How to Bowl?

How to bowl? The first thing the bowler needs to find is their starting position – most bowlers use a four-step approach, so start just over four steps away from the foul line. Begin by stepping onto the leg, which is the same side as your bowling arm, i.e., the right step for right-handed bowlers. On the first step, the ball should be pushed out in front of them at arm’s length. This will help to acquire momentum, which is needed, as opposed to strength.

Bowling a ball

:small_blue_diamond:Not sure how to choose the right house ball from the numerous racks at your local bowling center? Follow these tips, and you’ll find a suitable bowling ball in no time:

:small_blue_diamond:Stick to the 10-percent guideline. A bowling ball should weigh 10 percent of your body weight (up to 16 pounds), which means you really shouldn’t be grabbing, say, an 8-pound ball if you weigh 150 pounds. You want some weight to the ball, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s uncomfortable.

:small_blue_diamond:Make sure the finger holes fit just right. The finger holes shouldn’t be too small or too big. If they don’t fit just right, that can throw off your entire game.

:small_blue_diamond:Don’t stretch your hand. You should have enough room between your hand and the ball to fit a pencil beneath your palm. If it lightly touches both your palm and the ball, then you know that you’re not overstretching your hand or gripping the ball too tightly.

Pointers for buying your own bowling ball

:small_blue_diamond:After you know for sure that you want to pursue bowling as a hobby, it’s time to consider purchasing a ball of your very own. Because you have so many options when it comes to choosing a bowling ball, keep these pointers in mind:

:small_blue_diamond:Bowling balls with a plastic coverstock are perfect for beginners, straight bowlers, and tight budgets. They don’t catch much, or even at all, and the average cost is less than $100 — a great, affordable investment for your first bowling ball.

:small_blue_diamond:Bowling balls with urethane coverstock are perfect for catch shots. They don’t absorb oil, and they provide more friction than a plastic ball, hence the powerful catch.

:small_blue_diamond:Bowling balls with a reactive resin coverstock are considered an investment. They’re expensive, but they’re also perfect if you’re serious about throwing a mean catch shot because the resin digs into the oil on the lane, providing a greater opportunity for hitting the pocket.

Throwing the perfect shot at the bowling alley

:small_blue_diamond:Throwing the perfect shot can lead to a higher bowling score; throwing lots of excellent photos can lead to a perfect game — a score of 300.

To achieve a perfect catch shot:

  1. Straighten the wrist of your bowling hand.

  2. Your bowling hand, not surprisingly, is the one that’s holding the ball. Be careful not to bend or flex your wrist.

  3. Hold your hand straight while you swing the ball out and back.

  4. Begin to rotate the wrist, hand, and fingers on your bowling arm toward the opposite side of your body as the ball comes forward.

  5. If you’re left-handed, rotate your wrist toward the right. If you’re right-handed, rotate your wrist toward the left.

  6. Let go of the ball near your ankle and finish with your hand in the handshake position after you release the ball.

  7. You know your hand is in the handshake position when your thumb is pointing up, and your palm is facing the inside of the lane.

To throw the perfect straight shot

:small_blue_diamond:Keep your bowling hand directly underneath the ball and your wrist straight.

:small_blue_diamond:The main difference between a straight shot and a catch shot is that you keep your hand straight through the backswing and the ball’s release. Swing your bowling arm out and back.

:small_blue_diamond:As the ball comes forward, release it onto the lane when it reaches your ankle, keeping your hand straight and palm up the entire time.

A 10-point bowling checklist

:small_blue_diamond:You bowl your best when everything from your stance to your follow-through is spot on, so pay attention to these ten bowling basics every time you throw:


:small_blue_diamond:A great bowling ball is the start of a great game, so find one that’s the right weight and feels comfortable, whether it’s a house ball or your ball. Add in comfortable bowling shoes, and you’re ready to hit the lanes.

Starting spot:

:small_blue_diamond:You’re throwing the first ball of every frame (called your strike shot) from the same starting position. Consistency helps increase your chances of throwing strikes.


:small_blue_diamond:Each step of your foot should match up with a specific part of your arm swing and release. Get the timing right, and you’re off to a great start.

Hand and wrist position:

:small_blue_diamond:Keep your hand and wrist strong through your entire shot. If you throw a ■■■■, turn your hand and wrist as the ball comes forward from your back swing until you release the ball with your hand in the handshake position. If throwing a straight ball, keep your hand and wrist straight through your release.


