For many, choosing the best snooker club to join is simply a question of price and convenience. These are important, of course, but if you’re serious about improving your game, there are 8 things you need to look out for. We’ll go through them one-by-one below:
How to choose the best snooker club – table of contents
- The quality of the tables
- The quality of the cloth
- The quality of the balls
- The ambient conditions in the snooker room
- The values of the club
- The quality of the coaching available
- The amount of competitions available
- The quality of the food and drink and other services offered
The quality of the tables
There is more to a snooker table than meets the eye. Many of the finest tables were built over 100 years ago. If they have been well cared for, they will still be a joy to play on today. It’s not the age of the table that counts; it’s the condition.
First of all, have a look at the woodwork. Is it clean, well-polished and free of scratches or other blemishes? If so, that’s a good sign of the amount of care that the tables receive.
The cushions are a very important part of a snooker table. On the very best cushions, the rubber under the cloth is backed by a steel block. This ensures a consistent, even reaction every time they are struck by a ball. Some tables will have slate-backed cushions and many will have cheaper, wood-backed cushions, which are often inconsistent and prone to warping.
It’s not easy to tell what type of cushion a table is fitted with, but you can ask the club’s management. If they can’t tell you, you can take that as a sign that the quality of the tables isn’t their highest priority. And you’ll find out quite quickly if you start to play on a table with poor quality cushions because there may be dead spots.
The cut of the pockets is also important. Professionals play on tables with much tighter pockets. Beginners and high-handicap players would find it much harder to pot a ball on tables like these, making the game unnecessarily difficult. A good club will have tables of differing cuts and will be able to advise you which ones to play on.
One more thing to look out for is whether the tables are heated or not. Heating the table affects the cloth, making it run faster and truer. There is more information in our blog on heated tables. Heated tables are becoming more common, but many clubs will not offer them because of the associated energy costs. However, once you’ve played on one, you will really notice the difference.
The quality of the cloth
A good cloth in good condition is essential to good snooker. Once you’ve checked the condition of the tables, take a good, hard look at the cloth.
There are three main grades of cloth. By far the most common in snooker clubs is the long-lasting, hard-wearing 6811 grade Strachan cloth. It is perfectly possible to play high-standard snooker on a 6811 cloth.
The next highest grade of cloth is known as Superfine and the very highest is called No. 10 Championship cloth, which the professionals usually play on. These two grades provide greater speed and consistency than the 6811 grade.
You can learn more in our blog post about snooker cloths.
More important than the grade of the cloth is evidence of wear and tear. Look for obvious blemishes in the playing surface. These will be an indication of the cloth’s age. A new cloth is virtually blemish-free. As a cloth ages it loses its traction and makes it hard for a player to get the spin needed for many shots.
Sometimes a club will take plenty of care of their cloths, but leave them on a little longer than they should. Look out for tell-tale tramlines in the pockets. These show that the cloth is worn out. Pockets like these will start rejecting many shots that would have gone in with a newer cloth.
You should also look around the tables and see if they look as though they’ve been brushed and blocked. If most of them are covered in chalk and finger marks, it’s a fair bet that they aren’t tended to in between customers.
The quality of the balls
The best snooker clubs will use high quality snooker balls, clean them regularly and replace them every couple of years or so.
Belgian manufacturer, Aramith, makes high quality, long-life snooker balls; the best among them being the Tournament Champion 1g SuperPro. The 1g refers to the maximum tolerance allowed between each ball in the set. The lower the tolerance, the more predictable the reaction of the balls after impact.
Many clubs will only offer the value-for-money Aramith Premier snooker balls. These are perfectly good snooker balls and will provide even the best players with a good game, provided that they have been looked after.
It’s easy to tell when snooker balls are no longer fit for purpose. They will have lost their shine from the repeated impacts and the white will be dull and covered in blemishes. Here’s a picture showing what to look out for.
Balls like those in the picture will kick more often and react less predictably.
The ambient conditions in the snooker room
Apart from the physical discomfort you may feel when playing in an over or underheated room, the snooker tables will react to the conditions of the room they’re in. A cold room will make them run slower; a hot room makes them run faster – as long as the humidity in the room is controlled.
Moisture is a snooker table’s worst enemy. In a humid room, the cloth will become sticky whether it is hot or cold. The best snooker club will make an effort to control the ambient conditions in the room. Look for air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers. If you can see these, the club is trying to give you the best playing experience.
The values of the club.
These might be more important to some than others, but in our view a modern snooker club should be a place where everyone feels welcome and valued. The competitive spirit might be fierce but it should never be unfriendly. We believe that there are three core values that should be accepted by everyone involved in a snooker club: respect, courtesy and tolerance.
Any club that is proud of its values and displays them prominently, online or in the snooker room, is likely to be a club worth playing at.
The quality of the coaching available
Some clubs have a resident coach, many have visiting coaches who teach at several different clubs, and some offer no coaching at all. If you’re intent on improving your game, coaching will be a necessary part of your progress.
The WPBSA (World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) offers a recognised coaching skills course with three levels. Check whether the coach at the club you’re considering has any official coaching qualifications. An unqualified coach could potentially do as much harm as good for your game.
The amount of competitions available
After coaching and practice, nothing helps improve your game as much as competitive matches. Especially against better players. A good club will have a full calendar of tournaments for their members to play in. Like golf, good clubs also operate a handicap system so that beginners can enjoy competitions as much as advanced players.
Many clubs will form a team that plays in local leagues. This is another way to improve your snooker.
The quality of the food and drink and other services offered
Finally, if you’re going to spend a fair amount of time at the club you choose, you’re going to want to be able to park easily, access their WiFi, and get something to eat and drink.
The link between good nutrition and snooker performance is becoming better understood and is something that WPBSA coaches are taught about. The best snooker club will offer good, wholesome food that is freshly prepared in hygienic conditions.
If the menu is mainly burgers, pies and chips, there’s a good chance that the club is using frozen food and cooking with a microwave and deep fat fryer. That may be perfectly acceptable to you, but be aware that the nutritional value is likely to be minimal.
So that’s it; eight things to consider as you look for a snooker club that’s right for you. You may be willing to trade-off some of these points in exchange for a lower price or a more convenient location, or you might be prepared to travel further and pay more for a club that offers them all. Now you know what to look for.
I’d love to hear your comments below.