Is A Shorter Cue Better Than A Longer Stick?

I Tell You Which Gets You The Best Results

Hercek Cues
Beautiful Joel Hercek cue stick. Photo courtesy of Hercek Cues

It’s no secret that cue length has changed, and at times dramatically, over the years. The evolution of billiards equipment includes days when both shorter and longer cues were in vogue.

Today, the standard length for cues is 58", while just a few decades ago it was 57". Many male players today feel that a shorter and lighter cues aren't macho, and won’t even give them a try.

I personally believe that anyone over 6'4" or so should use a longer cue, and anyone under 5'2" or so should consider a shorter cue. I'm 6'2" but a friend won a 56" cue in a 9-Ball years ago, and found that it played very nicely for him, standing 5'8" in height. He might have kept the cue, but a teammate had an arm injury that made it difficult for him to use a standard length stick, so he gave the "shorty" to him.

Shorter cues, for many players no matter how tall they stand, increases accuracy. I use a 57" so-called standard cue for balance and cue ball control but am always amazed at how I can't seem to miss challenging cut shots with shorter cue sticks.

A number of Bar Table players back in the ‘70s carried a shorter cue just for those situations where there isn’t room for a 58-incher. Some believe a shorter cue is actually preferable on a bar box, because the extra length is not often needed, and the shorter length offers more control, particularly in 8-Ball, where the cue ball need not travel as far as often for that game and size of table.

How do you know if you might need a shorter cue? Take a normal stance and address the cue ball as in a typical shot (the cue tip within a half-inch of the cue ball when you address the cue ball--most players are further away and their game suffers so get that 1/2 inch and within one chalk cube's width).

Check to make sure that in this position, your forearm is perpendicular to your cue as this will be the approximate middle of your stroke. If you find that your backhand is closer along the cue stick toward the cue ball than 2-4 inches from the balance point, you may want to try a shorter stick.

Otherwise, there is simply too much length and weight behind the backhand, making a clean stroke more difficult. I’ve seen players who actually hold the cue at the balance point, and therefore can’t use an open bridge, as the cue tip will automatically rise up from the bridge hand!

I also like a shorter cue for breaking. I find it gives me more accuracy and there is not much difference in the force applied between the standard and the short cue. I’ve had success with break cues as short as 48 inches... friends keep all lengths in their cue stick arsenal and currently have several break cues ranging in length from 54" to 58".

With regard to the longer cue option, use the same method as described above:

  1. Address the cue ball and check to see if your forearm is perpendicular to the cue.
  2. If your backhand reaches the butt end of the cue before it achieves 90 degrees, you may want to try a slightly longer cue.
  3. But whatever you choose as the right length cue for you, don’t be afraid to experiment! I’ve seen very good players use cues as long as 62" and as short as 55". We don’t all have the same height, arm length, stance or stroke, so why should we all use the same length cue?