:small_blue_diamond:Put all the components — timing, hand-and-wrist positioning, steps, speed, and power — together for a clean approach. If your practice is off, your throw may be as well.


:small_blue_diamond:Finish your shot by throwing the ball down the lane as it passes your ankles. Then bring your arm up to shoulder height to complete the image. Keep your hand either in the handshake position or palm up, depending on how you throw the ball.

Ball speed:

:small_blue_diamond:The ideal bowling ball speed is 16 miles per hour, but the right rate for you is whatever it takes to knock down all the pins.

Target on the lane:

:small_blue_diamond:Keep your eyes on the prize or the target in this case. The marks on the lane help guide your ball right into the pocket, so aim for them.


:small_blue_diamond:In bowling, the breakpoint is when the ball begins to turn inward toward the headpin (the very foremost pin in the middle). If your catch shot doesn’t “break” at the right spot to go into the pocket (the space between the headpin and the pin next to the head), a strike is out of the question.

Pin action:

:small_blue_diamond:Bowling is all about angles, strength, and speed. Find the right combination of all three, and you get perfect pin action and the strike you’ve worked so hard for. We’ve all gone bowling before and been terrible.

Some things to remember

:small_blue_diamond:No matter how good you are at other sports, bowling is just something that can make even the most athletic people look clumsy and goofy if they don’t do it right.

:small_blue_diamond:Those who have spent years practicing and improving little by little know how rare it is for someone to pick up a ball and do it all right without any input from an experienced friend or coach. It’s just not easy to bowl properly without practicing hard.

:small_blue_diamond:It takes zero talent or knowledge to roll a ball down the lanes towards the pins, even small children can do that on their own but do properly throw a curve and increase their strike percentage, and the average is not as intuitive.

:small_blue_diamond:As you might have learned by reading a bit about me, I am a very experienced bowler who consistently averages 220 to 225 on a standard house pattern. My tournament average and challenge condition average are probably closer to 210, though, so I am not up to professional standards.

:small_blue_diamond:I do, however, know a thing or two even if I can’t quite compete at the highest level, so I hope you’ll take my opinions as you would those coming from an actual authority on the subject.

:small_blue_diamond:The vast majority of bowlers are either new bowlers just learning the game or seasoned and experienced bowlers who average between 150 and 200 on house conditions.

Note: This entire article assumes you have a custom-fit bowling ball. If you are using a house ball that isn’t fit your hand, then a lot of this article won’t be easily applied.

Why no Pro Bowlers are Throwing a Straight Ball?

Bowling straight vs. curve:

:small_blue_diamond:When a bowling ball is thrown straight, end over end with no axis tilt or axis rotation (the very necessities of throwing a curve), and the bowling ball hits the headpin, it will instantly deflect to the left or right and pass right by the 5-pin in the middle of the pin deck.

:small_blue_diamond:This happens every time unless the ball hits the headpin lost center, in which case the headpin and the ball will pass straight through the middle of the pin deck, leaving a wide split that can be nearly impossible to pick up consistently.

:small_blue_diamond:There are times when a bowler gets lucky and gets a strike either when the ball deflects in the pocket, either left or right. There are also times when a bowler gets fortunate and strikes even when the ball hits the headpin in the center and passes straight through the pin deck, but the odds are not in the bowler’s favor unless the ball enters the pocket with what we call entry angle.

:small_blue_diamond:This means the ball should be hitting the side of the headpin at an angle relative to the boards of the bowling lane to maximize your chances for the ball to drive through the pin deck with little to no deflection. When this happens, the pocket pins are split, and they both fall to their respective sides, taking out the corner pins and preventing those big unpleasant splits.

:small_blue_diamond:I’m not a physicist or mathematician, so I wont go into the math behind this, but the optimal angle on entry to the pocket to achieve a strike is roughly 5 degrees off of parallel to the lane… assuming the ball is also on the 18th board after traveling 60 feet down the street.

:small_blue_diamond:The headpin is centered on the 20th board, so to hit the side of it, your ball will be at the 17th-18th board at the point of the first impact. So is it Possible to Throw a Straight Ball into the Pocket at a 5 Degree Angle? Every bowling lane comprises 39 parallel boards with a combined width of 41.5 inches.

How long is a bowling lane?

:small_blue_diamond:That means every board is approximately 1.05 inches wide.The bowling strike percentage entry angle for the entire bowling lane from the foul line to the headpin is 60 feet or 720 inches. If we want the ball to enter on an angle, we could throw it straight from the one board at the foul line to the 18th board 60 feet later, but what would that angle be?

