How To Bowl A Strike For Beginners
If you’re anything like me, you’re an average Joe who enjoys bowling but only plays it casually, like if you’re going out on a Friday night with the guys. I’d definitely consider myself a beginner. Maybe not enough to use the alley bumpers to ensure my ball doesn’t go into the gutters, but I certainly need all the help I can get.
Bowling is one of America’s favorite pastimes. According to BowlersJournal.com, 67 million people bowl in the United States at least once per year. But only a fraction of those 67 million people are experts at bowling.
Since I bowl pretty casually, I also know how hard it can be to get a high score in ten frames. Heck, I’m lucky if I score 100 in a game! But don’t they say practice makes perfect? That’s why I am here to give you some tips on how to improve your game, and especially, how to bowl a strike!
Common Problems Beginning Bowlers Experience
There is no magic formula for bowling a 300 game. Expert bowlers have had years of practice to perfect their game and approach, and even they do not always bowl their very best 100% of the time.
Keep in mind that everyone’s bowling style is different; struggling with some of the common problems experienced by beginner bowlers does not mean you are a bad bowler. It just means you might need some more practice to improve or enhance your skills.
Below are a few common mistakes that might be throwing off your game:
Improper stance or push-away
The proper way to throw a bowling ball is by swinging your arm back and forth like a pendulum. It’s quite common to want to hold the ball to the middle of your chest or aim to one side when performing a push away (the first motion you make with the ball when stepping forward where you extend your arm). Improper alignment of your body causes the ball to be thrown in directions that make it difficult to get a strike.
Drifting with your feet
BOWL.com defines drift as “inconsistency in a bowler’s footwork; this means the bowler does not repeat the same pattern continuously and ends up sliding in different places at the foul line every shot”. Drifting impacts how you line the ball up with the pins at the end. If chronic drifting plagues you, then this lessens the chance that you will bowl a strike. Typically it is not considered drifting if you slide within one or two boards in the same direction.
Too fast on approach and delivery
Good bowling stances require patience and deliberation. It’s quite easy to want to aim your ball and release it quickly so you gain enough momentum to knock the pins over. But without easing into your approach and delivery, you might become unbalanced and rushed or inconsistently throw your ball across frames.
Dropping the ball on the release
In an ideal world, a bowler smoothly releases the ball just over the foul line. Sometimes, however, bowlers release their balls too soon, well before they reach the foul line or when their foot starts to slide in the final step. As a result, the ball drops onto the lane hard. When you’re in the moment, it can be tough to figure out when exactly to release the ball.
Lofting the ball on the release
It can be quite tempting to throw your ball with enough force to knock down the pins at the end of the lane. Unfortunately, too much loft, especially if the ball lands at least three feet past the foul line, can make it extremely difficult to control the ball. But momentum does not need to come from lofting the ball. Rather, it comes from the pendulum movement of your arm motion and finger lift. Lofting can be caused either by an improperly-fitted bowling ball or if you’re releasing your ball too late.
How can beginner bowlers bowl a strike?
If you recognize any of these common behaviors as one you’ve made, don’t fret! Most everyone makes these mistakes as beginners. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to improve one’s game and up your chances of nailing consistent strikes!
Improve your stance
As mentioned above, improper stances or push-aways can be detrimental to bowling a good strike. It is recommended to hold your ball on the same side of your body as your bowling hand. This way, you can swing your pendulum arms straight up and down. This will help ensure that your push away, that initial movement where you extend your arm and point the ball towards your target, is straight and smooth.
Additionally, your bowling stance should be straight, upright, and relaxed. Bend your knees slightly – you want to make sure your knees are not locked up. Your feet should be slightly apart (Bowler’s Reference recommends one to four inches). Where you put your foot on the center dot should be the opposite of your bowling hand.
If you’re a right-handed bowler, place the inside of your left foot on the center dot and vice versa. The tip of your ball-side shoe (the same side as the hand you bowl with) should line up with the arch of the opposite shoe (the foot you’ll slide with). Above all, remain natural and flexible. What works for one person in terms of stance will differ from what works for another.
For more tips on stances, check out Bowler’s Reference.
How to alleviate drifting
Drifting is not too difficult to remedy. It just requires concentration, patience, and practice. The most important thing in correcting drifting is to make sure you keep your positioning as consistent as possible. Some variation is expected, of course. But consistency will help you hit your target more often.
To deal with drifting, you should practice sliding at the final moment before the foul line and once you release the ball keep your feet down until the ball hits the pins. Lower your sight and check if you achieved the correct position.
It also helps to practice mock approaches without the ball so you and your lane mates can see how you manage your approach and where you might improve.
Have a slow and steady approach
This is a simple yet effective tip. Take your time when you approach for your shot. Make slow, deliberate movements so you can direct your ball towards a strike!
Beware dropping or lofting your ball too much
If you find you’re releasing your ball too early or too late, you may need to make sure your ball is properly fitted to your hand. You may also need to work on your timing to ensure that you’re releasing the ball just over the foul line.
To address lofting, we recommend removing the thumb right when your foot is sliding to the foul line and follow with your remaining two fingers a split second afterward. Good timing is absolutely essential in order to get a strike!
Other Tips and Tricks to Successfully Nail a Strike!
Some other tips and tricks include:
- Pick a somewhat light ball. Heavy balls can be uncomfortable and difficult to maneuver.
- Ensure that the ball fits your hand. You should be able to comfortably fit your fingers into the holes up to the front knuckle.
- Don’t aim for the middle of the pins – aim for what is called “the pocket”. This is the space between the front pin and the two pins directly behind it.
That’s all for today, folks! I hope you’ve found a few useful tips and tricks that you can use to successfully and consistently get a strike! Just remember that no miracles occur overnight when it comes to bowling.
Professionals have had years to practice and perfect their techniques – this is why they make it look so effortless. Don’t get down on yourself if you feel you’re stumbling. Just remember professionals were just like us once – beginners.
The most important thing is to be patient, practice, and above all, have fun! What’s the point of bowling if you can’t hang out with your buddies and have a good time after all?
Next Steps and Where to Purchase Equipment
When you’re ready to make the leap, you can read these articles to learn what bowling equipment we recommend for every different kind of player and choose what suits you better. We try to review the best bowling equipment in the market every few weeks to keep up-to-date with the current trends.