For those who have been playing pool for a while and are ready to buy a cue of their own, knowing where to start can be difficult. One of the most important choices when shopping for a cue is whether to go with a standard shaft or a low deflection shaft. And with so much chatter and opposing views on the subject, many beginners look to the professional players they admire for an answer to the debate. That’s why we’re often asked, “Do pros use low deflection shafts?”
Many, if not most, pro pool players use low deflection shafts – but plenty of pros still use standard shafts. Pro players choose their shafts based on many factors, including personal preference, familiarity, and sponsorship opportunities. But ultimately, the pros are great not because of the type of shaft they use because of constant, consistent practice.
To understand why some serious players and professionals like to use low deflection shafts but others prefer standard shafts, it helps to understand just what a low deflection shaft is and how it can impact performance.
What Is a Low Deflection Shaft?
A low deflection shaft is a cue shaft designed to create less cue ball deflection or “squirt” (divergence from the intended line of aim) on shots involving sidespin. To achieve this, an LD shaft is constructed to have less mass and more flexibility near the tip than a standard shaft – usually with lighter materials, a hollow shaft, or a skinnier shaft.
When a cue ball is struck off-center, as is necessary when imparting English, the cue tip remains in contact with the cue ball for a fraction of a second as the latter begins to spin and roll forward. The spinning cue ball will push against the cue tip in this tiny moment of contact and, thanks to the laws of physics, the cue tip (with all the mass of the cue shaft behind it) will push back. This exerts a lateral force on the cue ball, causing it to “squirt” at a slight angle away from the stick line and, consequently, the object ball.
If the cue ball is struck left of center, it will squirt right, and vice versa. The effect is most pronounced on longer shots and shots using extreme English.
Basically, all this means is that when you use English, you have to adjust your aim to compensate for the inevitable squirt – but less so if you’re using a low deflection shaft. The less rigidity and end-mass a cue shaft has, the faster it will “bend” away from the cue ball after contact and the less overall mass will be involved in the energy exchange between the tip and the ball – thereby reducing the lateral force imparted on the cue ball.
(For a more in-depth look at squirt and low deflection shafts, check out my other article here.)
It’s easy to see why so many pros and pool sharks love using low deflection shafts – they significantly reduce the amount of aim adjustment required for shots involving English.
But plenty of pros still use standard shafts and don’t have any trouble with their accuracy when using English. Why? Because they’re used to adjusting their aim to compensate for squirt – it’s just part of their game. And this brings us to two crucial aspects of choosing a cue shaft: familiarity and consistency.
A Familiar and Consistent Instrument
Most people don’t start out playing with a low deflection shaft. Usually, our first games are played using standard one-piece house cues found on the rack at bars, pool halls, or a friend’s basement. If we use a low deflection cue in our early days, it’s likely because a more experienced player let us use theirs.
The same goes for most pros – they all got good enough with whatever cues were available then experimented with new, higher-quality equipment until they found what worked for them.
The decision to stop using random house cues and buy a cue of your own is, more than anything else, about having one consistent instrument with which to practice your chops. After all, it would be pretty difficult to refine your skills if you had to get used to the feel and quirks of a new cue each time you played.
So if you’ve spent years playing and developing your skills with a standard shaft, then you switch to a low deflection shaft, you may find that it’s like trying to learn how to play all over again. Of course, if the rest of your game is solid but you’re having trouble with accuracy when you use English, switching to a low deflection cue may be worth it.
It all depends on what you’re used to and what works for you. Most of the pros who use standard shafts exclusively do so because that’s what they’re familiar with and that’s what gives them the best results – just like those who use low deflection shafts.
The Old and the New
Low deflection shafts are relatively new to the game. Legendary cue maker Predator (under their former name, Clawson Cues) brought the first one to market in the mid-90s. Since then, they’ve only become more popular, and nearly every cue manufacturer has one or several LD shafts available.
So with this (and the principle of familiarity) in mind, it’s not surprising that many of the old school pros still use standard shafts – it’s all they had growing up, and they’ve stuck with it. Likewise, a lot of younger pros seem to prefer low deflection cues simply because that’s what they had available to them and that’s what they learned with.
