The Filipinos are regarded as some of the most talented pool players in the world. Several of them display very long bridges on nearly every shot. Recently, I watched an Accu-Stats video where Jerry Forsythe discussed a conversation he had with pool legend Nick Varner. Nick had advised Jerry to shorten his bridge hand length and Jerry responded with the comment, “but Nick, look at the Filipinos, their bridge hands are very far away from the cue ball.” Nick then responded by asking, “Jerry, are you a Filipino?” The fact remains that most players do not truly understand the benefits of a shortened bridge.
Pool can be a very daunting game because the technical aspects are not simple to execute subconsciously. However, the more you can reduce the variables, the simpler the game of pool becomes, and the easier it is to play the game with a positive mindset.
All too often it’s something simple that keeps a player from reaching their true potential. In fact, the focus of this article is to address quite possibly the most common fundamental flaw.
Over the course of several years of teaching I have trained several hundred students, and nearly all of them suffered from one common problem. The weakness I am referring to is their BRIDGE HAND DISTANCE. Furthermore, I would venture to say that 95% of all pool players place their bridge hand too far away from the cue ball.
Being able to make a stable and accurate bridge is a very important part a player’s mechanics. Pool has drastically changed over the years. Today, most players play on tight equipment where that accuracy is the name of the game. A sloppy bridge won’t help!
Moreover, we are conditioned to reproduce what we see from professional players like Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante. What most players don’t seem to understand is that correct bridge hand distance (from a physics prospective) is directly related to a player’s forearm length. Generally, the taller you are the longer your bridge should be. That is not to say that you cannot learn to play with a longer bridge as many of the Filipinos do. However, in my estimation nearly all of the great straight pool players of the past endorsed shorter bridges.
The purpose of the bridge is to support the cue on the line of aim by forming a groove or channel for the cue to slide through. The bridge hand is usually placed nine to twelve inches away from the cue ball depending on the layout of balls and the player’s unique body structure. It’s actually quite common for players to miss shots because there is too much play (bridge hand distance is too long) between the groove of their bridge hand and the cue ball.
To find the correct bridge hand distance for your body structure, measure the distance between your elbow and your wrist. Take that measurement and subtract an inch and a quarter—that’s how far the groove of your bridge hand should be away from the edge of the cue ball.
If you place the groove of your bridge hand closer than that you will gain accuracy but lose power. Conversely, the opposite applies when your bridge is too far away from the cue ball. If your channel is too far away then you will lose accuracy and gain power. Keep in mind, that the table layout can interfere with a player’s ability to maintain the correct bridge hand distance 100% of the time. They key is to remember that the correct bridge hand distance should be used as conditions permit.
In the words of Wyatt Earp, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” The bottom line is if you want to play like a professional, you’ll need to incorporate the correct bridge hand distance into your game. There is no shortcut! If you want to improve your game don’t imitate what you see other players do. Ask yourself the question, “Are you a Filipino?” and seriously consider shortening your bridge.
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By Anthony Beeler