• Dr. Herpy

The Key to a Good Shot

If you’ve ever been to one of our bowling team’s matches before, you’ve probably seen us bowl our fair share of strikes and spares…well, mostly spares, but there are still a lot of strikes whenever we bowl at our best.  After 4 years of bowling with the boys™ and learning the ins and outs of bowling, the bowling ball is now an extension of my will, and I’m pretty much really, REALLY good at landing my shots when they count.

…At least, I land them when I’m consistent enough and it’s a really good day for bowling, but I digress.

So, what makes a good bowling shot?  I mean, you’ve seen it countless times on ESPN or our bowling matches if you watch that kind of stuff.  The ball goes out swiftly, and when you least expect it, it hooks, landing in the pocket of the 1st and 3rd pins and knocking them all down with a thunderous roar.  You can’t help but wonder: What are the mechanics behind it?  How does it work?

Can anyone do it?

Well, yes, of course you can.  It’s not rocket science, but it requires a lot of time and practice, though.  Luckily, I have some tips that could help you with your bowling game!  It also requires some knowledge about oil patterns, the lanes themselves, and the fundamentals of bowling.  You probably won’t become Jason Belmonte or Peter Weber overnight with some of this knowledge (Plus, I’m still learning myself), but you’ll probably know enough to beat all of your friends in bowling.  Without further ado, let’s get started!

Tip #1: Keep your arm straight!

This is an absolute must when it comes to bowling a good shot.  Whichever way you’re aiming, keeping your arm straight will almost always guarantee that your bowling ball will land wherever you’re looking at for a target since your arm controls where the ball goes.  If your arm goes straight, then chances are your bowling ball will go straight.  If your arm goes over to the left or the right when you throw the ball down the lane, it won’t end well because your ball will go wherever your arm went.  Always remember: You control the ball, don’t let the ball control you.

Tip #2: Aim for the arrows!

Aiming is essential for bowling.  On the bowling lanes, there are arrows on sections of the boards that’ll tell you which board you’re looking at.  For example, the first arrow left of the right end of the lane is the 5th board, the second arrow is the 10th board, the third board is the 15th board, and so on.  You have to aim for those arrows if you want your ball to hook properly.  I’ll link a video to this for you to better understand the concept.

Tip #3: Follow through!

Following through your shot will make sure that your ball has plenty of momentum to go down the lane, and it will go where it needs to go, which is the target that you’re aiming for–the pocket in between the 1st and 3rd pin.  If you drop your ball too early or too late, your ball will miss the target due to the oil on the lanes messing around with the ball, and it will not go where it needs to go.  Simply put, your ball motion is like a pendulum.  You have to let the ball fall down a little bit before you lift up your hand and let it go.  Don’t loft the ball, either!  Too high and it’ll hook too early.  Too low and it’ll mess up your shot.

Tip #4: Slow and steady posture!

Step size and speed are crucial for bowling.  You can’t just run up to the foul line and throw your ball down the lane, because that doesn’t end well for anyone unless you know what you’re doing.  What you have to do is slow yourself down, and keep your paces equal in size.  Typically, you start out with your right (or left foot) on a dot, and your first step should be that foot going forward.  Don’t jerk or lift yourself up when you throw your shot, either.  Keep yourself down and in the same pose that you threw your ball in to let it fully follow through.

Tip #5: Wrist and hand control!

Your wrist dictates how much your bowling ball will hook.  If you jerk your wrist too much, your ball will hook too much.  Therefore, it’s always advised to invest in a high-quality wrist brace, as it will keep your wrist from moving and you can bowl without moving too much.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to keep your hand under the ball at all times to get it to move and hook properly.  No self-respecting bowler should bowl with their hand over the ball, as it will impact your performance severely and not in a good way.

Tip #6: Oil and hook!

On every bowling lane, there’s a pattern of oil that dictates how your ball will move.  There are different kinds of oil patterns that respond differently to every bowling ball, which means that your ball will hook either really hard or not so much at all.  You’ll have to move around the lanes a little bit to find that sweet spot where your ball will hook right into the pocket without any problems.  Not too much oil, but not too little.  Typically with my shot, I like to move myself to the middle-right section of the lane (Or the second dot to the right, which is 10 boards left of the right end of the lane) so my ball will hook right into that pocket.  There are better visual representations of this, so I’ll link an oil pattern website so you can get a look for yourself.

Tip #7: Gear up!

If you’re serious about bowling, then you’ll invest a lot of time and energy into the sport.  You must also invest in some good bowling gear if you want to really improve your game.  If you go to a pro shop in any bowling alley (Like, say, Roseland Lanes), They can supply you with practically everything bowling-related: Bowling balls with varying degrees of hook, bowling shoes, ball bags, ball cleaning supplies, wrist braces, oil rags, you name it.  They might be expensive, but they are very, VERY worth it in the long run.

Tip #8: Have fun!

The most important part about bowling is that you can’t let your emotions get the better of you.  You bowl a bad shot on a frame and miss your strike or spare shot.  So what?  Just shake it off, relax, and focus on the next frame.  If you focus on the bad shot too much or if you get upset, it will impact your performance.  Soon enough, your bowling skills will come to you like instinct, and you’ll have more fun with bowling as a result of it.

That’s pretty much most of the tips that I can give to you from memory.  I might update this some more in case if I missed anything or if I didn’t explain everything on this guide properly.  I’ll also provide some handy videos about bowling ball motion and a neat page on oil patterns that you can look at.  There’s also a PBA tournament video for you to watch to better understand the concepts and tips that I listed.


Understanding Bowling Motion | Bowling by the Dots | Kegel Oil Pattern Library | 2015 USBC Masters Finals