Introduction: How to Bowl (Sport)

About: I am an Eagle Scout in New Mexico.
It really distressed me to find that there were no instructables on how to bowl, especially since I just joined my high school team, and needed to learn fast. And now, after months of practice, I have found many different ways to bowl, help help anyone get at least 80-100 in a game with little practice. It may seem like a long, it kind of is, instructable, but I just stretched out and separated the steps to better explain them. If you don't need the whole thing, just read the pages you do, they stand independent of each other.

I am not responsible if you die following these steps, you won't, but in case you hit yourself in the head with a bowling ball, don't come to me.

I would also so like to thank mafteechr for input from a profesional, you will see quotes from him at the bottom of most pages.

Step 1: The Lanes

I'm still waiting to gather more info on the construction of the lanes, but for now what you need to know is that they are made of small boards that you can use for feet placement, and are covered in oil to reduce friction. This oil ends 10ft from the pins which is what allows for hooks in curved throws.

mafteechr says:
Lanes are generally made of synthetic materials and some older bowling alleys have wood lanes. The lane is 60 feet long from foul line to head pin, generally with oil from 35 to 45 feet, leaving 15 to 25 feet of dry portion for the ball to pick up friction and hook. The lane is also 41.5 inches wide with half inch boards across and arrows every 5 boards.

Step 2: Your Balls

Do you have balls? If you're new to bowling, probably not, they can be expensive. You can get a used one for between $50 and $100, including drilling finger holes. It may sound expensive, but it will instantly increase your score by about 20 points. But before you go throwing money around, now what you want. Play a bunch of games with house balls. Find your weight.

If you have big fingers like me, you may only be able to use large house balls, 15-16lbs. The balls range between 6 and 16lbs usually, but you can custom order. The weight depends on the person, I've seen 7 foot guys with 8 pounders, and 5 foot guys with 15 pounders. I myself use a 15lb ball, great arm workout. I use that weight because I am used to it from house balls, and prefer it to lighter balls.

When you buy a ball, you can get any weight you want, and tell them what kind of gripe you want. Different grips make for different throws. They match the holes to your fingers, so it's much easier to grip.

mafteechr says:
More on bowling balls:
The coverstock (surface) is generally made of different materials such as polyester/plastic (such as house balls, these do not hook generally), urethane (small amount of hook), reactive resin (varying amounts of hook), and particle (most amount of hook). The difference is the ability for the coverstock to absorb oil, therefore allowing it to generate more friction through the oil.
Inside of the ball is the core and physics control this. Properties of a bowling ball and it's core are generally measured by the radius of gyration.

Aren't you glad I split up these steps?

Note: Don't leave your ball just anywhere. If you leave it in your car at night or outside, than it can crack. Imagine what that would do to your score.

duke harding says:
One of the best websites fro gaining bowling knowledge is:

I can be found on the site most days.

Bowling is a great sport. One that you can enjoy into your 80s or 90s, believe it or not.

Step 3: Your Shoes

Most people use house shoes, me for instance, but you can buy them for several reasons. No foot fungus, not that you will get fungus from shoes, they spray them, most of the time.

Also, they are better quality, no more slipping on old shoe soles that have been used one decade to many.

Third, they will fit you better, you can get them just like normal shoes, best fit for you, more consistency.

Consistency is your best friend in bowling. Say it with me, con-sist-ency. SAY IT!

mafteechr says:
Top of the line bowling shoes ($90-$120) also allow you to use different soles and heels to vary the amount of your slide.

Step 4: Your Stance (Straight)

Placement of the feet is key. Placement depends on you and your preferences, height, throw, and stride, but it should usually be somewhere in the middle unless you're picking up a spare.

Step 5: Your Stance (Curve)

Placement of the feet is once again key, but this is more up to you and your style of throw. Assuming you're left handed, you can start in the middle for a light hook, right side aiming straight for a stronger hook, or left side aiming right for a really strong hook. But you always want to aim for the middle pin. The key with a curve is to hit the 1 pin and power through to the 7 pin. meanwhile, you knock the other middle pins into the left pins for a strike. You can use the arrows for a guide. The best players I've seen are left side throwers, but curves require precise strength, release, and timing, not for the faint of heart or weak of arm. Consistency!
My main problem with curves is that it can be hard to pick up some spares, so you must be well rounded if you're going to use them.

Easiest curve for beginners that I've seen was developed by a teammate of mine. You hold it like a straight throw, minus the thumb, and rotate the ball 90 degrees toward you. Then just flip your hand upside down while throwing it like a straight throw.

mafteechr says:
The sweet spot is the "pocket", which for right-handers is the 1-3 (1-2 for lefties). A solid strike would follow through the middle and exit around the 8 pin.
If you begin to throw a curve, it's best not to forget your roots and use a polyester/plastic ball and throw straight at your spares.

Step 6: Your Throw (Straight)

Don't feel weak or inferior just because you throw it straight, there is nothing wrong with that. I usually throw it straight because for me it's more consistent. You can still get strikes if you know some tricks.
Best to use the grip below. I won't tell you the whole process of throwing it, because it won't work the same for you, but the basics are:
1. Start with the ball in front of you.
2. Take a step, and bring the ball down.
3. Bring the ball back.
4. Bring it forward.
5. Throw the ball, you can either use the momentum from your movement to add more force to the ball or not. This is good because more force=more pins, but makes you less accurate and consistent, CONSISTENT.

mafteechr says:
The best and most consistent swing is the pendulum swing. Allow gravity to swing your arm down and around.

Also, an easy way to remember following through is to pretend you're slicking back your hair after releasing. Cheesy, but effective.

