by Bob Jewett
In my column last month, I described the basics of the Wagon Wheel position system. The idea was to use just follow or draw to take the cue ball the right distance in the right direction to just touch a target ball for position. (You’re not actually getting position on the other object balls; they are just providing a goal for position. If you prefer, just place a coin where you want the cue ball to go.)
This time I’m going to ask you to perfect your side spin to achieve the same sort of result using a cushion. In the top shot in the diagram, the object ball is by the middle of the end cushion about one ball’s width off the rail for each shot. The target object balls are placed on each diamond. The cue ball is placed so that when shooting the shot, your stick passes over the 11 ball.
For your first shot, pocket the 15 and use right English to send the cue ball towards the 1 ball. Adjust your spin and speed so the cue ball just reaches the 1. This will probably take your best side spin. Consider your control on the shot good enough when you can leave the cue ball within a ball diameter of the position target, and go on to the next shot. For the 2 ball, you will need less right side spin, but you probably can’t get the angle off the cushion with just follow. By the time you get to the 4 or 5 ball, just follow with no side spin should be sufficient.
To get to the 6, you have a choice. You could play with no side spin and hit the cue ball below center so it arrives at the 15 ball without follow or draw. Then the cue ball will simply bounce off the cushion more or less straight to the 6 ball. An alternative is to let the cue ball roll with follow and correct the angle off the cushion by adding a little left English. The two effects will fight against each other and the result can be the path you want depending on how much side spin you have added. This technique of cancellation is useful when you don’t want the follow to bend the ball forward but if you hit the ball hard enough to keep its draw it will also have too much speed. Try both ways and see which works best for you.
As you move on to the 7 and 8, you will need to use both draw and left English at some point and by the time you are sending the cue ball to the 11, you will need your best side and draw simultaneously.
Table conditions can have a large effect on how both draw and side spin work. With sticky cloth, any draw will quickly turn into follow but the side spin will generally take more, especially if you are at maximum RPMs. With slippery cloth, the spin may not take completely on the cushion, but draw shots will be easier. If possible, try this drill on a variety of tables — you could use it as a warmup in competitions.
In the lower part of the diagram the cue ball has been moved to a harder cut shot. This will make it difficult or impossible to reach the spots nearest the corner pockets. Can you achieve the cue ball angles indicated? Experiment with your mixture of draw/follow/side to see which combination makes each shot easiest.
Remember to shoot the shot in the other direction also, or you’ll get lop-sided