Advanced Skill Development

We believe that serious bowlers and bowlers who just want to have fun should have a solid understanding of the basic fundamentals of bowling. We have identified three levels of bowling ability: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Instruction at each level is divided into five categories: Alignment, body mechanics, strikes, spares and the mental game. It is important that you master the beginner lessons before attempting to move on to more difficult concepts.

Lesson 1 - Alignment

Angular and Parallel Adjustments

The oil on the lanes is dynamic and always changing. Learn some proven methods of making angular and parallel adjustments with your feet and your target.

Once you are lined up to throw strikes, the first problem you will usually run into with the oil is carry down. When bowling balls roll through the front of the lane they will gather oil and "carry" it or push it down the lane into the dry area. When this happens it has the effect of making your ball skid a little longer. This can cause your ball to hit the pocket lighter and perhaps delay your balls' reaction.

When this happens, all you need to do is make a small "angular" adjustment by moving your feet one or two boards right for the right handed bowler. If you find your ball hooking too much on the back end you may make an angular adjustment the other way. Any time you maintain your target on the lane and change your foot placement, you are making an angular adjustment.

After much play on the lanes, oil will begin to dry up in the "heads" or the front part of the lane. When this happens, a two or three board adjustment inside with both your feet and your target line is in order. This is called a parallel adjustment because you are moving your target line over a few inches parallel to your old target line.

Oil breakdown in the heads is very problematic because your ball will hook early causing a much greater measure of error at the pin deck. As soon as you see your ball hook early, MOVE! If the lanes are drying out badly a combination of angular and parallel adjustments may be in order. Moving your feet four boards and your target two boards is an example of this type of combined move.

Lesson 2 - Body Mechanics

The Release

Understanding how you release the ball is important. Being able to alter your release to adjust to different situations will help you control your ball reaction to carry more strikes.

A great way to teach a beginner how to hook the ball is to use a football as a teaching aid. Holding the point of the football on the heel of the hand and pointing your index finger and the other point of the football at your target line, all you have to do is "bowl" the football releasing it so that it spirals. Playing catch this way with a coach or a partner will help to feel the proper way to release an actual bowling ball. An advanced technique is to practice different hand positions and watch what happens to the revolution rate of the football.

If you place your palm under the ball (cupping) you will be able to achieve a high rev rate. Place your palm to the side like the shake hands grip and you will get a reduced rev rate on the football. Hold the football like the suitcase grip and your rev rate will be very low. It is an advanced skill to be able to consistently adjust your rev rate to match oil conditions or just to throw the ball straighter at spares.

TAlong with balance and armswing, the release is a critical component to consistency. Rev rate is simply how fast the ball spins. You can adjust this rate by using different hand positions as mentioned in the previous paragraph. The other two factors controlled by the release are axis rotation and axis tilt. Any inconsistencies in these two factors will change the hook potential of the ball and, therefore, strike potential.

Imagine the ball spinning down the lane and imagine there is a steel rod going through the ball so that the ball is rotating perfectly around the steel rod. This rod is the axis of rotation. If the rod is perfectly even with the lane, it is said to have zero tilt. With zero tilt and with the rod being in line with the foul line, the ball will roll in a straight line with little hook potential. The more the rod turns without tilting, the more hook potential you have. When the rod turns so it is now pointing along the target line, it has 90 degrees of axis rotation.

A ball rolling in this manner has the greatest potential for hooking but it affords the athlete the least amount of control on the back ends. Finding the middle ground at 45 degrees will give you adequate hook potential and give you the best chance to effectively play a variety of lane conditions.

How much the rotational axis of the ball tilts upward determines how much of the ball's surface will be in contact with the lane. Imagine the most extreme tilt where the steel rod is pointing straight up in the air. The ball will spin on one spot all the way down the lane and never get into a roll. A ball with zero tilt will have the most surface possible contacting the lane and will have the most potential for hook.

Understanding that your release determines revolutions and the angles of axis tilt and rotation is important to be consistent with your ball reaction. Knowing how to adjust your release to change these factors to match lane conditions is a necessity for the advanced bowler.

Lesson 3 - Throwing Strikes

The Language of Standing Pins

There are coaches who say that the ten pin is your friend. Why? Because it is not a split and it is telling you something about your strike ball being too weak or too strong. We discuss here why you leave certain pins and how to fix it.

When you throw a ball that hits the pocket and you leave pins standing, it means that your entry angle or the amount your ball is deflecting after hitting the pins is not right. Let's talk first about entry angle. If you throw a straight ball and it hits the pocket, the angle it hits the pins is measured very close to 0 degrees. If you hook the ball as much as possible, your angle of entry increases and may get to 8 degrees. Most bowlers throwing a strong hooking ball will reach 4 to 6 degrees of entry angle. Studies have shown that increasing your entry angle increases your ability to throw strikes.

The next concept involves deflection. When the ball hits a pin anyplace but head on, the ball will deflect. The perfect strike ball hits the head pin on the side and deflects into the side of the three pin (for right handers). It then deflects into the five pin and deflects again into the nine pin exiting the pin deck near the center of the lane. The perfect strike ball does not appear to deflect at all but it does. Watching your ball exit the pin deck is an important way to evaluate your striking potential.

If your ball deflects too much, it is considered a "weak" shot and you will leave soft tens, eight pins and possibly five pins. This shot will exit the pin deck on or right of the nine pin spot. A ball that doesn't deflect much and hooks hard through the pins may leave the "ringing" ten pin or the nine pin. This ball will exit the pin deck closer to the eight pin spot than the nine pin spot. When you observe single pins standing on apparently good shots, it's a signal to begin adjusting.

