In the first article of this series on cue ball position control, we looked at the stop shot, and using the stop shot for basic position play.
In this article, we will add to our position play toolkit with the follow shot.
The Follow Shot
Very simply put, a follow shot occurs when cue ball has a forward spin (or forward rolling motion) at the time when it hits the object ball.
After it hits the object ball, the rolling motion cause the cue ball to regain forward momentum, causing the cue ball to continue moving forward after contact.
If the cue ball is aimed directly towards the center of the object ball, then the cue ball will first come to almost a dead stop, after which it will slowly start following the object ball, usually at a lower speed than the object ball.
The final speed and distance that the cue ball travel depends on the amount of forward spin that is imparted to the cue ball.
In case the cue ball is aimed off center (a cut shot), the cue ball will deflect off the tangent line path that a stop/stun shot would take.
This is the result of the forward spin adding a component of movement along the original direction of the cue ball.
An interesting thing to note is that, in roughly half ball shots the cue ball is deflected off its original path by approximately 30 degrees. This is a special case that we will study in greater depth when we look at the uses of the half ball shot in positional play.
In the diagram, the light gray line shows the path the cue ball will take once it strikes the object ball. Note how the deflection is lesser than if you had used a stun shot.
Now, that we know what this shot is, how do we go about adding the follow to the cue ball?
As we discussed in the previous article on the stop shot, any cue ball given reasonable time to slide on the table cloth will slowly start rolling forward as the friction from the cloth acting on it. If you hit a cue ball center ball over a large distance, by the time it arrives at the object ball, it will having rolling motion.
This is one of the reasons lots of beginners end up with the cue ball following the object ball into the pocket and scratching on long straight shots. The only way to avoid this is to either hit low on the cue ball to cause a stop-shot/draw shot, or not hit a straight shot in the first place.
For shorter distances, it is usually necessary to force the follow onto the cue ball by striking the cue above center, usually between half a cue tip and 2 cue tips depending on the amount of follow. By combining this with a good follow through, and a medium to hard strength, you can also get the cue ball to keep rolling a significant distance after striking the cue ball.
As with the stop shot, by using a combination of hitting hard and above center as needed, we can have the cue ball spinning forward when it hits the object ball. Calibrating how hard or how high to hit the ball is a matter of practice.
Try to pot the object ball into one of the side pockets while keeping the cue ball about a half table breadth away along a straight line, so that the cue ball slowly follows the object ball atleast a few inches.
A good exercise to build your stroke that I strongly recommend is trying to follow the cue ball and scratch in the same pocket where you just hit the object ball. This take some very decent cueing and is another shot I’d recommend practicing until you can hit it perfectly at least 9 out of 10 times. If you have trouble doing this, I’d recommend working on your stroke using the bottle drill.
This shot should now increase the positional options available to you.
When in a straight line, the follow shot will let you move a few inches to a few feet beyond the object ball’s position, as needed. When shooting a cut shot, this will narrow the deflection angle slightly, allowing you to move the cue ball to different areas that with the stun shot.
Imagine you had to run the three balls in numerical order, starting with ball in hand, using only the shots you have learned so far. How would you do it?
The simplest solution?
Set up for a straight shot on ball 1. Of course, since the 7 ball would come in the way of aiming for the 2 ball, a stop shot will no longer work. We can use a follow shot to allow the cue ball to move a little further to a more convenient location.
Once there, a stun shot would cause the cue ball to bump into the 5 ball, so we use another follow shot while shooting ball 2, to reduce the angle that the cue ball is deflected, placing yourself for a relatively simple shot on ball 3.
Simple isn’t it?
Choosing between the stun/stop shots and the follow shots is usually dictated by which provides easier and simpler position, and just causes subtle differences in the way the cue ball moves. However paying attention to the table and applying this information can be the difference between perfect position on the next shot and blaming bad luck or the table for being difficult.
How many players do you know, who complain or blame luck when they make a shot, but are out of position or blocked by another ball for the next shot?
Well, knowing what you do now, do you still think it is bad luck?
One last thing to keep in mind. Whenever you are aiming for an object ball that is far away from the cue ball, it is usually easier to use follow since the cue ball naturally tends to get forward spin when moving over large distances.
In the next article in this series on the draw shot, we will look at the last piece of the puzzle – how draw (reverse spin) can be used to either modify the angle at which the cue ball leaves the object ball or to have the cue ball move backwards, allowing for position play that is just not possible with the stop and follow shots.
Continue on to the next article in this series, Cue Ball Position Control Basics – Part III – The Draw Shot.