From differences in size, shape, hardness, layers, materials and most noticeably price, it can be overwhelming to browse the various pool, billiard and snooker cue tips on the market. It is important to remember that your own skill, technique and practice is the major influence on your play. That being said, it is important to know about the subtle differences in tips, as these can make a defining impact on your shot and game. Here is some important information regarding tip variables.
Tip size is largely correlated with what game is being played (English Pool, American Pool or Snooker).
- The most common game in everyday Australian and English pool gameplay
- Usually: 2” pool balls for 7, 8 and (sometimes) 9-foot tables
- Commonly: 1 7/8” balls for 6-foot tables (or 2” balls with 1 7/8” white ball)
- Tip size: 8-10mm tips
- 2 1/4” balls on 7, 8 or 9-foot tables (similar to 9-Ball pool)
- Tip size: 11.2mm-13mm tips
- Coloured snooker balls generally played on 10 or 12-foot tables
- Tip size: 9.5mm-10mm tip
- Shaft strength diminishes if tips are smaller than 9mm
As a general rule: a larger tip = more power. A smaller tip = more finesse.
Your typical English and Snooker Pool games generally utilise soft or sometimes medium tips. Hard tips are a necessity for breaking cues, but many players use them in general gameplay. Here are some generalised rules regarding tip hardness:
- Absorb more impact
- More spin, and more cue ball spin when struck off centre
- More misshaping + maintenance + replacing
- This misshaping is often referred to as ‘mushrooming’ or ‘flattening’
- Likely to harden with use
- Combination of control and consistency
- Still achieve spin (like soft tips) but with less misshaping
- Absorb less impact
- Less spin (as they absorb less energy/impact), and likely to miscue when striking cue ball off centre
- Greater consistency which means less maintenance + more longevity
Phenolic/Carbon Fibre Tips
- Just as hard as cue balls
- A very solid, smooth hit that transfers the most power, with the least maintenance
- Standard on many breaking cues
- Phenolic (non-leather) tips are banned in some pool tournaments, leagues and clubs
It’s important to note that tip hardness does make some difference in power and cue spin, however, personal skill, technique, power and practice are still just as, if not more important.
What are layered tips?
Layered tips are created by compressing and gluing together many layers of leather and are becoming the standard in most contemporary tips. As leather is not homogeneous (i.e. each piece of leather varies from soft-hard, it is not all one consistency) compressing many layers together creates a more consistent tip, in terms of hardness. Traditional, solid leather tips are popular and generally less expensive than layered tips, but have features of minor blemishes and defects creating inconsistencies and increase the chance of misshaping (mushrooming) and miscuing.
Why are there such major price differences? Aren’t all tips practically the same?
Generally, a higher price indicates that the manufacturer pays more attention to properties affecting consistency, durability and overall tip quality. However, it is important to do your own research and experiment with different tips, and to not follow the assumption that a high price = the best tip.
For example, Elk Master tips are good-quality solid Elk-leather (non-layered) tips for a very reasonable price. The Cue Shop sell a pack of 3 for as little as $6, or a box of 50 for $49.95. However, impurities lie in that manufacturing and testing standards aren’t as strict as your more expensive tips. Whilst on the softer side, hardness variations exist from tip-to-tip. Also, minor blemishes, defects and inconsistencies exist in that they are not layered, and are ‘hole-punched’ from a piece of leather to create a solid leather tip. That being said, Elk Master tips are well-renowned for being excellent tips for the pool-amateur to the growing champion. Their reasonable price makes them great for practicing to build skill, as well as practice in reshaping and maintaining a tip.
Tip consistency is highest with premium layered tips with consistent thickness, hardness and elasticity (e.g. soft layers are not mixed with hard layers). This is prominent in ElkPro tips which are well-known for their strictness on testing and shape standards to ensure overall tip consistency. Brunswick tips are another premium-quality uniform-density tip made of hand-selected water buffalo hide, infused with velvet-grade silica. Their extensive life is due to ultra-pressure formation and being thicker than the typical cue tip.
For maximum durability, consistency and reliability, The Cue Shop recommend the Kamui range. Kamui tips are crafted with ten layers of specially selected pig skin and optimised for maximum humidity resistance and porosity. The Kamui tips feature great chalk-retention which promote tip-grip and prevents miscuing. Pig skin is a premium leather found in most layered tips as pig skin promotes excellent elasticity, especially in comparison to other leathers. Whilst Kamui tips demonstrate excellent chalk retention, it is very important to regularly maintain the tips to promote chalk retention and tip shape, as well as overall gameplay. This is important for all cue tips. Read more about our advice on how to maintain tips here!
As you can tell, there is a lot of information regarding the different characteristics of what makes a great pool cue tip. What you are probably thinking now is, which tip is the best? Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. It is firstly important to note the game you are playing for size, before considering hardness. We recommend building your pool skill with a good-quality soft or medium cue tip. As your practice and skill increases, as well as experimentation with different tips, you will notice the minor differences and find a cue tip which fits you best.
And don’t forget: It is important to remember that your own skill, technique and practice is the major influence on your play!