A Troubleshooting Guide for Your Game – bowling tips

Jeri Edwards

Some problems are common to many bowlers, and although there can be multiple solutions, the best one isn’t necessarily the most obvious

WHEN ANY BOWLER OBSERVES A problem in his or her game, the natural urge is to fix it. However, finding the correct cure is sometimes the greatest challenge, because the correct answer may not be the most obvious one. As with most things, there is usually more than one answer for the same question, and the trick is to find the correct answer for your own problem or situation.

In this article, I’ll address several common bowling problems and provide a troubleshooting guide for each area. Although there will be several options for each problem, the list will be thorough but not entirely comprehensive–in many cases it helps tremendously to work with a coach who can identify the problem and help construct the cure. The common problems that will be addressed are: (1) The ball or lane hooks too much, (2) the ball or lane hooks too little, (3) dropping the ball, and (4) inconsistency to the target. The answers are included in your physical game, bowling ball choice, lane play decisions, and mental approach.


This is a common complaint, and my first response is always, “Where does it hook too much?” This is the first thing to identify, because the answer depends on it.

If the ball or lane is hooking early, there are several items to check. The first is where you are playing on the lane. You can divide the lane into three sections: the heads (about the first 18 feet), the pines (the middle portion of the lane, front to back), and the back ends (about the last 15 to 20 feet). Generally there is more oil as you move in toward the center of the lane, so if the ball hooks too early from where you’re playing, you may want to move to a line farther inside.

Sometimes, though, even when you move more toward the center of the lane, the ball still hooks too early, so the next item to check is your ball choice. The cover of the bowling ball is the major factor in ball reaction. If the cover is too aggressive for a certain condition–especially dry heads–you will not be able to get the ball down the lane before it starts to hook. In this instance, it would be a good choice to switch to a less aggressive cover stock to get the ball down the lane.

If the lane hooks all the way down, there are other options that will help you to control the hook. Fine-tuning your ball choice with respect not only to the cover stock but core construction and layout can help. When the lanes hook, you may want a less aggressive core and a milder layout. Talk with your pro shop operator for his suggestions.

Lofting the ball out may also be a great option for you. When you do this, the lane will seem shorter. For instance, if you’re setting the ball down onto the lane 18 inches over the foul line, you could make the lane hook less for you by lofting the ball farther down the lane. This may mean learning to get the ball six to 10 feet out on the lane. To do this, hang on to the ball a little longer near the release point. When you accomplish this, you’ll notice that the ball will go farther down the lane before it hooks.

Another option is to use more ball speed, which will help get the ball farther down the lane before it hooks. The best way to generate more speed is to make your overall motion to the foul line faster, more uptempo. Your mechanics should remain the same, but your motion will be more aggressive, and being more aggressive with your body motion will translate into more ball speed at the release.

Additionally, you may want to back off on the strength of your release, because if your hand and wrist are in very strong positions it will be difficult for you to get the ball down a hooking lane. By backing off your hand position–relaxing your wrist a little and uncocking your hand in your stance, and leaving them that way throughout your approach and release area–you can get the ball down the lane much more easily. The more you cup and cock your wrist, the more strongly you’re loading your release. So the more you uncup or break your wrist and uncock your hand, the easier it will be to get the ball down the lane. These adjustments for hooking lanes can make a difference in how successful you are and will allow you to be more versatile when the lanes call for it.


When the ball hooks too little, there are several items to consider. One of the first is in your physical game, specifically your timing.

If your timing is early–meaning the ball beats your body to the release–it seems that the ball is gone before you can do anything with it. Your release feels weak, and the ball reaction shows it. The biggest keys to correcting early timing are (1) checking your start to ensure it is timed up correctly, (2) making sure that your armswing isn’t too fast in relation to your footwork, and (3) getting your body–not the ball–to lead the motion into the finish.

If your timing is on the money, you can do several other things to respond to not getting enough hook. The next move is to check your choice of where you’re playing the lanes. Again, usually there is more oil in the middle of the lane and less toward the outside part of the lane, so you may want to move to an outside line. When you move there, where there is less oil, your ball will hook more.

Sometimes, though, even when you move toward the outside portion of the lane, the ball still doesn’t hook enough. The next move is to check your bowling ball–and again, the cover is the major factor. You may need to go to a ball with a more aggressive cover, core, and layout. Additionally, if you haven’t cleaned or resurfaced your most aggressive ball recently and it seems to be going straighter, it probably is. See your pro shop professional to take care of this.

Another item to check is how you’re getting the ball onto the lane. When you need the ball to hook a little more, getting the ball down onto the lane earlier is usually a good thing. You may want to bring your target closer to you, which usually makes you set the ball down earlier. Getting a little deeper as you “sit into your finish”–make sure your rear end gets low as you deliver the ball–will also help this. By getting the ball down onto the lane earlier, it has more lane to use to pick up a roll.

