to Pinboy's Guide To Better Bowling. This page is intended to
be a guide for beginning and casual bowlers interested in improving
their game. To explain how to throw a perfect hook or pick up
difficult spares is beyond the scope of this site. However,
there are many common mistakes that once corrected will improve
your scores almost right away. You'll find articles on bowling
fundamentals, safety, courtesy, history, trivia as well as links
to some of the best bowling sites on the World Wide Web.
So Great About Bowling?
a lot of things-- almost anyone can do it, you can do it almost
anytime, bowling isn't weather dependent, it's cheaper than
most sports (yes it is a sport), it's a great way to make friends
and best of all, it's fun! If you're a bowler, you're in very
good company. Bowlers are among the most affluent and intelligent
people on the planet.
Did you know that:
are approximately 50 million bowlers in America.
are adult women, 32% are adult men, and the rest are young
million are real serious and compete in leagues.
average age is 28 years.
are business executives, managers or professionals.
went to college.
average household income is $38,400.
own their own home.
have an average IQ of 129.
Let's Get Right To It...
are a few basic things that will make bowling easier and more
enjoyable for you and your fellow bowlers. Believe it or not,
these things will make you a better bowler almost immediately!
Your Own Equipment:
you're serious about improving your game but don't have your
own ball and shoes, you're in for a long frustrating haul. Even
then, you probably won't ever achieve any level of consistency.
A ball that's custom fit to your hand will feel lighter and
be much easier to control. Many bowling centers have a pro shop
where you can buy excellent quality equipment. If your center
doesn't have one, they can tell you where to go. The minimum
you need is a ball, bag, towel and shoes. Of course there are
all kinds of gizmos and gadgets that are helpful, but those
things can come later. The folks in the shop will help you pick
out the equipment that's right for you. Check out the Bowlers
Dream Online Pro Shop for an idea of what's available.
Great deals and selection can be had by shopping online, but
nothing beats the personal attention and advice you'll get from
your local Pro Shop.
The Right Ball(s):
all bowling balls are created equal. Today's balls range from
mild firecrackers to highly explosive bombs. Most better bowlers
carry at least three different balls-- one with high hook potential,
one with medium hook potential, and one with little or no hook
potential. It's important to realize that even the most potentially
hooking ball WILL NOT automatically hook by itself. YOU make
it hook! That's why it's a good idea to develop a consistent
proper "release" before investing in a variety of bowling balls.
Generally, the lane condition will dictate what ball is required:
heavy oil calls for maximum hooking potential; medium oil calls
for medium hooking potential; and dry lanes require very little
hook potential. For example: if your bowling on really dry lanes
with a ball with high hook potential, the ball will most likely
"take off" in its hooking pattern shortly after hitting the
lane. Conversely, if you're bowling on heavy oil, a low hooking
ball will just keep sliding down the lane. Both resulting in
lower scores. If you want to carry only one ball, one with medium
hook potential might be the way to go. If you want to carry
two balls, get one at each end of the spectrum. The weight of
the ball also has a lot to do with it. Too heavy or too light
may be hard to control during the approach. Don't let your ego
prevent you from bowling your best by insisting on using the
heaviest ball (16lb). Some of the best men bowlers I know use
14 and 15lb equipment. My average went up ten pins when I switched
from 16 to 15lbs. I should have changed sooner... For help in
choosing your bowling balls, see your local Pro Shop operator.
To read what bowlers are saying about the latest equipment,
Proper Care of Your Equipment:
that you've spent a small fortune on your new bowling gear,
the last thing you want to do is ruin it. Avoid leaving your
ball in the car or garage for extended periods of time. Bowling
balls have been known to crack or even melt from exposure to
extreme conditions. A good rule of thumb is to not leave it
anywhere you wouldn't want to sleep. Also, keep your ball clean.
It will reward you with steady progress. What you use to clean
it with will depend on the kind of ball you have. Your pro shop
or bowling center will have what you need.
