Q: I want to buy my pool cue, one that I can get used to and which will improve my game. What are my options?
A: You can get a basic cue for about $15 to start, but you'll probably notice its shortcomings if you compare it with others. Higher performance pool cues can cost up to $100 and above. As you try a range of cues you'll experience important differences, like the effect of cue weight.
Q: Are the better cues lighter, or heavier?
A: Lighter. Thanks to British mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, we know exactly why. Back at the turn of the 18th century, he established a set of laws of motion which explain how objects move, and how their weight affects their motion. He said that there's an equal and opposite reaction when you act on an object -- you hit it, it moves. It keeps moving until it slows due to friction, or it hits an obstacle.
This persistence effect, called inertia, applies well to pool balls but also covers the motion of the cue. With pool cues weight can be a drawback: the heavier a stick is, the more it tends to keep moving in the direction of your shot, good or bad. Sometimes, a table scratch or miss is the result of that inertia. Other times, a wild shot. You lose finesse.
Q: How does a lighter cue help?
A: You might think that a heavier pool cue can help you crush a powerful break shot and get the kind of travel you need from the ball. After all, the balls are a pretty consistent six ounces according to "Mass of a Billiard Ball" in the online "Physics Factbook." So your physics advantage is going to be in your cue selection. When you're developing your shots, the heavier cue is going to amplify your errors while the lighter cue will be more responsive.
For example, a heavier pool stick weight will make your off-center shot even more so, and it will be more difficult for you to hold your line as you intended. A lighter pool stick weight will glide better, jerking offline less due to friction through your guiding hand. You'll also need less force to move a lighter cue, letting you be more refined with your shots.
Q: So, which pool cues should I consider? What is the standard cue weight?
A: The pros use cues which weigh 19 to 19.5 ounces. Available pool sticks range from a low of about 15 to as much as 27 ounces, an extra half-pound over the pro cue. Choosing one which is right for you, remember that lighter gives you more "touch" and "feel," but too light limits your ability to put spin and side-spin on the ball.
Specifically: Use a 20-ounce stick to start, and then practice. As soon as you can, you should move down to 19 or 19.5 ounces. Play with a lightweight house cue, usually available to use for free, and see how it works for you. Remember: you can get a lightweight pool cue moving faster, farther and under more control than a heavier one. Physics says you'll get your super-powerful break that way.
What more do you need to know about your ideal pool cue? Ask us.