In its basic form, you line up 15 balls across the middle of the table and place the cue ball 2 diamonds away so that the shot is straight in on the 1 ball. If you are a beginner, feel free to place the cue ball just 1 diamond away (along the third diamond) to make it a bit easier. Take your time and line up the shot properly, no reason to make it harder than it already is. Go through your routine and pocket the 1 ball in the corner with a nice smooth stop shot. Move the cue ball so that it’s straight in on the 2 ball and shoot it in the corner pocket next. Continue up to the 8 ball, at which point you can choose to shoot it in the same corner or switch corners. Then continue with the 9 – 15 in the opposite corner.
This is great for assessing flaws in your stroke – and also your ability to line the shots up straight… There is enough distance between the cue ball and object ball and the object ball and pocket where slight mishits will not go in, especially on tight equipment. You also learn to aim for the proper part of the pocket as you get closer to the rails. You will see if you favor one side or the other, and if hitting stop shots how good your stop shot really is. You can focus on different things as you repeat the drill – maybe your grip, eye patterns, smoothness of stroke, staying down, etc. Like I said, a lot bundled up in this one drill.
But wait – there’s more. This is a perfect drill to do in sets and to keep track of your scores. Keeping score not only gives you a baseline and helps you measure improvement, but it also adds pressure while doing the drill as you try to beat previous best scores, adding an element of real competitive pressure to your practice.
The easiest way to score is what you would expect - just keep track of how many balls you make out of 15. Whenever you miss just leave the ball on the table and put it in the middle of the opposite end rail, then it’s easy to count when you are done. You can also shoot until you miss, then line up and start over. If you manage to sink 15 out of 15, keep going and try to beat your high score.
If you get tired of shooting stop shots over and over, add some variety. Do a few rows where you try and follow the ball in the pocket, or draw back to the end rail. Work on smoothness and accuracy, shooting only as hard as necessary to get the cue ball to its target and having it roll end over end with no side spin. You can also work on replacement shots, or short draws, to really fine tune your tip position and speed control. If you are an advanced player, move the cue ball back to the first diamond, or even frozen to the end rail. The possibilities are endless.
Ralf Eckert mentioned shooting 5000 shots using this drill! It is a great way to refine and perfect your stroke. If you committed to just 10 rows of 15 balls each week, it would take 33 weeks to complete, but at the end of that time imagine how much improvement you would see with your alignment and stroke, and your confidence on these types of shots would soar during matches. Something to think about for sure.