Don't wear your bowling shoes anywhere but inside the bowling
center. Be careful where you walk and avoid stepping in spilled
soda or popcorn crumbs. The idea is to keep all foreign substances
off the bottoms of your shoes, especially the pad on the sliding
shoe (left shoe for right handed bowlers, right shoe for left
handers). Should you happen to step in something, use your towel
or a small wire brush to remove it. Many bowlers use special
slip-on shoe covers during trips to the restroom and snack bar
for bowling is easy. The only specialized attire required are
shoes (most bowling centers won't let you bowl without them).
The two most common brands are Linds
You probably have everything else already hanging in the closet.
Comfortable fitting jeans, chinos, shorts and short sleeve cotton
shirts are best. Overly tight or baggy clothes can restrict
movement. Some tournaments and clubs actually have dress codes
prohibiting t-shirts, shorts or jeans. So if your goal is to
take your bowling to a higher level, it wouldn't hurt to get
used to wearing polo shirts and chinos while bowling. If you're
into the retro thing, check out the links at left for cool vintage
centers can be busy places at times. On any given day you might
have a child's birthday party on your right and a seasoned pro
practicing on your left. With all the activity, a little common
courtesy will make things more enjoyable for everyone. Here's
a list of pointers:
your stuff off the seats and out of the way: your fellow
players need a place to sit and don't want to trip over
your sneakers on the way to the approach.
quiet around the settee area: loud noises will distract
bring food or drinks on the approach: if something spills,
everything stops and out come the mops.
ready when it's your turn: you don't want to upset the flow
of the game.
go on the approach until it's your turn: avoid traffic jams.
to the bowler on your immediate left or right if they are
ready to bowl (one lane courtesy): don't even go near the
ball return if the person on either side of you is bowling
or getting ready to bowl. Stay behind the scoring console
until the coast is clear. Some leagues and tournaments requier
two lane courtesy!
stand next to the ball return while waiting for your second
ball: this could distract a bowler setting up next to you.
bowler shooting a spare has the right of way over a bowler
with a full rack: spare shooters need extra time to concentrate.
waste time on the approach: get up there and go! Keeps the
flow of the game going.
"loft" the ball: lofting is when you hurl the ball 20 feet
forward before it lands on the lane. This can dent the lane
and rattle teeth. You want to roll the ball, not
roll your second ball until the first has returned: the
ball return mechanism is expensive- you don't want to wreck
linger at the foul line after your delivery: maintain the
flow! Plus, there may be a bowler on the next lane politely
use another person's ball without their permission: this
is very irritating!
yourself and be a good sport: don't rant and rave or be
a crybaby if you're having a bad game. It will effect everyone's
enthusiasm when others do well: give a little and you'll
get a little. Have fun!
are a list of safety tips that will actually help develop
consistency in your game:
Always warm-up with a few body stretches before bowling.
It will help you relaxe and prevent pulled muscles.
for a simple warm-up routine...
sure your shoes are clean and dry before stepping onto the
approach: get into the habit of checking the bottoms
of your shoes for foreign substances before getting up to
take your turn. Especially the sliding shoe (opposite of
your bowling hand). It's amazing how even the smallest crumb
or spot of moisture can cause you to stick or slip at the
foul line. I once went flying head first down the lane because
I had a candy wrapper stuck to the bottom of my left shoe.
Use a towel to wipe off moisture or small particles, and
a wire brush for ground-in goop. If you find a sticky spot
on the floor somewhere, be sure to report it to someone
in the bowling center.
you're sticking at the line: there is something called
"Easy Slide." It's a little bag of powder that
is meant to be used on the bottom of the sliding shoe (also
on the thumb). Be very careful not to put too much on as
the excess will come off on the approach and may cause other
bowlers to slip. If you need Easy Slide, remember, "a
little dab will do ya." Be sure to completely rub it
in leaving no loose powder on the pad.
pick up the ball with just one hand: save your wrists
and back! This is a common mistake made by many bowlers.
Besides not injuring yourself, you want to look like you
know what you're doing, even if you don't. Here's how to
properly remove the ball from the return mechanism:
in front of the ball return, bend your knees and pick up
the ball with BOTH hands. Be careful not to slide your hands
between your ball and someone else's or you might smash
your fingers. Cradle the ball in your non-bowling arm and
walk to your starting position. After getting your feet
in place, insert your fingers (fingers first, thumb last).
consistent pre-shot routine is one of the most overlooked aspects
of bowling. The next time you're watching a basketball game
on TV, watch what the players do when getting ready for a free-throw.
