Sunday, March 11, 2007

The art and science of bowling

This post is for Astrosmith, a fellow scientist.

He has been struggling with bowling, a not uncommon malady. First of all, I claim no expertise for myself, I am a mediocre bowler at best. I just thought I could help him some.

The method I use was taught to me by my father in law, and also from a videotape he owns. The tape is very old, from the 80's. My father in law says the guy that made it is one of the best bowlers that ever lived. He died of a heart attack.

To start, you go to the fowl line and face away from the alley. Take four normals steps to find your starting point. This should allow you to finish right at the foul line and give a little room so you don't foul.

The grip: the video says to hold the ball with your thumb in the 3 o'clock position and your pointing finger at 6 o'clock. This is counterintuitive, but it works. Myself, I don't turn the ball that far, my thumb is at about 1 o'clock. I think the most important thing is to just be consistent till you figure what works for you. You hold the ball in front of you in your right hand with the left supporting it. Your right arm should in the the plane of your target.

Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, toes pointing down the lane. Your right foot should be back a little, your toes about in the middle of your left foot. This forces you to step with your right foot first. The first step, with your right foot, is a small step, just a few inches or a foot. As you step push the ball forward. It is important to keep that first step small. The next step is with your left, it should be a normal step, and as you take it, you let the ball drop into the backswing. The footwork is: a small step with the right, left, right, left. Four steps. On the first step the ball goes forward, on the second it is dropping, about at the bottom of the swing. On the third step, the ball is all the way back. Your forward motion helps the ball swing higher on the back. On the fourth step, you plant your left foot. It can slide a little if you have that much speed. I say go easy at first, the speed will come. Also on the fourth step, let your right foot trail a little, even behind your left foot. This lefts the bowling ball clear your hip and leg.

The whole time you are moving forward, your eyes focus on your target, not the pins. On the fourth step, the ball is now coming forward. You release the ball, the thumb comes out first. Your fingers are on the bottom. Lift the ball with your fingers, and follow through. Your arm swings up through the plane of your target, and you end up just like you are reaching to shake someone's hand. Keep your wrist stiff through the whole swing, if you let the ball move your wrist, it takes all the hook out of the ball. (I shoot some spares by letting my wrist move so the ball hooks less.) You also need to keep balance during the release, and keep your shoulders square with the lane. If you turn them, the ball turns with them. You don't want to be hunched over so that you fall forward. I sometimes concentrate on standing up slightly, and pushing my hips forward at the release.

This is what I learned watching that video, my average went up from the 150's to the 170's. I generally shoot in the 180' to 190's, but my average stays lower because of all those bad games in the beginning of the year. My biggest weakness is shooting spares. I usually get more strikes than spares.

To aim the ball, you pick an arrow on the lane (or a board between arrows) to shoot at and a dot by your feet (or a board between dots). This is the line you are shooting. If you ball hooks too much to the left, you move your feet left, but aim at the same spot. The boards are one inch I think. According to the video: If you move your feet one board, it results in about four boards down at the pins.

According to the USBC magazine, the optimum angle to hit the pocket is 6 degrees. If your ball has too much hook, you shoot a line in the middle of the lane from the left side of the alley. If your ball hooks gently, shoot a line over the right side of the lane from the middle or right side of the alley.

That is about all I know about bowling. I hope this helps you.

Equus Pallidus wanted a post on compound bows. I will get to that eventually.

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