:small_blue_diamond:Using a basic rise and run calculator, we know that the run is 60-feet, and the rise is the width of 17 boards we have to cover. 17 boards x 1.05 inches = 17.85 total inches. With a run of nearly 18 inches, we get an entry angle of nearly 1.5 degrees. This entry angle is much too small to strike on any given shot reliably!

:small_blue_diamond:Running the math (playing with that calculator), we find that the lane would have to be only 17 feet long for a straight ball to have a chance to achieve a 5-degree entry angle! For a full 60 feet, a straight ball would have to be thrown from two lanes over!

:small_blue_diamond:Because the lane is so long (and narrow), the only way to increase the entry angle is to throw the ball down the street for a bit before making the ball turn toward the pocket with a catch. Outside of making the lane shorter or wider, we have to throw a catch to have any chance of getting that entry angle up.


For right-handed bowlers, take 1-3 steps and slide at the foul line on your left foot. Before you slide, you should have the ball behind you in the backswing. You should be attempting to throw a basic catch if you want a better chance of getting a strike and scoring higher. The easiest way to learn a basic theme is to hold the ball like you would a suitcase.

How to Throw a Basic Catch?

:small_blue_diamond:Now that I’ve hopefully explained why you need to learn to throw a catch to bowl properly, it’s time to say a bit about how to do it. Now, this topic is huge, and I will probably further develop the case as a stand-alone article on the site at some time in the future, but for starters I will introduce you to only two concepts in an attempt to keep things simple.

Keep It Simple Stupid = KISS = Golden Rule in my Book
To throw a catch, you need to throw the ball straight down the lane with some axis rotation.

Example of your car :

:small_blue_diamond:Think of your car. You are driving forward, and the car won’t ever turn until your wheel’s axis rotates left or right. When your wheels rotate left a little bit, your car turns gently. When you turn your wheels to the left sharply, the car rides to the left violently.

Example of football:

:small_blue_diamond:Now think of a quarterback throwing a football. The quarterback will throw the ball straight down the field but put a spiral on it. That spiral is a 90-degree axis rotation about the direction the ball is traveling. With the football the ball does not change direction in the air due to an insufficient amount of friction. The spinning ball does encounter friction with the air, but it is not great enough to change the ball’s direction.

:small_blue_diamond:If you were to take a football and throw an underhand spiral to a friend while playing catch, you would be imitating the motion needed to catch a bowling ball. You would be throwing the ball with both forward momentum and heavy axis rotation.

:small_blue_diamond:Most people, however, cannot hold a heavy bowling ball underhanded the way they have a football underhanded, so putting that axis rotation onto the bowling ball is much difficult. It must be done when holding the ball on the side of the top.

Holding the bowling ball

:small_blue_diamond:Professional bowlers and experienced amateurs have typically figured out how to rotate the axis of their ball upon release while keeping their fingers on the side of the ball, but for true beginners, the easiest way to add some axis rotation and create a simple catch is to start with the basic suitcase technique.

  • You hold the ball as you would a suitcase. Your palm will be on top of the ball with your thumb closest to your thigh and your fingers on the other side of the top of your ball.

  • If you were to stand at the foul line and swing your arm in this position like a pendulum, never letting go of the ball and never turning your hand in any way at all, you would start to feel what the release should feel like without ever letting go of the ball.

  • By placing your thumb into the thumb hole and using a fingertip grip, you would eventually let the ball go on the forward swing. When you do this (assuming you are not turning your wrist at all), the thumb will exit the ball a split second before the fingertips do. You will feel the ball’s pressure falling off your hand in your fingertips, and the ball will start traveling down the lane with some axis rotation, possibly even 90 degrees of axis rotation, otherwise known as a full roll.

  • The suitcase technique, as I’ve described above, was a very common way to bowl a curve decades ago. Although it still works, modern lanes and bowing equipment have made other techniques of curving the ball more conducive to high scores, but I firmly believe the suitcase technique is the easiest way to learn how to throw a catch.

  • Most people can get a basic catch of their hand in a bowling alley after only practicing this delivery technique for five minutes or so. The catch won’t be big or consistent until the bowler does many games (hours) of practice, but this is a starting point.

Why Then Does the Ball catch Way Down the Lane Instead of At The Heads?