Each player has his own pre-shot routine, and they do it exactly
the same way every time! A consistent pre-shot routine will
not only keep you relaxed and focused, it will help ensure safety
and proper performance of your equipment. No two routines will
be the same but any pre-shot routine might include the following
(not necessarily in this order):
it's your turn to bowl, BE THERE and BE READY!
You can't keep your mind on your game if you're running
around the bowling center between frames. Plus, some bowlers
get very irritated when people aren't ready.
sure your bowling hand is bone dry. This helps ensure
a clean release. Use a towel, rosin bag, or the air blower
on the ball return to remove moisture.
the bottom of your sliding shoe for moisture or foreign
objects. You want to knock the pins over with the BALL,
not your HEAD! I always give the bottom of my shoe a swipe
with a towel before every frame.
remove your ball from the ball return (see above).
your ball thoroughly with a towel to remove any dirt or
lane oil. This will help the ball grab the lane and
do its thing. As well as help to prevent carrydown (see
"the language of bowling" below).
a deep breath and exhale before beginning your approach.
always amazes me how little most bowlers practice. Even those
who consider themselves "serious." My belief is that
you should practice at least twice as much as you compete. Meaning
that if you bowl in a league one night a week, you should practice
six games that same week. Most bowling centers have special
discounts for league bowlers and bowling "happy hours"
when the price per game is $1.50 or less.
are two basic ways to practice: actual games with friends, and
focused solo sessions where you work on various aspects of your
game. Both are beneficial. Here are some practice tips:
bowling alone, don't keep score. The scoreboard can be the
most distracting thing. Don't worry, once the lanes are
"on" the automatic mechanism will keep track of
how many frames you've bowled. Just go out there and roll
frame after frame. This is the best way to improve spare
shooting because the pressure is off and you can experiment
with different angles.
on one thing at a time. For example, if you're having trouble
executing a consistent "follow through", just
work on that for a while and forget everything else. Then
move on to something different.
you get frustrated, STOP and come back later. Otherwise
you might develop bad habits.
friends with some of the better bowlers in your center and
get them to take you under their wing. These folks usually
keep regular practice schedules. See if they'll let you
join them. You'll be surprised at how bowling with "the
big boys" improves your game.
yourself. During league play, you could be bowling with
as many as nine other bowlers on the same pair of lanes.
Even though you're crisscrossing, you usually have to wait
a few minutes between frames. It's a good idea to maintain
a similar pace during practice.
in more than one house if possible. No two bowling centers
are the same! A friend of mine has a saying, "bowling
in only one house does not a good bowler make." Everyone
has their favorite house, and that's OK, but if you want
to really improve your game and maybe compete in tournaments,
it's a good idea to learn to adapt to different oil patterns
and lanes. Many cities have tournament clubs that rotate
from house to house every week. If you can afford it (usually
around $40 per entry), join up and compete at least once
a month just for the experience. Whether you join the tournament
club or just move from house to house for practice or league
play, you'll be surprised at how this will improve your
practicing one-on-one with a friend with the scoring mechanism
turned on, put something "on the line"-- a dollar
per game, or high series gets you lunch or something. This
helps sharpen your competitive edge and makes things more
interesting and fun.
and Tournament Play:
what is all this practice and preparation for? COMPETITION!