There are other factors that contribute to deflection. A lighter ball will deflect more. Bowling pins come in different weights and heavier pins will cause the ball to deflect more as well. Another reason a ball may deflect too much is because it is hitting the pins while it is skidding or it has "rolled" out. A hooking ball will first skid through the oil. When it encounters friction in the dryer areas, the ball will hook. Once the ball has completed it's hooking motion it will begin to roll end over end and maintain a straighter path.

If the ball is skidding as it hits the pins, it will have a reduced angle of entry increasing the chance for a weak hit. A ball that rolls out has a good angle but it has lost momentum. A mid-pocket hit with a ball that rolls out will often leave you with a weak ten pin.

Watch your ball roll down the lane and observe the skid, hook and roll of your ball. Watch how your ball hits the pins and where it leaves the pin deck. The lane conditions are always changing. An experienced bowler will make good adjustments even before he leaves pins standing.

Lesson 4 - Making Spares

Picking Up Corner Pins

Corner pin spares are only about 20% more difficult than other single pin spares. This section will go over some strategies to help you increase your odds at picking up these pesky spares.

n the intermediate section on making spares, the focus was on using the oil to gain an advantage in spare conversions. This concept applies to a blocked oil condition where there is less oil near the gutter and a gradual increase in oil volume as you near the center of the lane. The professional bowlers don't play this type of condition and you will see them almost always throw a straight ball when they attempt to pick up spares. This is because a straight ball eliminates the oil as a factor in how your ball moves on the lanes. To increase your chances at picking up corner pins, you should be able to straighten out your shot.

There are several ways to do this which include:

  • Equipment - Using a plastic or highly polished ball creates very little friction and results in a much straighter ball.
  • Wrist Position - Using a suitcase grip or a relaxed position with your wrist will reduce the amount of spin you impart on the ball causing it to go straighter.
  • Hand Position - Positioning your hand behind the ball keeping your palm pointed at your target will create an end over end roll which results in a straight shot.

Another aid to picking up the corner pins is to go cross lane. This helps to take the gutter out of play on this type of shot. A right hander would stand on the last dot (35 board) and roll the ball between the third and fourth arrow.

The most common mistake made in attempting to pick up the ten pin (rt. handers) is trying to throw the ball too hard to straighten out the shot. When a bowler does this, they will "muscle" the armswing throwing off their timing and balance leading to erratic performance. It's much better strategy to utilize one of the methods mentioned above and make your attempt with control and accuracy.

Lesson 5 - The Mental Game

How to Throw a 300 Game

What is "The Zone" and how do you throw a 300?

Bowling the perfect game is not as hard as it seems. If you have the physical game to throw a lot of strikes and you are able to get into a rhythm that allows you to repeat shots, your only obstacles are luck and your own mind. You can't control luck, but you can control your mind and how you perceive your surroundings. If you consistently put together a lot of strikes only to fail in the 9th or 10th frame, then you need to identify what it is that's stopping you from repeating your shot and devise a mental plan that gives you the best chance at success.

Let's first talk about repeating shots and something called the "Zone". The "Zone" is a mindset where you are focusing so well that throwing strikes is effortless. Nothing can distract you from visualizing your shot and executing it. The only problem with the Zone is that once you realize you are in it, you're not in it anymore. The best strategy when you find yourself in this state of mind is to focus on feelings and avoid thoughts. "Don't think it, Feel it!"

Here is a sample mental game plan to try if you find yourself always failing to strike out in the 10th frame:

  • 10th Ball - This shot should not be a problem as your routine and mindset should be just like the previous nine frames. One thought: "This is the easy one." or "Just like all the rest". And let it go.
  • 11th Ball - Many people feel this is the hardest ball to throw. It is different. Why? Because after all the other strikes, you got off the approach and sat down. After the 10th ball, you remain near the approach and you have to wait for your ball to come back. It's not much but it is different and your mind senses that. Adrenalin starts pumping, your muscles tighten a little and here comes the 4 pin or worse. This is a time where using reverse psychology may be helpful. Tell yourself that this is the hardest strike to throw. No one really expects you to get it. All you can do is throw a nice smooth shot, hit the pocket and hope for the best. This thought process convinces your mind that there is no threat. Your muscles become more relaxed and better able to execute a quality shot.
  • 12th Ball - If you believe the 11th ball is the toughest one to throw and you've been successful, now what? You still need to keep your mind clear and think something that will allow and encourage you to throw a good ball. Take the focus off of yourself and do it for someone else. Maybe a relative in the crowd. Your teammates perhaps. If there are a lot of people watching, assume they are rooting for you and do it for everybody. A single thought, "Let's give them what they want. It's Showtime!"

Everyone is different and this mental game plan will not work for everybody. If you fail because you are tense/nervous, then you need to identify what it is that you perceive as stressful and devise a mental game plan to overcome it. If you fail, you must try to understand what it was that caused it. Failing is ok if you learn from it. Whatever your mental game plan is for throwing a 300 game, it must convince your brain that the situation is not a threat. Avoid negative thoughts and give yourself the best chance for success.

116 Granite Street
Westerly, RI 02891


For forty-eight years this building has served as a community bowling and entertainment center for the town of Westerly, Southern Rhode Island, and Southeastern Connecticut. Built in 1960 by the General Cinemas Company, it was operated under the name of Holiday Lanes.


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