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How to Bowl

By Jeff Gordon

Bowling is a fun and easy-to-learn recreational sport. By developing sound mechanics early on, you can avoid the delivery glitches that could become more difficult to fix once you have been bowling for a while. Once you develop consistent form and release, you can develop better shot accuracy and the proper hook needed to earn strikes.

Find the Right Ball

Men usually bowl with 15- or 16-pound balls, while women bowl with 10- to 12-pound balls. Children should figure one pound for every year of age. Use a heavier ball if you are larger or stronger or a lighter ball if you are smaller in stature. A ball that is too heavy is difficult to roll and control; a ball that is too light won't give you the desired impact. Bowling with a ball custom-fitted for your hand and finger size is much easier than finding the right fit with a "house ball" at the alley.

Bowling Grip

Start with the conventional grip, putting your thumb all the way into the thumb hole and your middle and ring fingers all the way into the finger holes. This is a stable, easy-to-master grip. As you become more comfortable, you can put your two fingers in to just the second knuckle to gain more control of the ball. Accomplished bowlers use a fingertip grip, placing their fingers into the holes just to the first knuckle so they can put more hook on the ball.

Starting Point

Start two inches from the foul line, then take five normal steps back toward the top of the lane. Where you stop is your starting point to bowl. Place the inside of your left foot on the center dot, if you are right-handed, and right foot slightly behind it, two inches to the right. Use the opposite stance if you are left-handed. Stand upright and balanced with your knees bent slightly. Hold the ball to your strong side, close to your body, with your strong hand on the bottom and your off-hand supporting it. Start with the ball waist high or slightly higher.

Bowling Motion

Use a pendulum motion to bowl. Take your first step with the foot on your bowling side. Right-handed bowlers will step right, left, right, left and release. Left-handed bowlers will do the opposite. While taking your first step, straighten your elbow and extend your bowling arm straight toward the lane. Then start your downswing, with the ball passing your leg while you take your second step. Continue into the back swing, with the ball reaching the highest point behind your back as you are taking your third step. Then bring the ball forward, with the ball coming past your leg as your take the sliding fourth step toward the foul line.

Bowling Release

Aim your plant foot at your target. Make sure your arm has crossed your body and your front foot is sliding up towards the foul line before letting go of the ball. Release your thumb from the thumb hole, then rotate your fingers slightly while releasing them from their holes in a swift motion. Keep your forearm and your wrist action straight. Keep your shoulders square to the target. Stay balanced after you release the ball and follow through with your forward arm swing. Finish with your shoulders still square. Learn to bowl straight, consistently, before attempting to put a hook on the ball.

Bowling Target

The front pin is the No. 1 pin. In the second row, the No. 2 pin is on the left and the No. 3 pin is on the right. The "pocket" for right-handed bowlers is between the No. 1 and No. 3 pins. For lefties, it is between the No. 1 and No. 2. Hitting the pocket creates the best possible pin action and the highest likelihood of a strike. Use the target arrows on the lane, typically about 15 feet past the foul line, to guide your shot. Start out by aiming just to the right of the center arrow if you are right-handed, and to the left if your are left-handed. Make adjustments based on your results.


There are 10 frames in a bowling game. If you knock down all 10 pins on the first roll, you get a strike and your turn is up. If you knock down all 10 pins with two rolls, that is a spare. Strikes are worth 10 points for the 10 pins, plus the value of your next two rolls. Spares are worth 10 points, plus the value of your next roll. If you fail to knock down all the pins, your score for this "open" frame is the number of fallen pins. If you roll a strike on the first delivery of the 10th frame, you receive two more deliveries. If you roll a spare on the first two deliveries of the 10th frame, you receive one more delivery. If you leave the 10th frame open after two deliveries, your game is done. The score for the 10th frame is the total number of pins knocked down in the frame. The maximum points for each frame is 30 and the maximum point total for a game is 300.

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