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How to Up Your Bowling Game From 100 to 150 Part Two: The Hook Shot

In my first post I covered the equipment we’ll need to go from a below average to average bowler. Balls, shoes, accessories, the works. In this post, we’re going to put fingers in holes and get this party started!

For the most part, we’re going to be dealing with a typical “house” oil pattern, which is simple enough.

You’re dry on the edges, heavy in the center with plenty of room for the ball to bite after the oil runs out. There are two ways to throw your ball that will impart decent spin for a hook, assuming you’ve picked a fingertip or hybrid drilling of the ball. Up the back for higher revolutions, or you can rotate your hand up the side as the ball hits the bottom and your hand starts up for the follow through for a little more hook. Your thumb comes out first followed by the two fingers in both shots.

The “up the back” approach is a difficult shot to master. It actually involves rolling the ball with a motion that feels like throwing a yo-yo. It’s completely counterintuitive and entirely awesome and very difficult to get the timing down. Done correctly though, you put huge revs on the ball and, once you learn to control that, you can really dial it in and do some damage down the lane. The second is “around the side” like the old way they teach you to bowl mixed with a little “up the back”. If you simply want to improve from 100 to 150, as we are discussing right now, stick with the latter. In the end, bowling is all about repeatability, anyway, and we don’t want to make repeatability harder than it needs to be. Yet.

Right handers will have it harder right out of the gate because there are vastly more righthanded bowlers than left. You’ll have more traffic on your side of the lane so you’ll have to move around a little bit to find a line that works for you and you’ll have to move sooner to find oil when the lane starts getting worked in. The ball removes a little oil every time one is thrown down the lane so the lane dries out as lines wear the oil out. To find oil so your ball will slide, you simply move left (for righties) or right (for lefties) and change your aim arrow a little bit. Don’t trouble yourself with that yet, though.

We want to start looking at the release of the ball first so we don’t pick up any bad habits. I would start by subscribing to Brad and Kyle’s YouTube channel. They’re not the best instructional videos out there but they’re simple to understand and they speak like normal people so we can translate that into, you know, actual bowling skill.

Watch some videos on how to roll the ball, then look at a few on targeting. That’s a fantastic starting point. For me, I throw a reactive urethane hybrid ball that hooks up quite a bit on everything but heavy oil. With the dry (light blue) on the left side of the lane (I’m lefthanded), if I start to the left, with my target board midway between the first and second arrow, I’ll start hooking across the headpin after about ten to fifteen shots, assuming I’m the only lefty on the lane. As my game goes on, I wear the oil out so I have to change my line to get into some oil so the ball slides down the lane before it bites and comes into the target zone. I’ll move right three or four boards and move my target board one or two boards to the right of my arrow. As the games go on, I have to continue to move right to find more oil. This is the nature of the game. Or, if I have a third ball, something that hooks less when the lane dries, I can switch balls as the lane gets worked in. Now, this movement has a counterbalance. If I move too far right I get into too much oil and my ball won’t hook as much, so I have to watch that as well. I want my ball into then out of the oil so it’ll slide, then hook up and hit between the 1 & 2 pins where it belongs (1 & 3 for righthanders).

For my starting shots in warm-up I want to find out how far left I can go to still hit the pocket and how far right I can go before my ball won’t hook up. That paints the picture of where I want to start and where I’ll likely end the night.

Now for the tricky part: If you’re a righty, you’re definitely going to have to get used to throwing the ball at the gutter so it’ll come back into the pocket. With all of the traffic your side of the lane gets in a league, moving left as the oil dries up goes with the territory. For me, I get a little bit of a break because there are fewer lefthanders out there. I move as a reaction to my line drying up, not several bowlers on competing lines using the oil up.

Finally, after watching a few videos, you should be able release a ball and start to use the dots, boards and arrows to line your shot up, so your hook comes into the pocket. All you have to do is practice and dial that in. With that practice, you’ll learn exactly how much your ball hooks and you’ll be able to shape your shots around that hook. Your score will improve, likely very quickly.

Now, I’ve only slightly covered this previously, but if you really want to improve, you’re going to have to learn how to pick up spares. Sure, the game’s a lot easier when you get all ten in the first shot, but we’re not quite there yet – and the difference between a spare and an open is up to ten pins on your score. For this reason, picking up spares is huge for someone trying to improve. This is where a spare ball comes in very handy. I love mine. A good spare ball will make the game and higher scores easier for someone who hooks their ball. The spare ball is a plastic covered ball that simply won’t hook much even though you’ll throw it exactly like your strike ball. Your spare ball should be exactly the same weight and drilling as your strike ball so it feels the same leaving your hand. I use my spare ball for anything on the left of the lane and, once I learned how to shape the minimal hook, absolutely cleaned up most of my messes. My spare ball is almost as important as my strike ball when talking about score.

With decent equipment and a good release, you’ll jump from that 100 to a 150 easily with minimal practice.

The hard part is next; going from 150 to 185. That’s next Friday.