One of the most common mistakes I see from players starting out in the game is that they just hit the ball far too hard. For no real reason they’ll smash the ball at the pocket and then can’t understand why they’ve missed. There are three main reasons why hitting the ball unessarily hard is a bad thing and striking the ball with a more measured pace will give you far more consistent results. The first thing we are going to look at is the shape of the pockets. If we are hitting our ball directly at the heart of the pocket, then as long as we are reasonably accurate the ball should go straight in without touching any part of the cushions. This is the one time when we can be fairly confident that even when hit hard, the ball should go straight in. However once we get past a certain point it becomes impossible for the ball to go into the pocket without striking the far jaw of the pocket first. This is when the pace of the ball starts to play a bigger factor in whether the ball will drop or not. Because players will be wary of clipping the near jaw they will aim just a little firther out which can makes things even worse. If this sort of shot is played too hard then the ball will bounce back of the far jaw and the rattle off the near jaw before popping back out. If we look at this in slow motion we can see the ball bouncing off both jaws changing it’s direction away from the pocket. However if we play this shot softly, even if we catch the far jaw a touch wide the bounce is much smaller and the forward momentum is even to still drop the ball into the pocket. It’s a similar situation with the middle pocket and in fact it’s even slightly worse. Because the jaws are at a wider angle, if you strike the ball hard and catch the far jaw then you hit the wood and the ball doesn’t even bounce into the other jaw, it just comes straight back at you. As with before, if you hit the ball softer then it has a far better chance of dropping, even if you hit the far jaw. From narrow angles into the middle, when we have to get past the near jaw to get to the pocket, even at a medium pace it is easy to bounce back off the far jaw. These shots have a far great success rate when played softly. When seen in slow motion you can see that the ball when struck hard is hitting the wood at almost 90 degrees and just bouncing straight back again. As we’ve seen when potting at these narrow angles we have less of the pocket to aim at and accuracy becomes more important That then brings us onto the next point about why hitting the ball too hard is a bad thing. The more controlled our cue action is, the straighter and more accurately we will hit the ball. Hit the ball smoothly and fairly softly and it’s fairly easy to deliver the cue in a dead straight line with the cue ball going exactly where you want it. The harder you try to strike the ball, the more it will show up little imperfections in your cue action. My cue action isn’t perfect but it’s fairly consistent but you can see here that when I force the shot the cue moves just a fraction off line causing the cue ball to end up slightly off where I was aiming. It’s also more likely that you won’t hit the cue ball where intended aadding unwanted spin. If you add inaccuracy to what we’ve just learned about bouncing off jaws, then it’s easy to see why you’re likely to miss a shot when played too hard. The final problem with hitting the ball too hard is that it makes it harder to predict where the cue ball will finish after the shot. These first three yellows are all played softly with the same spin. At a slower pace we can be more confident about how far the cue ball will travel and therefore more accurate in our postion. As you can see we consistently end up within an inch or two of the same position. The three red balls are all hit hard. Because of this the cue ball travels a much greater distance. The further the ball travels the harder it is to predict exactly where it will end up. The added pace also adds a degree of inacurracy to the shot so the cue ball might come out at slightly different angles each time. It can also introduce unintended spin changing the path of the cue ball after impact. Even though I’ve attempted to play all three shots in the same way you can see how varied the end position of the white is. So as you can see there are lots of reasons why hitting the ball too hard is a bad idea. Of course there will always be occasions when we do need to hit the ball hard to get position, but quite often it’s probably still not as hard as you think. It’s important to weigh up the probabilty of making the pot against the positional gains of hitting the ball hard. If you try to force a ball hard into the middle pocket from a narrow angle and miss it, it doesn’t matter how good your position was when your opponent is at the table.