:small_blue_diamond:No matter how you put axis rotation on your bowling ball, it will never catch near the foul line because there is too much oil on the lanes at that spot.

:small_blue_diamond:Remember the football flying through the air with 90-degrees of axis rotation. The air doesn’t provide enough friction to change the direction of the ball, and in the case of the boiling lane, the oil on the lane doesn’t provide enough friction to change the direction of the ball either.

:small_blue_diamond:Oil is placed on the lane heavily on the heads for two primary reasons and a handful of secondary reasons that I won’t go into now.

Reasons :

  • The first primary reason is to protect the wood from falling bowling balls and extreme potential friction from spinning balls off the hand.

  • The second primary reason is to let balls with axis rotation slide down the lane so that they can later catch into the pocket.

  • Without the oil on the lane, putting axis rotation on your bowling ball at release would be similar to turning the wheel of your car while you drive. Once you turn the wheel on your vehicle, the tires grip the ground and change the direction of the entire vehicle.

  • If a bowling ball encountered instant, heavy friction, the ball would change directions right away, and you could never catch a ball into the pocket. It would always catch straight into the gutter way before getting down the lane to the pin deck.

  • The oil on the heads (the front part of the lane) allows the ball to spin freely with very little friction while the ball skids down the lane. Eventually, the layer of oil on the lane gets thinner and thinner as the ball travels down the lane until that layer of oil is essentially gone just a few feet before the pin deck starts.

  • Typically the oil is placed on a lane thick near the foul line, thin in the middle of the lane, and with zero application near the pins. This is what bowlers sometimes call the front-to-back taper.

  • That’s why bowling balls always catch the most near the end of the bowling lane.

  • Once you start practicing throwing a catch, you will naturally begin to learn how to manipulate the curve by increasing or decreasing the skid, how to alter the location on the lane where the ball hooks or changes direction, and how to increase or reduce the severity of the change in order.

  • For the novice or aspiring bowler, however, practicing a proper approach (your footwork and arm swing) and then pairing that with your release is far more important.

How to Walk to the Foul Line and Not Look Like an Idiot?

:small_blue_diamond:OK, so you know you should practice hooking the bowling ball, and you are going to do this by practicing from a standing position or one-step approach next to the foul line for the next 5-10 games, but what happens when everyone starts bugging you to stand back and walk to the line like everybody else?

:small_blue_diamond:To bowl that curve (assuming you are right-handed), you need to swing your right arm forward while standing or sliding on your left foot. The simple fact of the matter is that if you are standing on your right foot, your arm cannot swing like a true pendulum; it has to swing around your right leg, meaning the arm itself has to swing away from your body on the downswing and back in front of it on the upswing.

:small_blue_diamond:This is not conducive to good consistent bowling, and it’s dangerous! By planting on your left leg, you can kick your right leg back behind you so that your arm and the ball (which is eight and a half inches wide) can swing directly underneath you without having to arc out away from your body.

:small_blue_diamond:If you start learning with the suitcase approach, it’s as simple as taking 1-5 slow steps to the foul line and ending in a slide on your left leg.

:small_blue_diamond:Without having a ball in your handstand on your right leg with your arm behind you as if you were about ready to throw a bowling ball. Then step onto your slide foot (the right foot) while you swing your right arm forward. This is the motion you have to end on.

Things you should do

  • I always recommend new bowlers start with a no-step approach while learning the release and then add a step gradually over time because it is hugely important to end on the correct foot with balance and control.

  • If you swing a bowling ball forward with your right hand at release, you have to counterbalance your body with your right foot extending behind you and to the left so that you don’t fall over.

  • The most important thing is to keep the arm swing below your body straight (no side-to-side arc) and add a single step to your delivery every time you’ve mastered the delivery with fewer steps.

  • A good goal is to get to a five-step delivery but maybe not on day one. When you let go of the ball, you should be fully supported by the slide leg. It would be best to stand on your slide leg with your arm extended directly in front of you and your non-slide leg (the right leg) extended behind you to the left.

  • If you have to put your second leg down and adjust to keep from falling over, you need to continue practicing the release with a few steps and slower arm motion until you are in balance.

  • No matter how much you practice your hand release, you will never be consistent with your bowling performance unless you figure out how to remain in balance at your feet, especially at the moment of delivery.

Where Should You Stand to Bowl With a Catch?

:small_blue_diamond:Assuming you are following along with me learning to release a basic catch and then focusing on staying balanced on your left foot at the foul line (opposite for left-handed bowlers). The next step is to stand a little bit left of center, knowing that your hand swings approximately 7-8 boards to the side of your body.

