While you likely won’t find one in the assortment of house cues on the wall of your favored pool hall, low deflection (LD) pool cues are highly popular among experienced players. You may have even seen a pool shark or two showing off the shiny new LD cue they just bought. If you’re wondering what the fuss is about – or even what distinguishes a low deflection cue from a standard one – you’re not alone. One of the most common questions asked by novice players is, “What is a low deflection pool cue?”
A low deflection cue is any pool cue specifically designed to reduce or minimize ‘squirt’ – divergence of the cue ball away from the stick line. Low deflection cues accomplish this by virtue of their lighter, more flexible shafts. This allows for greater accuracy, particularly with shots involving ‘English’ or sidespin.
Whether you’re in the market for a new cue and want to know if low-deflection is the right choice, or you’re simply curious about how they compare with standard cues, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find all the information you need about low deflection pool cues, how different types are made, and how they can impact your game for the better.
Understanding Cue Ball Squirt
Cue ball squirt (often referred to as deflection), as noted above, is when the path of the cue ball deviates from the path of the cue stick after a stroke. While some level of squirt occurs on every shot, its effects are most pronounced (and most troublesome) when English or spin is applied.
With English Comes Deflection
Striking the cue ball straight-on will produce so little squirt that it will have virtually no effect on your shot. Striking the cue ball even slightly to the left or right of the vertical axis can yield enough squirt to blow your shot or miss the object ball entirely. This is especially true on longer shots, as the initial angle deviation will only widen as the cue ball travels along the table.
Standard cues generate significantly more squirt than do low deflection cues, primarily due to their higher mass near the tip, or “end-mass.” Players using standard cues simply need to adjust their aim more to compensate for squirt. More on that later – for now, let’s focus on the mechanics of squirt.
Some find it helpful to compare squirt to the crosswinds an archer or marksman has to contend with and account for. The dynamic is similar in terms of the overall effect on the projectile and the compensation required to offset it. But unlike crosswind, squirt is a result of the shot itself.
What Causes Squirt?
When the tip of a cue stick strikes a cue ball off-center (as when imparting English), a small sideways force is exerted on the cue ball, causing it to deflect, or ‘squirt’ at an angle away from the stick line. If the cue ball is struck right of center, it will squirt left; if struck left of center, it will squirt right.
As the cue tip impacts the cue ball and initiates both the forward trajectory and the spin of the ball, the tip remains in contact with the ball for a tiny fraction of a second. During this time, the spinning cue ball pushes against the cue tip. Since, as Newton discovered, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the cue tip pushes back – producing the sideways force that results in squirt.
By this token, a cue stick with more end-mass will exert a greater sideways force on the cue ball. The stiffness of the cue shaft will also contribute to this sideways force. This brings us to low deflection cues.
How Do Low Deflection Cues Work?
Low deflection pool cues are designed to have less mass and more flexibility at the top of the shaft, thereby reducing the amount of lateral force exerted on the cue ball during an off-center stroke. In short, low deflection cues work by minimizing the factors that cause cue ball squirt – namely end-mass and shaft stiffness.
The benefit of added flexibility is twofold. Firstly, it allows the tip to more easily flex away from the side of the cue ball on impact. Secondly, it limits the amount of “effective mass” engaged in the lateral energy exchange. The stiffness of a standard cue allows more of the shaft’s mass to be involved in the sideways force, creating more squirt. A flexible cue restricts the effective mass to the top several inches of the shaft, reducing squirt.
Now, let’s take a look at the various ways cue stick manufacturers go about reducing end-mass and increasing flexibility.
Types of Low Deflection Cues
There are several methods used for reducing a cue’s end-mass. Some are more effective than others and performance cue makers typically offer a range of options. In general, you get what you pay for in terms of cue quality and squirt reduction. We’ll start with the most basic methods and work our way up to the high-end, lowest-deflection cue designs.
Modified Ferrule – Using a shorter ferrule helps cut down on end-mass to some degree. Some designs also feature ferrules made of wood rather than the plastic found on standard cues. This is because wood is lighter and has less mass than plastic. Many ferrules feature a small cushion disc to further absorb stroke impact.