Yes, you can actually earn money bowling. Not to mention the
personal satisfaction you'll get from bowling well and taking
your team over the top in a tight game. As mentioned earlier,
hours of practice ARE necessary to succeed, but it all comes
together during competition. Here are some pointers that will
make league and tournament play more rewarding:
yourself time to do an equipment check prior to leaving
for the Bowling Center. Make sure everything is there and
in good condition. Do any maintenance BEFORE you leave as
you may not have the opportunity once you arrive at the
site. Plus, you don't want to get there and find out you've
left your lucky towel or wrist brace at home.
at the Bowling Center well in advance of start time. This
allows you time to relax and get comfortable with the staff
and the Center's vibe. Most importantly, it gives your fingers
and thumb time to shrink or swell to their natural size
based on the atmosphere of the Bowling Center.
to start time, make sure that EVERY BALL in your bag fits
your hand. Add or remove bowling tape as necessary. You
want to minimize the distraction of a poor fit if you have
to make a sudden ball change.
sharp and be friendly. Nobody likes a slob or a snob. Chat
with the center staff and other bowlers while you're getting
used to the environment. This will help you to relax and
who knows, you might even learn something or make a new
pre-game practice time arrives, be ready! These precious
few minutes can make or break your series. The two most
important things are to find the strike line and the 10
pin line (7 pin for left handers). Then, if you have time,
the solid Brooklyn shot. If you can find these three, you
should be able to adjust to whatever else happens.
during play, keep your head on straight and stay focused.
If things aren't going your way, don't loose it! An even
temperament will go a long way towards breaking out of a
slump. Try to find another bowler in the tournament with
a similar style as yours who is doing well. Watch what they're
doing and try it. You never know!
the Talk- the Language of Bowling:
in every sport, Bowling has a language of its own. The tough
part is that it's not the same in all localities! The following
is glossary of terms that should get you through any conversation
at your local center.
Movement imparted to the ball by the fingers at the point
man: The last bowler in a team.
Direction taken by the ball as it enters the 1-3 (1-2 for
A series of seven arrow markers 14 1/2 to 15 1/2
feet past the foul line that are placed every fifth board
across the lane to serve as aiming points.
strike: Pins left after the first shot containing
a pocket similar to the 1-3 pocket in a full rack.
The part of the lane between the second set of arrows and
the pin deck.
ball: A reverse hook.
track: The part of the ball that comes in contact
with the lane as it rolls down the alley. (See Spinner, Semiroller,
and Full roller.)
lane: A high-scoring condition when the boards
closest to the channels have very little lane conditioner
and there is a heavy oil buildup on the center boards which
helps to keep shots in the pocket.
The 39 strips of wood that extend from the start of the approach
to the pins. They are used as both a starting and an aiming
point by players.
of the boards: Point approximately 16 feet out
from the foul line just beyond the arrows.
A ball thrown into the 1-2 (1-3 for left-handers) pocket.
The movement of lane conditioner (caused by a succession of
shots) from beyond where the oil was applied toward the pins.
Carrydown decreases the ball's hooking on the backbend.
The gutter on each side of the lane.
Cherry: A pin left when a pin in front is knocked down, or chopped;
when this happens, you've "picked a cherry."
The third bowler in a team.
To hit a front pin and leave one or more behind it.
grip: Placing your fingers into the ball up to
the second joint. It promotes accuracy but retards lift and
striking power. Used primarily by beginning and less-advanced
Cranker: A bowler who relies more on a big hook and great carrying
power than on accuracy. When these folks are "on"
and the condition is right, they're unbeatable (almost).
speed: A ball that is rolled very slowly.
line: The aiming point for hitting the 1-2 (1-3
for left-handers) pocket.
inside line: A strike line that is popular among
hook players in which the bowler stands on a high-numbered
board and aims for a low-numbered board.
The movement of the ball from its path caused by the pins
that are hit.
When the ball loses action at the end of the roll.
A series of spots found on the foul line and seven feet past
the foul line. Also at the two most common starting points
on the approach. Used primarily as reference point for foot
placement. They can also be used for aiming points.
Dropping the ball at the foul line.
timing: Releasing the shot prior to the sliding
foot arriving at the foul line.
arrow: The third from the left (for a right-handed
player) or from the right (for left-handers) of the seven
arrows on the lane. Located on the 25th board.
The number of pins dropped after a spare.
grips: Inserts placed into finger holes of the
ball. Promotes a later release for added lift.
grip: A grip whereby the bowler inserts his fingers
only up to the first joint. Used to promote hook and striking
weight: Drilling the ball so that the finger holes
are closer to the ball's label than is the thumb hole. It
is a form of positive weight. Legal limit is one ounce.
arrow: The farthest to the right (for a right-handed
player) or from the left (for left-handers) of the seven arrows
on the lane. Located on the fifth board.
