While owning your own bowling ball and shoes are almost a requirement to compete in bowling professionally, a person can still get pretty darn good at bowling without spending $200+ on a bowling ball and $100+ for shoes. This article will give you some simple and basic tips that, with practice, should give you an edge against most of your friends!
Before I give you tips, though, I think it will be helpful to know a few things about the bowling lane. A bowling lane is 60ft long, however the front pin is about 55ft away from the foul line. There are 39 boards on a lane, with the board closes to the gutter on your side being the 1 board, the center of the lane being the 20 board, and the board next to the gutter on the opposite side being the 39 board. There are arrows on the lane and these are 15 feet from the foul line. The foul line is the black line that you are instructed not to cross. If you cross it in competitive play you get a zero for that shot. You also don’t want to cross it during recreation play because there is oil on the lane (to protect the lane surface from the impact of bowling balls) and this oil can cause you to slip. The bowling pins are numbered as follows:
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
Other than what shoe size to choose, your first decision is what bowling ball to use off of the rack. The most important factor when choosing a ball is how your fingers fit in the holes. You do not want to choose a ball with holes that are too big and/or too far apart. It will feel like your hand is straining to hold on to it if this is the case. You also don’t want a ball where the holes are too small and/or close together. If you can’t get your thumb at least more than halfway into the hole, that is not a good ball for you to choose. It is worth noting that your fingers only need to be able to go to their first joint. Because you are using the bowling alley’s generic bowling balls, you can’t expect them to fit you perfectly, but you want your grip to be as comfortable as possible. Weight of the bowling ball is also something you need to consider when picking out your bowling ball. Most people tend to underestimate how heavy of a ball they can throw, opting for a 10lb ball or less. In reality, most people can throw at least a 12lb ball. Having a heavier ball will help keep your armswing loose because it is easier to let gravity take over, whereas if you are using a ball that is lighter you are more likely to use your muscles to try and throw it harder. A good thing to keep in mind when you are bowling is “less effort means more power.” It’s paradoxical but it works.
Once you have picked out your ball, the one that fits you relatively well and is a good weight, it is time to start bowling. A foundational bowling technique is to look at a spot on the lane (called your target) and to try and keep your eyes on that spot during your approach. You do this most effectively if your head stays straight during your approach. The simpler you make your armswing and footwork, the easier it will be to prevent unnecessary movement of your head. You’ll notice that there are seven arrows about 15 feet down the lane and it is a good idea to use one of these arrows as your target (this is because it is easier to hit something that is closer than it is to hit something that is farther away). When choosing what arrow you want to look at keep in mind the angle at which your ball is going to be travelling down the lane. You instinctively think that the center arrow is the best one to look at, but if you are not walking and aimed straight then your ball might hit the middle arrow but it will be travelling away from the middle pin. One other thing to keep in mind when lining up is that there is a distance between where your feet are and where your hand is. This is important because most people think that if you want to roll the ball on the center arrow you should stand on the center dot, but if you do this then your feet will be in line with the center arrow but your hand will be releasing the ball several boards to either the right or left of the center arrow (depending on whether you are right or left handed). Each person’s different, but usually there is a seven board difference between the inside of your slide foot and your hand. You can determine your difference by taking the foot opposite whatever handed you are (left foot if you are right handed and vice-versa) and then dropping your dominant hand straight down and then counting how many boards are between them. If you determine it is a seven board difference, for example, then you should stand on the 27 board if you want to release the ball on the 20 board.
And that is where I am going to stop for this article! I think that is enough for one person to work on for a while, and if you do these tips well you should start to see your scores rise consistently above 100. Remember, straight lines are a beginner’s best friend. You want to aim in a straight line, walk in a straight line, and you want your arm to be able to swing in a straight line. If you feel your arm going around your body or away from it, at least one thing is not straight.