This article wouldn’t be complete without a word on shaft taper. There are two main types of shaft taper available: Pro taper and European (aka conical) taper. A pro taper means that the shaft diameter is the same from the tip to about 12” to 14” down the shaft, then begins to get wider toward the joint. A European taper means that the shaft has one continuous, conical taper from the tip to the joint.
Most pros use pro taper shafts (hence the name). This is because they make for a smoother, more consistent stroke since there’s no taper to interfere with the bridge hand. Pro taper shafts also tend to have less end-mass because they’re slimmer near the tip – but not all pro taper shafts are considered low deflection shafts. And not all low deflection shafts are pro taper – plenty of LD shafts have a conical taper.
Again, it’s all about experimenting with different cues and tapers and using what suits you the best – what works for some players won’t necessarily work for others.
Sponsorships and Custom Cues
A lot of professional pool players – especially the big-name players – use cues they’ve had custom-made just for them. These one-of-a-kind cues are typically designed according to that player’s specifications to fulfill their unique needs. Some are undoubtedly made with low deflection shafts, while others feature standard or unusual shafts. One thing custom cues all have in common, however, is that they’re very expensive.
Many pro players also have sponsors that pay them to use a certain cue. But if that player prefers standard shafts, it’s unlikely that they would cross over to a low deflection shaft (or vice versa), but would instead be paid to promote one of the sponsor’s standard shafts. Of course, some pros can switch between LD and standard shafts with no problem but most tend to pick one type and stick with it.
Tools Vs. Skills
If you’re thinking about buying a low deflection shaft (or any other equipment) based on what professional pool players use, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. To the pros, a cue or shaft is a tool – not the key to their game. Any pro will tell you that working to improve their skills, day in and day out, is what made them good enough to compete at such a high level, not to mention make a living at it.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t matter what type of shaft you use – it does – but simply that if you haven’t developed the skills, no cue shaft will necessarily make you any better – that only comes with practice.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no single comprehensive list of what cue every pro pool player uses – this changes as players grow and experiment with new things. So what works for you now may not be what’s best for you later on in your pool career.
Are Low Deflection Shafts Worth It?
If you want to improve your accuracy on shots involving sidespin, it’s probably worth it to invest in a low deflection shaft. However, due to their higher cost and somewhat different feel, they may not be right for everyone. And if you’ve played well with a standard shaft for years and you’re already proficient with your English shots, switching to an LD shaft may even be counterproductive.
Feel & Tip Size
Since LD shafts are usually lighter, skinnier, or even hollow near the tip, many players don’t like the feel of the vibration from the tip striking the cue ball. For many, this simply takes some getting used to, but it’s worth considering.
A narrower shaft also means a smaller tip in many cases – some are as small as 11.75mm. If you’re not accustomed to the smaller tip, you may find it easier to commit (or uncover) aiming errors in your stroke. Plenty of low deflection cues are made with wider tips, however, so it’s best to choose what works best for you.
Low deflection shafts tend to be more expensive than standard shafts, due to their more sophisticated construction. Making the entire shaft out of carbon fiber, for instance, makes for a very light shaft that causes very little squirt – but it also makes for a very expensive cue. Wooden LD shafts that use shorter ferrules, wooden ferrules, hollowed-out tips, or foam-filled tips to achieve low end-mass are generally less expensive and plenty effective for most players.
In general, you should expect to spend about $200 to $500 for a good low deflection cue. But of course, the high-end cues that most professionals use are going to cost much, much more.
For a beginner or intermediate player, it’s best to go for a mid-range cue that won’t break the bank. This Players HXT15 is an excellent option – you’d be hard-pressed to find a low deflection cue at such a low price point. I even ranked this cue “Best Overall” in my article “Best Pool Cues For the Money: A Cue For Every Budget“. Check out that article for more information.
Plenty of pros do use low deflection shafts, but plenty do not. The choice of a pool cue is a highly personal thing – for pros and novices alike. It’s about preference, comfort, and performance, so it pays to experiment with different things and find out what works best for you. If at all possible, try playing with a friend’s low deflection cue for a few sessions to get a feel for it.
A low deflection shaft can be a great tool for improving accuracy and honing your skills, but if you’re used to playing with standard shafts, switching over may be difficult. And of course, no cue is more important than practice – lots and lots of practice.