How to Shoot the Ball Off the Rail

Rather read than watch? Read about How To Shoot the Ball Off the Rail below:

The Scenario

Today we're going to look at a difficult situation that comes up in games from time to time and this is where your cue ball is stuck to the rail and you have to shoot off of the rail. We're going to look at some common bad habits and some ways to practice to prepare for this inevitable situation, let's have a look. Two of the most common errors I see on this type of shot are first, too much elevation which if the tip strikes off of the vertical axis causes the cue ball to curve and will almost guarantee that you'll miss the shot. Second, too much grip or too tight of a grip will cause your tip to swing in an upward arc commonly causing a miscue and usually also resulting in a missed shot. So now we're going to look at some common practice techniques to help you address those problems situations where you have to shoot with cue ball on the rail. First, I'm going to take my stripe balls for the visual feedback. This is going to tell me whether or not I'm hitting on vertical axis and we're going to look at some common remedies for those bad habits that we talked about earlier.

How To Shoot

I'm just simply going to shoot these stripe balls into the pocket, but notice the difference. The first thing if you notice, is that with my bridge, my hand is flat on the table and the rail itself has given me the support from the bottom. I'm not bridging up on top of the rail which is a very common error which causes too much elevation, a generally shorter backswing due to the shorter bridge I am following straight through with a slight downward arc with the tip making sure that I get a good solid hit on the ball. My grip stays relatively loose throughout the entire swing, again helping to keep my tip going straight through with a slight downward arc on the follow-through. Thoroughly chalking before each one of these shots is also crucial. You only have a very small part of the ball that you're able to effectively hit, so you want to make sure that you thoroughly chalk, paying particular attention to the edges of the tip because that's the part that's actually contacting the ball. If you look, you can see that a very small part of the tip is what's making contact with the ball. Its up against the rail you can tell by the sound what kind of hit you're getting here. Using the striped ball also gives you a good visual feedback as to whether you're hitting vertical axis or if you're putting some side spin on it. Watching how the ball rolls to the pocket will tell you a lot. Once you get the basic skills down from our initial practice you can step it up to the next level by setting up an actual shot just as it would appear during a game. In this case I'm going to shoot the 10 ball to the side pocket. My cue ball is stuck to the rail again. A nice, level bridge, being as level as possible, shorter backswing, and relatively loose to slow that backswing down.