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Bowling Strategies: Tips and Techniques for Better Bowling

The bowler in the orange shirt is stepping with her left foot.

When you go to the bowling alley, you’ll quickly notice that people are feverishly concentrating on every aspect of approaching, swinging, and delivering their shots. Some even appear to perform an unusual dance as they walk up to the foul line.

All of this focus begs the question: is there a “right” way to bowl? Not really. But there are some strategies that can help you improve your skills. And that’s what we’ll focus on in this article.

Bowling Strategies for Beginners

Bowling can be super intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. You might see some pretty talented bowlers before you begin your own game and wonder how they got to develop their skills.

Chances are, they practiced and fine-tuned their strategies over time. Here are some steps to follow to perfect your own strategy when bowling as a beginner:

Get Your Approach Right

Some bowling pros believe that a bowler’s approach and swing matter more than any other aspect of the game. If you’re unfamiliar with the bowling approach, this is where you decide where to position yourself and how you’ll get to the foul line to deliver the bowling ball. Your goal is to see which position and spot you need to be able to throw the perfect ball. 

Ideally, your approach will include four steps. Your first step is where you move the ball out in front of you. The second step is where you swing the ball down toward the ground. The third step is where you swing the ball back and behind you. Then the fourth and final step is where you swing forward and release.  

The bowler in teh burgundy shirt has bowled an entire game by himself.

Hold Your Ball Properly

The way you hold your ball matters when you play. Even if your approach and swing are perfect, you can bowl a bad game if you don’t hold your ball correctly. There are many ways to hold bowling balls, and only you can determine which method works best for you.

Release Your Thumbs First

Have you ever wondered why most pro bowlers hook the ball? It’s the ideal shot to get into the pocket and get some strikes. To get your ball to hook, you need to perfect your release.

As you grow as a bowler, practice pulling your thumb out of the ball just a moment before the fingers. Doing so will get your ball to spin. This takes effort, but when you see that gorgeous hook for the first time, it’ll all be worth it. 

If you’re unsure about what to look for or how to release your ball correctly, take time to watch a pro or experienced player at your local alley. You can also find many videos online to help you understand what to look for as you release and how it behaves as the ball passes through the oil. 

Proper Bowling Arm Swing | USBC Bowling Academy

Good Aim Is Essential

Once you get your approach, swing, and release down, you’ll want to be able to aim your ball. The next time you’re at the bowling alley, take a look at the markers and reference points on the lane. Many experienced bowlers focus on the arrow on the lane instead of the pins.

You’ll want to aim at the arrows that will ultimately get your ball to hit its target pins. This is where your hook will come into play. If you have a natural hook or like to spin your ball a certain way, you’ll aim for the arrow where your ball will start to hook toward your target pin (that’s your breakpoint).

When you begin to implement these beginner strategies while you play, it can be astounding how much you’ll notice with each step. So, keep working on them to climb the scoreboard faster. 

The bowler in the blue shirt had one pin remaining.

Bowling Aim Strategies

We mentioned aim briefly above, but there are some more targeted strategies you can use to gain greater control over the trajectory of your ball, and, consequently, your score. Keep reading for some aiming strategies for beginners. 

  • Aim for a specific pin: This is a simple and easy way to aim, especially if you’re newer to bowling. Simply aim for your chosen pin or a space between multiple pins to knock them down. This strategy works especially well for spare shots. 
  • Use the arrows as a guide: All bowling lanes have clearly marked arrows extending across the lane horizontally. These arrows can be helpful since they are closer to you than the pins themselves (just 15 feet from the foul line). The arrows are also a great place to target if you throw hooks. 
  • Connect the Dot: You can also use the indicator dots on the lane as a target for the perfect shot. They are just 7.5 feet from the foul line – so they’re your closest possible target. Use them if the arrows are too far to be helpful for your shots. 
  • Target a spot on the lane: Another strategy that gives you a broader target to aim at during your turn is a prominent spot on the lane. Many bowlers select a set of three or so wooden planks as a target.

We encourage you to test out some of these aiming strategies to see what works best for you.

The bowler in the peach shirt had all ten pins left after her first roll.

Bowling Strategies for Getting Strikes

Strikes are the ultimate goal for each frame. Getting a strike time and again takes a lot of work and practice. But if you implement the below strategies, you can get more strikes than you’ve ever gotten before. 

  • Master Your Hook: Even if you’re just starting out, you’ve probably heard players referring to the hook of their throw. “Hook” refers to when your ball curves or turns during its trip down the lane. When you hook a ball, the ball begins to turn inward and hit the pins at an angle – and when it’s done right, you can set off a domino effect that knocks down the pins with enhanced consistency. 
  • Keep it Straight: While hooks are pretty standard when trying to get strikes, the value of a straight shot shouldn’t be underestimated. Beginners lean on straight shots, aiming for the center arrow, at least in the beginning. 

Hitting the headpin (the one closest to you) might seem like the best choice when bowling a straight ball, but it could leave you with the dreaded 7/10 split. Instead, go for the space between pins 1 (head pin) and 2 or pins 1 (head pin) and 3 to increase your chances of knocking all the pins down. 

  • Extend Your Arm: Your swing has more to do with how your ball behaves and responds, on the bowling lane, than you think. Keep your arm straight on the backswing and as close to your side as possible. Follow through by allowing your bowling arm to reach shoulder level when you swing. A straight arm gives you more control and power. Following this tip could result in more strikes. 
  • Get the Right Ball: The right ball makes a world of difference getting a higher bowling score. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and the wrong size can make every single bowling game a less-than-stellar one. Get the right ball, get to know it, and practice all the strategies here. When you have the right equipment, your performance will be noticeably better. Start with a polyester ball that’s about 10% of your body weight (up to 16 lbs). 
The bowler in the burgundy shirt practiced rolling toward the same arrow each time.

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Seeking out different strategies can improve your bowling skills but don’t expect change overnight. It will still take time to build your skillset, so be patient with yourself as you learn the bowling basics and keep at it. We hope that this article has given you the information you were looking for, and we wish you the best as you become a better bowler!