What is the ‘SET’ position? When your bridge hand is on the table and your cue tip is within 1/4 inch of the cue ball, AND your grip forearm is making about a 90 degree angle with your cue stick, you are in the SET position.
If your eyes are perfect, you might even be able to perform your practice strokes to within 1/4″ of the cue ball but I certainly don’t recommend it for people with eyes like mine. That’s why I suggest that before you even start practice strokes, you at least get your body and cue in the SET position because this is a first step in insuring your tip will hit the cue ball where you want it to.
Here we see the illustrious creator of StrokeAnalyzer doing a demo of ‘SET’ position.
His grip hand could be moved back a bit but 7 degrees off a perfect right angle is not a deal-breaker. What IS important is that he sets up with nearly the same body/stick geometry for most of his shots AND he doesn’t drop his elbow when he delivers the stroke.
WHY does the elbow matter? Set yourself up in this position and watch your cue tip when you move your grip elbow up and down. How much does your cue tip move down and up?
There are millions of players who lower their elbows on stroke delivery because they’re trying to create a stroke that tracks parallel to the table top. Some call that a ‘piston’ stroke. It’s a great stroke IF you can always time the elbow drop perfectly. However, what often happens is that under pressure, or because more speed might be needed on a stroke (like a draw or break stroke), people who always employ elbow drop don’t always control it well enough to have their tip arrive at the exact point they wanted to contact on the cue ball in the first place.
IF you don’t pay attention to SET position AND you employ elbow drop, you are just increasing your chances for error when the cue tip contacts the cue ball.
So if we don’t drop our grip elbow during the stroke movements, what happens to the cue tip? Since your grip forearm swings like a pendulum, your grip hand will be higher on the back-swing and higher when you deliver (FINISH) the stroke. However, if you don’t move your grip elbow up or down, you can count on the cue stick tip arriving at the cue ball contact point you decided on in your SET position.
NOW this works great if you have a fairly low stance when stroking, as shown in the picture above. People who stand more upright, whether through physical need or just preference, will find a really pronounced drop in their cue tip if they don’t drop their grip elbow AND they really FINISH their stroke. There will be more about this issue on the ‘FINISH’ page.