Which Aim Methods Are Best?

Sorting Through The Six Ways All Players Aim In Billiards

Which Aim Methods Are Easiest?
Exploring aim with you fully at About.com. Illustration (c) Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Which Aim Methods Are Best/Easiest?

Matt, I enjoy reading your articles online. You are one of the best teachers out there in my opinion. Which different aim methods have you used in your career? Which did you find to be the most effective for you personally?

I have been using the ghost ball to line up on the shot and then I plunk myself down behind the ghost ball/cue ball line and shoot as confidently as I know how.

Hi, thank you for the kind words. Yours is a very interesting question, although past the ghost ball visualization what you are describing is a stance routine and not an aim method. Your stance position helps ensure you get your "vision center" on line and your stick aligned to the ghost ball.

Let me start by telling you why different aim methods work best for different players. I have mucked about with over 30 "aim systems" and keep a little database of info for when students ask. I'd sum up aim systems as falling under the following headings (am going to need to simplify here):

1. Instinctual aim where the player doesn't have to aim on a conscious basis but simply "bends down to shoot," developed over time as a sophistication of one of the following methods they started their career with, including...

2. Fraction aim - Divide CB and OB into sections/portions/fractions and bring these together at impact

3. Point or contact point aim - Pick out a spot on the object ball and send "some part of the cue ball there" (simplifying here, it's usually through center ball on shots and then a cue ball edge of thin cuts)

4. Ghost ball aim like that which you use, and its derivatives (simplifying here, includes parallel aim)

5. Center-To-Edge (CTE) and its family of aim methods

6. Pivot aim/body pivot/cue pivoting, etc.

There are a wide, seemingly endless variety of variations on these. For example, the "lights and shadows systems" here players use reflections of light in the room to aid in seeing spots for aiming at the object balls, but these are (often inelegant and unwieldy) methods to bring together contact points or a ghost ball and object ball or edges or fractions together and fall beneath the categories above.

I've yet to see an aim system that didn't fall under the six kinds above but I'd certainly be interested if someone has one they'd like to present. For example, people put forward all kinds of double-the-distance systems but they are redacted to become some method for measuring ghost ball center or ball fractions or bringing edges together, etc.

Double The Distance Method

For an example, there are a number of ways you can sight on the balls with this method, but if you were to calculate with your eyesight the distance from the center of the object ball to the spot where you want the cue ball to impact it, and then add another same length distance along that line into the space beyond the object ball, you'd have "doubled the distance" and found the center of the ghost ball at impact.

Which Aim Methods Are Best/Easiest?

Your choice of the last five methods I've listed, fractions, ghost ball, contact point aim, CTE or pivot aim (over time, you'll be able to play mostly by instinctual aim after many thousands of shot repetitions) work best for the player based on their temperament, proprioception (awareness of their body in space) and creative visualization skills.

Sorting a bit further, I would not recommend pivoting the cue stick after getting into the full stance and so I invite expert players only to work on pivot methods, so they may pivot with their eyes and mind only before assuming the full, completed stance to shoot. In other words, until you can visualize billiards shots so clearly that you can do the geometry in your head, stay away from pivot systems for now since they use unwanted movement of the cue stick for doing geometric aim.

I discuss the limitations of all methods in my aim primer series of articles. I'll add, however, that it's very tough to sight on tiny fractions of hit and I'd rather pick out one point to shoot for instead.

Amateurs who shoot using the ghost ball method often find themselves adjusting subconsciously for throw by overcutting shots and shooting fast and hard. Therefore, when they overcut a shot at a nice and leisurely medium or slow speed, they badly overcut the intended pocket.

By way of compensation, I often tell ghost ball amateur players to switch to hitting the object balls a bit more thick than they have in the past and slowing down their billiards shot speeds in general. The contact point method of aim is a great system to fill in here.

Experiment on your own. I'm as close by as your e-mail if you have questions for me. I invite all reader questions at any time.