Note. Remember to follow through. When you've thrown, your arm should be parallel to your head, and you're elbow pointed downlane at eye level.

But remember, you can do it any way you want, this is what works for me.

Step 7: Your Throw (Curve)

I am still working on some other ways to do this, if you have any you'd be willing to submit than please post or PM me with detailed instructions of the throw.

The two easiest ways I know are as follows.
1. Hold your ball like normal, except keep your thumb out of the hole. Than if you're right handed, turn the ball 90 degrees to the left, opposite for lefties. Than play around with this a little to see how you throw it best, but to curve it, simply turn your hand backside up and let go, while throwing it forward. This hooks for the most part, but hooks at different places based on how you stand.

2. Hold your ball like normal with the thumb. Stay completely up right while throwing, and make sure your shoulders are even. Throw out like normal, but turn your hand backside up as you let go. To do this, you'll need to be on the right hand side of the lane, opposite for lefties once again. This ball hooks hard after going straight, so timing is key.

When throwing a curve, be sure to wipe you ball every couple of frames, the oil from the lanes accumulates on your ball, and can reduce the hook and screw up your shot.

pictures coming soon.

mafteechr says:
To properly throw a hook while using your thumb, you must have a custom drilled bowling ball with fingertip grips. The key is your thumb is released first on the downswing and the lift from the fingertips and the rotation of your hand will generate the hook you're looking for.

Through the armswing, try to keep your hand behind the ball at all time. At the downswing, just before releasing, you'll want to rotate your hand 90 degrees, with the finishing position of your hand like you are shaking someone's hand.

Step 8: Your Aim (Straight)

This is pretty straight forward, to throw it straight, aim straight. See the little arrows on the lane, you know what I mean, those can be very helpful. You should aim for those when you let go. You can lob it down the lane, or let it down gently on the ground, whatever works for you. some people are more accurate doing it one way over another. I let it down gently for more power, but lob it for accuracy. You could even stay towards one side of the lane, and throw it into the 1 pin, whatever works. But to pick up corner spares, the 7 or 10 pin, go towards the opposite side and throw it inward, trust me. Any other way has a higher chance of a gutter ball.

Step 9: Your Aim (Curve)

This is, again, all dependent on your type of throw. You may need to be out to the right and it curve when it leaves the oil, or you may need to move out left, and throw towards the right so it can hook back. It is all dependent on what you do. If you use the curve I showed earlier, than you will probably want to move left and throw inward, but it's all up to you and how you throw it.

mafteechr says:
This is the most difficult concept of bowling to master. Each bowling alley will have different patterns of oil, so you have to adjust to different bowling alleys.

Additionally, as you bowl more during one session, your bowling ball will either push the oil farther down the lane (by picking up oil on the surface and then leaving it behind on the former dry portion) or simply absorb some oil off the lane. This will affect when and how much the ball will hook.

If this isn't difficult enough for you, some bowling alleys offer PBA Experience leagues, giving you the opportunity to bowl on the very difficult oil patterns the pros bowl on.

Step 10: You Missed!!! It's Okay.

You will miss the strike, or the pins, most of the time, no matter how you throw it. Now it's spare time. Getting spares is the most important skill you have, it can mean a difference of dozens of points.

The trick is to see the pins, most alleys will show you the setup of the leftover pins, albeit briefly. This is how you plan your throw. This can be harder than getting a strike. A common joke of mine when I miss a pin is to say, "That's way too hard, I think I'll just get a strikes from now on." Okay, I'll never win any joke contests, but it is true, spares can be hard to pick up.

You need to look at the pins, plan your throw, and then do it,the last step is the hardest part. Sometimes it will require a perfect hit to knock the pins just right. You need to know your ball, how it will react to the pins it hits, and where it needs to hit to get a spare. It's like playing chess, it's all about making the right moves.

Step 11: Scoring

A high score lets you score, another bad joke, I know, I know, I can't help myself. By the way, that's only if your lover thinks bowling is sexy, good luck with that.

If you get spare, you get 10+ your next throw. For instance, 7/ 8 on the screen means you get 26 points. 10+8+8. Aren't you glad you paid attention in math class, and if you didn't, the computer will do it for you.

Strikes add 10+ your next two throws. For instance, x 9/ on the screen means you get 30 points. 10+10+10. Three strikes in a row is called a turkey, it's the best you can do. The first strike is worth 30 points, 10+10+10. Now you really needed to pay attention in math class, too bad for you.

The famous 10th frame will give you three throws if you get a spare or strike. The extra throw is so it can determine how much that spare or strike is worth. 10x30=300, a perfect game.

P.S. Don't cross the foul line, the point where the lane gets slippery. If you do, it doesn't count the pins you hit, and you lose that throw.

Step 12: Win, Graciously (sorry If This Rambles)

Whether you win or lose, be nice about it. You wouldn't believe some of the jerks I've seen in my high school league. One guy got pissed, and I mean pissed, on the ground pulling his hair out pissed, because he missed a spare, but they still won, and he was the last, so who cares? One guy was on the lane next to me in a tournament, I was having a bad game, many 0's, and while walking by he said "Hey, try hitting some pins this time". But instead of beating his balls with my ball, I stayed calm, got three strikes on my tenth frame, and (subtly) flipped him of while walking by laughing.
Now that my rant is over, all I'm saying is, by nice. I've met guys who sat on the bench during the whole state tournament(5 hours) because their coach didn't play them, they took it in stride and even congratulated us when our team knocked them out of the tournament. Be the best and nicest bowler you can be, but WIN!