Tuition: Drag

Snooker Cue

The drag shot is rarely seen during the televised professional tournaments due to the very fast tables that are used. The average player though, playing in clubs with thicker, slower cloths, will find drag to be an incredibly useful tool.

Practice stroke 1 for controlling the cue-ball with 'drag' The diagram shows an example of a position where the drag shot might be played.

Playing slowly to pot the red and stay on the black is much too dangerous. The cue-ball could easily drift away from your line of aim and miss the red completely.

So the drag stroke is the answer. The shot can be played with more strength to keep the cue-ball running straight, yet when it reaches the red it will have slowed enough to retain position on the black.

So how is the drag shot played?

Hold the cue softly so it deadens the impact, and strike the cue-ball quite strongly below centre. Perhaps a little higher than if you were playing screw, but with less follow through of the cue.

As it travels towards the red, the cue-ball will slide or 'skid' during the first part of its journey until friction with the cloth causes it to run normally. Between the initial skidding and the final normal running of the cue-ball, there appears what can be best described as a kind of pause in the movement of the cue-ball.

Though drag is most often played for shots similar to that shown in the diagram above, it can also be used in a completely different way.

In the first diagram the intention was to deliver the cue-ball at a slow pace when it reached the object-ball. But in this diagram the intention is to drive the object-ball to the top cushion and back into baulk, and for the cue-ball to just slip gently behind yellow and green.

Practice stroke 2 for controlling the cue-ball with 'drag' The description given above mentioned the fact that the cue-ball starts fast, seems to pause, and then runs normally.

By playing the shot in this diagram as though the red were another four feet or so further away, the cue- ball should strike the red at about the same time as the pause in its motion takes effect.

The cue-ball will still have plenty of momentum left which will be transferred to the red on impact, driving it on; but the cue-ball, having no back-spin or forward rotation to speak of, will just trickle off to the side. Hopefully behind the yellow and green to obtain the snooker.

Stay down and watch what happens to the cue-ball when you play this shot. You need to be able to predict where this pausing effect takes place to play shots such as this.

Practice stroke 3 for controlling the cue-ball with 'drag' Drag can also be used on relatively close shots when a less powerful shot has to be played.

This is much easier said than done, and it takes a good player to play the short drag well.

So this diagram gives two examples that you might find very useful to practice.

Experiment with drag and side-spin and you will find that played correctly, more side-spin is retained later in the stroke than you would expect if you just played slowly without drag. This gives you great control over the cue-ball and can be invaluable in tight positional play.

Drag can also be used to great effect in safety shots.

Practice stroke 4 for controlling the cue-ball with 'drag' This last diagram shows an example of a position where the player doesn't want to risk disturbing the yellow and black too much, but needs to swing the cue-ball right round to the other side of the table.

There are many opportunities to use this in a frame, usually when there are still many reds left on the table.

Until you have become confident with this shot you may find yourself playing rather negative safety shots to avoid moving the object-ball too much.

When you can play the shot well though you will be able to turn your safety play into shots that really attack your opponent. And just one well played saftey can decide the outcome of the frame.

Historical Notes
From "Hints on Billiards" by J.P. Buchanan, pub. 1895.)

Putting on "drag" is another method of striking the ball which is of very great use. Drag not only makes a ball run very true, but it has the effect of retaining side in the cue-ball for a very long distance. Its use in thus retaining side is chiefly shown in making long run-through losers in the top pockets, where the object-ball is over one of them, and where it is desired to bring it into the middle of the table, as a little reverse side materially assists these strokes.

The cue-ball is struck low down just as if for a screw stroke, the only difference being that the cue is held loosely, as for ordinary strokes. The cue is dug well into the ball with the following-on motion before explained, the ball starts off at a rapid pace, but the drag, which is the effect of the ball's being hit below its centre, causes it to rotate towards the player, and this rotation is all the while checking the velocity of the ball. It is exactly the same as when a locomotive is suddenly reversed - the wheels are indeed revolving backwards, but their forward motion is only gradually checked.

From "The Badminton Library: Billiards" by Major W. Broadfoot, pub. 1896.

If the stroke be played the length of the table close observation will disclose a different behaviour of the ball from that which results from a plain stroke. In the first place, the ball will start for an equal transit or length of path with greater initial velocity, it will slow down much more abruptly, will apparently stop for a moment, and then continue its course till it comes finally to rest.

Analysing this path, the first portion is traversed by the ball with inverse rotation and under the influence of a stronger stroke than would have been necessary had it been struck in the centre; the slowing down is the struggle between the screw or backward rotation artificially given and the spontaneous or forward rotation naturally acquired; the momentary check or stop is when the one rotation exactly counterbalances the other, and the ball on an instant slides forward without any rotation; and the final part of the course is when (the backward rotation being dead) the spontaneous rotation has conquered, and in turn dies with the force of displacement or translation.

That is what is seen when a master of the art plays with drag. He uses it to overcome irregularities in the ball or bed, and is by its means enabled to combine the advantages of a strong and gentle stroke. If ball 1 cannot be trusted the length of the table for a slow hazard or cannon, the player strikes it comparatively hard with drag; the ball then runs fast over the greater length of its course, but pulls up in the manner and for the reasons above described, and reaching ball 2 with gentleness does not displace it to any great extent.

A heavy drag stroke played the length of the table by Roberts will travel nearly twice as fast as one struck by any other man, yet the object ball will often be found not to be harder hit.

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