitting on the shot. Itís a touchy-feely drill that requires a lot of concentration.

Again, you will get a lot of feedback about your tip and deflection because itís easy to twist your grip hand on release. Itís also easy to jump up from the cue. You need smooth and sound fundamentals for this. Most players will tend to lift up their head and over spin the cue ball. The cue ball ends up hitting the rail before the object ball, and that leads to quitting on the shot. Neither the cue ball nor the object ball will do what you want it to do. Remember to stay with the shot and use a smooth stroke. When you get anxious, your grip hand tends to choke the butt end of the cue too hard, which results in overhitting the ball and getting into the cue ball too much. That will often result in scratching into a side pocket. Again, this drill will help you understand the feel and stroke, and give feedback about your equipment. Trust your shaft and tip.

At the beginning, you can use the entire width of the table if youíd like. You may land straight in on your next shot, which would require a power punch shot to get back across the table. I do it both ways. Either way, however, the cue ball must not pass the center of the table. Keep replacing the balls on each side of the table and count how many you can make in a row. Shoot for 10 in a row. Thatís a good starting goal and a good standard for amateur pool. If you start making 20-30 in a row, your level is top notch. Anything over 30 and you are reaching a pro-level standard.

I try to play most shots with center ball or slightly below center, depending on the angle. Iíll use a little English if there is a bigger angle on the shot, but the keys are still a steady head, a smooth stroke and a nice loose grip. Donít quit on the shot and your timing will be improved immediately.

I bring up this drill in large part because so many people ask me what tip and shaft I play with and ask what I think they should use. Personally, I think most amateurs should start with a soft/medium tip and go from there. Everyone has a different stroke and delivery, so itís difficult to just blindly recommend one tip or shaft to an amateur. But a drill like this will give you the feedback you need to understand how different tips and shafts affect deflection because of the shots required. Once you are comfortable with this drill, youíll know a lot more about your preference for tips and shafts. Simple drill, but one that you will learn a lot from.