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Home » Bowling » How to Improve Your Bowling Game: Hole Layouts and A Little History of What Works, What Doesn’t, And Some Thoughts on Overuse Injuries

How to Improve Your Bowling Game: Hole Layouts and A Little History of What Works, What Doesn’t, And Some Thoughts on Overuse Injuries


February 2022

I took bowling in college (or “at university” if you’re from across the pond). I chose the classic layout for that class. Now, the old classic layout had one massive flaw; you were hard pressed to get decent revs out of the ball to get it to hook into the headpin. Basically, you turned your hand around the side of the ball with all three fingers in the holes and released as your arm passed your leg/hip. You could definitely get the ball to hook, but it wasn’t the best for repeatability.

Unlike me, a friend of mine chose the fingertip grip of the ball for the same course – the true fingertip grip where you’re hand was stretched as far as possible. Your fingertips form a claw-like catch for the grip tips while your thumb is buried to the second knuckle in its hole. Throwing like this puts a lot of torque on the ball and with the hand so stretched, the thumb naturally comes out first, easily… the only problem is, with all of that tension on the hand, forearm and wrist, tendon problems became prevalent for anyone who bowled a lot.

Thus, a new, hybrid method was created to stop the snapping of tendons (literally). This new method of throwing a ball down the lane takes a lot of the stress out of throwing a bowling ball. The holes are closer together so the hand is not under such great tension. In fact, they’re now advocating something of a “let the ball roll itself” approach to coming off the hand. Well, at least till you start climbing to elite status where there’s a whip/yo-yo effect at the bottom of the arm swing that imparts massive revs to the ball. And this is where we can get into trouble again, at least for we old-timers and amateurs. See, bowling has become a lot about getting revolutions on the ball… 350 to 500 rpm.

I took a three screenshots of a pro’s release all three within a split second of each other. Look closely at how his arm cocks and de-cocks at the bottom of the swing. I can see that motion leading to many shoulder, elbow and wrist reconstructive surgeries in the future. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. We can’t torque our body like that without repercussions.

I could ask a doctor for a professional opinion here, but I think common sense should be good enough for this blog post; I don’t think a person can move like that without it causing problems in the distant future (I will look into that professional opinion, though).

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to surgery if we want to bowl (and bowl well). What this means is I believe we can find a happy, repeatable medium where we can get some predictable revs on the ball without getting too deep into that snapping motion:

Now, I’d agree with anyone who claimed this isn’t as bad as the old tendon stretcher fingertip claw throw, but the question is, is that whipping action absolutely necessary? I can see why it’s done, but I don’t think it’s absolutely needed to bowl well at a Friday evening league bowler level. The key here is repeatability. If I can slot my speed and rotation in using the thumb out, fingers up the back or side of the ball, throw but not worry about the super-hi-rev “snap”, I can have my bowling without the possible surgery that comes with the extra revs when I’m older. I’m exploring this, anyway.

I’m working on another post in which I’ll show off my at-home practice hack that has me working on a release drill, a half-swing release drill, in my bike room till my heart is content (and my arms are tired – I’m practicing right and left handed so I’ll be able to switch hands should the need arise – this happened to a good friend of mine and it broke his heart).

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