Using less ball speed will also help on a slicker lane. The best way to slow your ball speed down is to make your overall motion to the foul line less aggressive–your mechanics should stay the same, but your motion should be slower. This will help you deliver the ball with less speed, giving it a better opportunity to hook.

And finally, strengthening your wrist and hand action at the release can help, too. This means putting your wrist in a more cupped position and your hand in a more cocked position. You “load up” like this in your stance and maintain it until the release point, where you unload it. This extra, stronger hand action gives you stronger ball roll and better results on oily conditions. These adjustments for lanes that aren’t hooking enough can make your outing more enjoyable.


This is another common complaint that has several possible solutions. The problem, though, is usually with your physical game. When your timing is early and the ball gets to the finish ahead of your body, it usually gets dropped. If your body isn’t set as the ball comes through, you can’t use your natural strength and it’s very difficult to get the ball out onto the lane.

Therefore, check your start to make sure it’s timed correctly by making sure your swing speed matches your foot tempo. If your swing is too fast, it will beat your footwork to the line. Also check the height of your backswing. If your swing is too low, it will allow the ball to beat your body to the foul line.

Another physical problem that can cause you to drop the ball at the foul line is a swing that’s too steep from the top of your swing to the release. A steep angle creates a very sharp descent into the lane, and if the ball leaves your hand early, it’s sent down directly into the lane. To fix that, keep your swing feel a little more shallow–more back and through, not up and down. Also, do not “grab and pull” from the top (squeezing the ball and exerting force in the downswing) because this will accentuate the problem. If you want to “get after” the ball, wait until it gets into the release area to get aggressive.

Finally, dropping the ball may be caused not by a flaw in your physical game, but by a problem with how your ball fits your hand. It’s very important to work with a pro shop professional who will help you develop a grip that allows your hand to relax in the ball. You should hold a bowling ball firmly, but you shouldn’t need to squeeze to hold on to the ball. If the ball is fit improperly it can cause you to do many things, and dropping the ball is one of them. Furthermore, once you have a good ball fit, you still should use tape to keep the thumbhole snug. Even with a good ball fit, if you don’t use tape to snug up the holes, you can drop the ball easily.


Once again, this problem is mostly a physical issue with different causes. But the most common is a change in your timing.

Alterations in your timing–even slight ones–can cause your direction to the target to change dramatically. If your timing is a little late, you’re likely to throw the ball farther right because your shoulders haven’t squared to the target when your body has reached the finish. If your timing is a little early, you’ll probably tug your shot inside of the target, because your shoulders have closed past square as your body reaches the foul line.

Another flaw in your physical game, an inconsistent swing path, can also cause inconsistency to the target. If your swing varies, it will show up in the direction by which the ball leaves your hand and travels down the lane. The swing that causes the most inconsistency is the type that wraps too far behind your back on the backswing, which naturally causes you to have to wrap it back around on the follow-through. Doing this causes you to continually change direction, so it hurts your accuracy dramatically. The important thing to work on is letting the swing move relatively straight back on the backswing and keeping the ball close to your body on the forward swing. A consistent swing will improve your accuracy to the target.

One more factor in your physical game that can affect your consistency to the target is your release. To be accurate to the target, you must release the ball in the same way on each shot. If on one shot your hand is in a strong position and you get through the shot well, and on the next shot you turn the ball early and get your hand on the side of the ball too soon, you’ll get two different results. Keeping your hand pressure consistent from shot to shot is important, too. If on one shot you grab with your fingers and on the next you let the ball fall off softly, you’ll change the direction and the nature of the ball to your target.

Additionally, in respect to bowling balls, a proper fit is important to your accuracy. If you have to spend a lot of energy and use a lot of tension to hold on to the ball, it will affect how well you repeat shots–in a night’s time, you’ll straggle to make consistent shots if your ball fit is improper. Again, work with your pro shop operator to develop a grip that’s right for you.

Finally, your consistency to the target can be affected if you’re playing in the wrong area of the lane. If you choose to line up in an area where the heads have very little oil or are spotty, your ball may start hooking before you can even see it. (I’m assuming you’re focusing on the arrows farther down the lane.) When this happens, you may think you’re pulling the ball, because it often rolls inside of the target. In this case, if you move to a part of the lane where the heads have more oil, you may find that your accuracy improves. By improving your accuracy to the target, you increase your chances of pocket shots–and anytime you can hit the pocket more often, you have an opportunity to throw more strikes and improve your scores.

By troubleshooting your own game, you can be more solution-conscious and less problem-conscious. This helps your frame of mind and gives you more confidence. Competence equals confidence, and now you’ll have more of both.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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