:small_blue_diamond:If you stand at the middle dot on the approach and walk straight and slide with your left toe also pointing at the middle dot (the 20-board) at the foul line, then assume that your ball is landing on the lane approximately 7-11 boards to the right depending on how wide your body is.

:small_blue_diamond:Let’s say your ball hits the lane at board 12, and you project the ball slightly to the right of the second arrow, then the skid portion of the ball path will likely take the ball all the way out to around the 3rd to 5th board before a catch ever starts looking like it’s happening.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding How to bowl?

Q1:How do you bowl a ball?

First: Straighten your hand and wrist. Second: Hold your bowling arm out at a distance while you’re bowling. Third: Keeping your arm straight, swing it towards your ankle. Fourth: Rotate the wrist, hand, and arm away from your body as you bring the ball near your ankle.

Q2:What makes a good bowler?

Swing the ball both ways or be able to bowl a good outswinger or a good inswinger, a good seam position, patience, accuracy, pitches the ball up rather then ■■■■■■■ it in short (you have better chances of getting wickets of proper balls), able to get cut both ways and if possible - able to bowl reverse swing.

Q3: Where do you aim for bowling?

While most people would believe that aiming for the centre arrow is the key to getting the head-on strike, it’s actually not the first choice. The ideal arrow to aim for is generally the second one from the centre, on whichever side your bowling arm is. This helps you get right to that pocket.

Q4: How anyone can become a better Bowler?

Pick the right ball. A good ball should be comfortable in your hand and weigh about 10 percent of your body weight.

  • Choose your spot carefully.

  • Develop good timing.

  • Hand and wrist action.

  • Finish the way the pros do.

  • Practice makes perfect.

Q5: Is bowling good exercise?

While not an overly intensive workout, participants in bowling enjoy many health benefits. Bowling increases your metabolism and therefore can aid in weight loss. Depending on the effort exerted and the weight of the bowler he/she can burn anywhere from 150 to 300 calories an hour.

Q6: Can you bowl with long nails?

The best techniques for bowling with long nails limit direct contact with your bowling ball’s surface. This includes using an alley-provided ball ramp, finding a larger bowling ball with finger holes big enough to prevent breakage, and/or using accessories like protective tape to ensure your best game is a safe one.

Q7: How do you relax while bowling?

Walk slowly, speak slowly, stretch your bowling muscles slowly, and take a few deep breaths letting the air out of your lungs slowly. Relaxing your leg and bowling arm muscles is a big step toward making good shots even when you are nervous. Reducing muscle tension in your swing is vital to good shotmaking.

Q8: What foot do you start with when bowling?

Right-handed bowlers should begin their approach with their right foot slightly behind their left foot since the first step will be taken with the right foot. Left-handed bowlers should begin their approach with their left foot slightly behind their right foot since their first step will be taken with the left foot.

Q9: How do I keep my wrist straight while bowling?

Keep your bowling hand directly underneath the ball and your wrist straight. The main difference between a straight shot and a ■■■■ shot is that you keep your hand straight all the way through the backswing and the release of the ball. Swing your bowling arm out and back.

Q10:Why is bowling expensive?

Not only do the bowling alley floors need to be in perfect condition, but there need to be lights, seating, and of course, the pins need to be racked over and over again. All of these things cost money. The money you pay for your round on your lane will have to cover these expenses for the bowling alley to remain open.

Q11:How many calories does 3 games of bowling burn?

The average person will burn 80-100 calories for each 20 minute game of bowling. The number of calories burned from bowling depends on your weight and the amount of time you bowl.


:small_blue_diamond: I would recommend all aspiring bowlers to practice this release in the simplest of ways possible for a lot of games before trying to add steps to the approach, speed to the arm swing, or rotation to the wrist.

:small_blue_diamond:Adding steps to the approach and speed to the arm swing allows you to throw the ball faster, which will result in better scores. Learning to rotate your wrist and impart axis tilt and additional revs on the ball will help control the arc of the ball, and the strength of its direction will change as it drives into the pocket.

:small_blue_diamond:Most people practice and bowl for years without ever averaging 200, so don’t be dismayed, but also don’t assume you cant achieve high scores regularly if you practice your delivery regularly. It’s not uncommon for new bowlers to start throwing high games in the low 200s in the first year, don’t ever expect it to happen regularly until you’ve put in the time practicing!

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