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What Is a Split Ball in Bowling and What’s the Hardest Split

A ten pin bowling lane where the head pin was knocked down and if the spare is cleared, that is referred to as a killer shot.

Understanding bowling lingo is a real challenge, but it’s essential if you want to know what’s going on as you watch bowling games, talk about the sport, or play it yourself.

One of the most commonly used terms you need to know is “split ball.” If you’ve never heard of this term or are having trouble understanding it, we can help. In this article, we’ll tell you what a split ball is, what causes split balls, and much more.

Let’s get right into it!

What Is a Split Ball in Bowling?

A split ball (or “split”) is a situation where you throw the first ball in a frame and two non-adjacent groups of one or more pins left standing on opposite sides.

This makes for an extremely difficult spare (when you try to knock down the two or more pins on opposite sides with your second ball).

There are several types of splits that you should know about, including the baby split, the Greek church, and the 7-10 split.

A bowling lane where the neon green ball hit all the pins and left the 2,4, and 10 pin on the back row (the corner pin).

What Causes Split Balls in Bowling?

Wondering why split balls occur? A lot of times, they happen because you hit the headpin straight on with a lot of force. When that happens, there’s not enough of a domino effect to knock down the pins on the sides.

Another thing that can cause split balls is a lack of experience. When you know how to throw your ball correctly, with the proper form, you are much less likely to end up with a split.

It’s for this reason that experienced bowlers don’t often throw split balls. They know how to stand, approach the lane, and follow through on their swing.

Shot that includes four bowling lanes in one picture, on lane 11, if the bowling is aimed at only one pin, they can clear the other pin as well.

What Is the Most Common Split in Bowling?

The most common split in bowling depends on which hand you throw your ball with. For right-handed bowlers, the most common split is the 3-10 split.

For left-handed bowlers, the 2-7 split occurs most frequently. These splits are nothing compared to some splits you could be faced with. 

What Is the Most Brutal Split in Bowling?

The hardest split in bowling is generally known to be the Greek Church. It’s where pins 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are left standing after your first throw. Even professional bowlers have trouble picking up this split!

4-6-7-9-10 (Greek Church) Split Conversion

Right after the Greek Church is the 7-10 split, which leaves many bowlers momentarily paralyzed as they try to figure out how to pick up the spare.

How to Avoid Split Balls in Bowling

If you’re consistently getting split balls when you bowl, there are a few things you can do to try to avoid them.

Check Your Form

If you want to avoid split balls, you need to use the proper form. But what exactly is proper bowling form?

To start, you should always stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and perpendicular to the foul line. Then, as you approach the lane, take a four-step run-up. As you release the ball, your arm should be fully extended.

Your thumb should also exit the ball right before your other fingers do. Finally, follow through on your swing. If you can master these steps, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding split balls.

Choose a Ball That Suits You

Investing in a high-quality bowling ball can also help you avoid splits. The plastic balls at the bowling alley are more likely to result in split balls than those that have hooking potential.

It’s also crucial to bowl with a ball that’s the right size and weight for you.

Take Your Time

Rushing into your throw is the worst thing you can do as a beginner. Take your time to line up your shot and follow through. The more you rush, the lower your chances of downing all the pins. 

Three bowling lanes appear in the image, and a single pin remains after the left handed bowler failed to clear the split.

How to Pick up a Split

Avoiding a split is ideal, but what do you do if you find yourself staring one down? Picking up a split can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

With the information (below), and a whole lot of practice, you’ll increase your chances of conquering those splits.

Regardless of what you’re dealing with, look at which pins are still standing and figure out the best way to target them based on the pin width and appropriate angle.

Think to yourself, how can I knock all of these pins down in one shot? The answer will be different for each type of split. Here are some targeted tips: 

  • The 7-10 Split. For the 7-10 split, you’ll need to knock one pin into the other on the opposite side of the lane. To do this, you’ll need to hit the inside of one of the two pins with a ton of force so that it will hopefully ricochet into the other one and knock it down. Another tactic is to try hitting one of the pins on the outside so it’ll shift to the other side and push the other over.
  • The Greek Church Split. For the Greek church split, where pins 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are still standing, your tactic will be a bit different. Aim to knock down pin number 6. With some luck, it’ll knock down 9 and 10. Then one of those pins will ricochet and hit 4 and 7.
  • The Big Four. For the big four, where pins 4, 6, 7, and 10 are still standing, try to get pins 4 and 7 to hit 6 and 10 or vice versa.

With a split, it’s all about using physics to your advantage. If you can figure out how to make one pin hit another, you’ll be well on your way to picking up the spare.

Bowling Split Conversions

Splits Are Notoriously Difficult to Pick Up

Split balls are notoriously difficult to pick up. Even the most experienced bowlers have trouble with them. In fact, PBA competitors who tried to pick up the Greek church or 7-10 split were only able to do so less than 1% of the time.

So, if you find yourself dealing with one of these splits, don’t be too hard on yourself. More than likely, you’ll have remaining pins. Use the tips in the previous section and give it your best shot.

The truth about splits in bowling is a lot of it comes down to luck. So, the best course of action is to use the proper form, pick the right ball, and utilize the right accessories to increase your chances of avoiding them altogether.

View of bowling pins standing in the third row of the bowling alley because the right handed bowler left pins standing when they attempted to clear the split conversions.

The Hardest Split of Them All

For some time, the 7-10 split was considered the most challenging split to pick up. But that’s not the case. The Greek Church is much more complex. In fact, it’s so tricky that bowlers only pick it up 0.2 percent of the time.

Go for a Strike Every Roll

The best way to avoid split balls is to go for a strike every time. With enough practice, you’ll be able to hit the pocket more consistently and increase your chances of getting strikes.

For beginners who haven’t yet mastered the art of ball control, here are some tips that can help you:

Choose the Right Ball

Picking the right ball is essential for increasing your chances of getting a strike. You’ll want to choose a ball with a smooth surface and avoid those that have hooking potential.

It’s also important to bowl with a ball that’s the right size and weight for you. If you’re not sure what size or weight is right for you, ask a salesperson at your local bowling alley or pro shop. They’ll be able to help you find the perfect fit.

Use Bowling Aids

Bowling aids can be extremely helpful, especially for beginners. They can help you keep your hand position consistent and improve your accuracy. A few common aids include:

  • Tape
  • Gloves
  • Wrist supports

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to get better at bowling is to practice as much as possible. The more you bowl, the more comfortable you’ll become with the game and the better your chances of hitting the pocket and avoiding split balls.

Related Articles

No matter how you look at it, split balls are a headache to pick up. But with enough practice and tweaks to your technique (which we’ve covered in this article), you can increase your chances of avoiding them altogether.

We hope that this article has helped you better understand split balls. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to hone your bowling skills.