Smaller Tip/Skinny Shaft Taper – Most LD cues have tips with a diameter of between 11.75mm and 12.75mm. Naturally, the skinnier the top of the shaft is, the less end-mass it has – and the less squirt it will cause. However, the narrower tip makes it easier to commit inaccuracy errors like accidental English or miscues. If you’re looking to expose flaws in your accuracy, this might be helpful! But for most players, this isn’t the preferred solution to the problem of squirt.
Hollow Shaft – One common design proven to significantly reduce squirt is the hollowed-out shaft. A hole is drilled 5 or 6 inches into the top of the shaft, drastically lowering the end-mass and giving the shaft a degree of flexibility. The first-ever LD shaft on the market, created in the mid-90s by Predator (then called Clawson Cues) utilized this design. This game-changing shaft, the Predator 314, is still widely used today. Here’s the latest generation model – the Predator 314-3.
Lighter Shaft Core – Some cue makers hollow out all or a portion of the shaft and refill the core with lightweight materials like balsa wood, foam rubber, or carbon fiber. This reduces end-mass but also helps absorb impact and increase durability. One tried-and-true example of such a cue is this Lucasi Sneaky Pete.
Carbon Fiber Shaft – More and more cue manufacturers are constructing shafts entirely from lightweight carbon fiber. This gives them a built-in advantage over heavier solid-maple cue shafts. Regardless, carbon fiber shafts still often feature hollow tips or foam cores to cut down on end-mass. Carbon fiber shafts cost more to manufacture, so tend to be a little more expensive than other LD shafts. This Cuetec Cynergy CT-15K is a mid-range example.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Low Deflection Cues
If you’re looking to expand your game into the world of English, or if you’re having trouble utilizing spin without sacrificing accuracy, buying an LD cue may seem like a no-brainer. But it may not be the best fit for every player. Here are some of the biggest advantages and drawbacks of LD cues.
Improved Accuracy – Shots with English require less compensation in aim. This eliminates much of the guesswork and simplifies the geometry of longer shots.
Easier Skill Development – The increased accuracy makes it easier for newer players to learn and practice sidespin technique.
High-Quality Construction – Like other performance cues, LD cues are generally well-made and tend to be durable and long-lasting.
More Forgiving – Unless you choose a cue with a very small tip (11.75mm or smaller), minor errors in aim, such as slightly off-center hits, won’t have as much of an effect on accuracy.
Cost – Because they’re specially designed, LD cues tend to be a little pricey, typically ranging from about $200-$500. Some high-end options are much more expensive. However, a quality LD cue can last for years if properly cared for, so it may be worth the investment.
Less Effective Jumping – Due to their low end-mass, LD cues are not ideal for jump shots. You’ll have to apply more stroke speed to compensate for the lack of mass, which can potentially hinder accuracy. The same principle applies to breaking. This is why many serious players also purchase a dedicated jump-break cue.
Feel – This isn’t a mark against LD cues themselves, but it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s the lighter shaft or the sensation of hollowness on impact, some players simply don’t like the feel of LD cues. If you’re used to the solid, heavy feel of a standard cue, this may throw you off.
Do Pros Use Low Deflection Shafts?
Many professional pool players swear by low deflection cues, but this is more a matter of preference than anything else. The choice of a cue is a very personalized decision and most pros, while they have the skills to play well with any cue, tend to use whatever they’re most comfortable with.
Yes, lots of pros use LD shafts, but plenty still win tournaments using traditional solid-maple designs or cues they’ve had custom built.
Will a Low Deflection Cue Help Me Play Better Pool?
A good low deflection cue is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to expand your game and play at a higher level – but don’t expect a cue to do all the work for you. The surest path to playing better pool is to play a lot of pool. That being said, an LD cue is an excellent learning tool and can help take much of the frustration out of practicing complicated shots.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate player and you’re looking to purchase your first cue, an LD cue is a good place to start. But if you can, find another player with an LD cue and ask to try it out for a day.
If it makes little or no difference, if it hinders your performance, or if you simply don’t like the way it feels, you’ll know you can stick with a standard cue and be just fine.
Low deflection pool cues can help you to be more consistent with your aim and improve your overall accuracy by reducing cue ball squirt. This especially comes in handy for distance shots and more precise cue ball control on shots involving English.
As such, LD shafts are very valuable for players itching to develop their sidespin skills and technique. However, the efficacy of an LD cue ultimately comes down to how well you play to begin with, so it should be viewed as a tool to enhance learning and practice – not a magic bullet.