To turn the wrist away from the ball at the end of the release.
arrow: The arrow in the middle of the seven arrows
on the lane. Located on the 20th board.
line: The line at the end of the approach marking
the beginning of the lane; the sliding foot or any part of
the bowler's body touching the lane beyond the foul line results
in a loss of pins made on the roll.
One of ten divisions of a game; the corresponding box on a
Dropping the ball at the foul line; see also Dump.
roller: Method of
rolling a ball in which the track area cuts between the thumb
and finger holes. While it once was the shot most frequently
used, it is rare among better players today because it lacks
the carrying power of the more popular semiroller.
The front portion of the lane between the foul line and the
a corner pin: Leaving a corner pin standing (7
The 1 pin.
When the ball hits the 1 pin head on; also on the nose.
When you miss the pocket and hit the 1 pin head on; usually
results in a split.
area: The amount of margin for error provided by
an oil buildup in the center of the lane.
lane: A lane condition that resists the hooking
of the ball.
The break of the ball into the 1-3 (1-2) for left-handers)
lanes: A dry or lightly oiled lane condition which
causes maximum hook.
time: Simultaneous arrival at the foul line of
the sliding foot and release of the ball.
The ward walls on both sides of the pin deck used to promote
pin deflection so pins ricochet back into play; See also
shot: A shot in which the bowler intentionally
reduces the amount the ball will hook.
conditioner: See Oil.
timing: When you release the shot after the sliding
foot has come to a halt.
a foundation: Striking in the ninth frame.
man: First bowler in a team.
Pins standing after the first ball of a frame.
Power imparted to the ball's roll by the thumb exiting the
ball first, followed by fingers.
hit: When the ball barely touches the 1 pin.
Distance the ball carries after it is released before it hits
the lane. When properly executed the shot travels forward,
not upward or downward.
To loft one's shot.
oil: Condition in which oil is applied from the
foul line to 35 or more feet of the 60-foot lane. Used primarily
for PBA and other highly competitive tournaments to create
a challenging condition for the advanced-level player.
King: Machine which applies wax to the surface
of bowling balls to prolong ball life and decrease hook.
Hard wood used for that portion of the lane between the foul
line and the arrows.
Conditioner applied to lane's surface that extends life of
the alley while retarding ball hook.
frame: A pin or pins left standing after the second
ball in a frame.
alley: A lane that allows high scoring.
action: The motion of pins that in turn take out
deck: The part of
the lane housing the pins.
Softer wood used for that portion of the lane between the
arrows and the pin deck.
The area at the end of the lane beyond the pin deck.
The angle at which the finger holes are drilled.
the gutter: A strike shot angle in where the ball
is rolled just outside the channel before it begins hooking
into the pocket.
The space between the 1 and 3 pins (1 and 2 for left-handers).
Substance used for bowling balls that was very popular among
pros in the 1970s and remains commonly used by amateur players.
Its effect is a cross between those of urethane and rubber.
A polyester ball goes straighter and doesn't hit as well as
a urethane ball but hooks more and hits harder than a rubber
one. Preferred by advanced-level bowlers when the lanes are
player: See Cranker.
block: An extremely difficult lane condition where
the boards nearest the gutters are heavily oiled while the
lane's center is relatively dry.
pitch: See Back pitch.
The number of times the bowling ball rolls over its circumference
from when it is released until it reaches the pins. The greater
the number, the more striking power usually results. Higher-quality
amateur players and strokers usually achieve 10-20 revolutions.
The PBA Tour's ultra-power players are usually in the 15-20
range on their strike shots.
7-pin: Tap suffered by a left-handed player when
the 4 pin flies around the 7 pin.
10-pin: Tap suffered by a right-handed player when
the 6 pin flies around the 10 pin.
When the ball uses up most of its impetus early on so little
carrying power remains by the time it reaches the pins. The
shot will actually stop its hooking pattern as it approaches
A ball surface which remains the most common among house balls.
Rubber bowling balls were the balls of choice well into the
1970s until polyester balls were introduced. Rubber balls
go straightest and may be useful for covering non-double-wood
spares when decreasing hook is necessary on a very dry lane.
Very rarely used by advanced players.
lane: A lane on which the ball hooks easily.
Using an abrasive substance against the entire surface of
the ball. The effect is to get ball to hook more.
arrow: The second from the right (for a right-handed
player) or from the left (left-handers) of the seven arrows
on the lane. Located on the tenth board.
grip: A grip whereby the bowler inserts his fingers
into the ball halfway between the first and second joints.
Most popular shot among better players in which the ball's
track area can be found just outside of the thumb and finger
arrow: The farthest to the left (for a right-handed
player) or from the right (for left-handers) of the seven
arrows on the lane. Located on the 35th board.
Adding wax to ball's surface to make it smoother. Used to
prolong ball life or retard hook.
oil: Also known as limited distance dressing (or
LDD). A lane condition where oil is applied to the front 24
feet or so of the lane, leaving the remaining distance dry.
A cork substance used in the thumb hole to promote a better
grip. Commonly used by the player who wants to maintain a
similar feel when switching bowling balls.
The walls on either side of the pin deck off of which pins
can ricochet back into play; See also Kickbacks.
arrow: The second from the left (for a right-handed
player) or from the right (for left-handers) of the seven
arrows on the lane. Located on the 30th board.
A pin hidden behind another in a spare.
7-pin: A shot by a left-handed player where the
7 pin remains as the 4 pin falls weakly into the gutter. Caused
by the ball deflecting to the left after colliding with the
10-pin: A shot by a right-handed player where the
10 pin remains as the 6 pin falls weakly into the gutter.
Caused by the ball deflecting to the right after it collides
with the headpin.
A strong hit.
7-pin: See Ringing 7-pin.
10-pin: See Ringing 10-pin.
To knock down all the pins with the first and second ball
in a frame.
A method of delivering a shot so that only the small portion
of the ball (around the 7 o'clock position for right-handers
and 5 o'clock for lefties) is in contact with the lane. As
a rule this is not a very successful shot for maximizing carrying
power and thus is rarely employed by the better bowlers.
A leave of two or more pins (not the 1 pin) with open space
where pins have fallen.
lane: A lane that resists a hook.
player: A bowler who places a premium on accuracy
at the expense of power.
To knock down all the pins on the first ball of a frame.
Stroker: A player who relies more on accuracy than power. Usually noted
for having a "by the book" style that includes smooth movements,
remaining square to the target throughout the delivery, and
being on time at the foul line.
ball: A ball rolled with a good deal of action;
also Working ball.
grip: Holding the ball like the handle of a suitcase
to reduce the amount it will hook.
area: The amount of margin for error to the right
of a right-handed player's target (or to the left of a left-handed
player's target) that is provided by a lack of conditioner
on the lowest numbered boards.
A hit seems perfect but leaves one pin standing.
arrow: The third from the right (for a right-handed
player) or from the left (for left-handers) of the seven arrows
on the lane. Located on the 15th board.
roller: See Semiroller.
When the 6 pin bounces of the right kickback and takes out
the 10 pin.
lanes: A heavy or long oil pattern that retards
a shot's hook.
The relationship between the sliding foot and the hand that
releases the shot. See also Early timing and
grips: Inserts placed inside of thumb hole to help
a player get a better grip. Used primarily to maintain the
same feel when switching bowling balls.
See Ball track.
A style of bowling that combines some of the power of the
cranker with some of the style and accuracy of the stroker.
Surface substance introduced in bowling balls in early 1980s.
Considered state-of-the-art equipment at that time. Noted
for its superior gripping of the lane coupled with strong
lane: See Blocked lane.
shot: A strike that is aided by pins coming off
the left kickback to take out other pins.
block: An added section of weight on the inside
of the ball. Can be used to maximum advantage by skilled ball
driller when placed off center.
Spare leave involving the headpin in combination with the
10 pin (for right-handers) or the headpin in combination with
the 7 pin (for left-handers). Not considered a split.
it: To throw three strikes in the tenth frame;
also Strike out in the tenth.
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