The best thing about bowling is that people of almost any age can enjoy the sport. All you need is the right bowling ball and master a few key points on making the perfect strike. However, the latter part – where you need to learn to bowl a strike is not all that easy and needs technique and practice.
To bowl a strike with a straight ball, you need to plan it in a step by step manner, right from selecting the bowling ball to the grip, your bowling shoes, to your approach and aim, and even the style of your throw. Everything adds up and leads to scoring the perfect strike.
In this article, each of these aspects is discussed in detail to help you understand how each step is essential, and each of these steps right will guarantee that you can score a strike consistently. Keep on reading to get the step by step guide to bowl a strike with a straight ball.
Understand What Straight Ball Bowling Is
You can group bowlers into different categories based on the style in which they throw the bowling ball. One such technique is called the straight ball. It is relatively simple to distinguish these bowlers from the rest; they release the ball straight without rotating their fingers or spinning action. The ball then travels in one straight line in the direction of the pins.
Usually, beginners prefer to adopt this style mostly because of its simplicity. It lends them the confidence they need by striking more often before moving on to more advanced and intricate techniques.
Many newbies believe that spinning is the only way to score a strike, and they try their hand at it without exploring the other alternative of straight ball fully. Both the spin method and the linear ball method are capable of delivering a perfect strike.
Choose the Right Gear
Like any other sport, gear is critical. No matter how proficient you are in your sport, you will still need to be equipped with the right accessories to give your best shot. Scoring the perfect strike is attainable by most if they have absolute basics, such as their technique and practice, including their gear all sorted out.
There are a couple of things that are most vital when you bowl a strike with a straight ball as everything else that follows will, in many ways, flow from it:
- Bowling Ball
The Right Bowling Ball
Every bowling alley provides its bowling balls. These are the “house balls.” You could decide to use the house balls or, alternately, choose to buy your bowling balls. People generally start with house balls. They are also the cheapest options as the house balls’ rent is included in the fee itself. The same is the case with house shoes.
The other option is to purchase your bowling ball. The advantage of doing this is that you can customize it to fit your hand. Doing this will give you a better grip and favor you with the release.
There are master bowling ball makers who can advise you on what kind of ball will best suit your skill level. They can guide you on the ball composition and weight, which will make the bowling ball unique and suited to your style.
If you are purchasing your bowling ball, it is best to leave out the online options and go to a professional to set the order in person. You may not customize it to fit your needs if you order a bowling ball online. The experienced store specializing in these kinds of equipment will drill the ball to fit your grip style and strength, which an online store cannot do yet.
How to Choose a House Ball
If you are going to choose a house ball, you must first make yourself acquainted with the various kinds of house balls there. They usually come in multiple sizes and weights as they cater to a varying demographic of men, women, and children with different strengths and sizes. Some house balls will have the value stamped on them, but repetitive use may cause the stamp to fade out over time.
Some house balls are even color-coded. In such a case, the key is posted conspicuously at the bowling center. If you cannot find access to the color code, you can always ask at the desk to guide you.
When choosing the house balls first, you will need to determine the correct weight suitable for you. You could do this step by holding each of the bowling bowls with both your hands and then extending your hands outwards at the chest level.
As you push the ball outwards, if the weight of it increases exponentially and you feel like you will drop the ball, it is not the best choice. Pick the lighter one that does not feel like it would drop when you extend your arms. It should still feel heavy.
If you pick an exceptionally light ball, then there are chances that you might not be able to give it the desired momentum during release, and the events of the ball missing the pins would be more significant.
There are shoes designed explicitly for bowling, and it is mandatory to wear only these specific shoes in the bowling alley, like the house balls for bowling, these house shoes available. You have the option of either using the house shoes or buy your own specifically designed to be used in bowling alleys.
These shoes have soft rubber heels, and the soles are of leather. These shoes allow you to glide smoothly on the approach boards as you make the release. Any other kind of shoe will not cut it.
Unlike the bowling balls, you can purchase bowling shoes both at a professional shop and online. If you are buying it online, be very mindful of the shoe size. Unlike in a professional store where you can try out the shoes, you cannot try them before making an online purchase. So, be sure to double-check the shoe size online before you purchase them.
The Dexter Turbo II Extra Wide Bowling Shoes are made of 100% leather and are wide enough to give your feet enough room to fit in. It has a rubber heel required in any bowling shoe, and the leather is soft – another requirement for a great bowling shoe. Due to the high-quality materials used to make this shoe, it is highly durable.
When you use these special bowling shoes, irrespective of whether they are house shoes or shoes that you bought yourself, be careful not to step in any liquids. Stepping on fluids and spills will give you a wet shoe, and you will not be able to slide easily, thereby defeating the purpose for which you decided to get the shoe in the first place. In worse scenarios, it may even lead to injury.
Get the Grip Right
Once you have your gear ready, the next important step is to handle the equipment correctly. To get started with this, you will first need to get the grip right when you are holding the ball. There are two basic kinds of grip:
- Conventional Grip
- Fingertip Grip
In this grip, both the middle finger and the ring finger go inside the bowling bowl. You need to dig in the two fingers as deep as up to each finger’s second joints. If you are using the house ball, then this is the grip you should perfect.
The fingertip grip method requires you to hold it a lot more on the edge as you have the ball with only the first joints of your middle and ring fingers sunk into the drilled holes of the bowling ball. Many bowling enthusiasts use this technique as it gives more leverage during the release of the bowling ball. This grip is especially favored by spin bowlers rather than straight bowlers, though, as it allows you to add more revolutions to the ball.
Do the Correct Starting Position
To arrive at the correct starting position, you will need to first stand on the foul line with your back to the pins. You should then take four steps in front of you; remember they are four standard steps and at the end of the four stages, make a note of where your toe tip ends. This point will be the start of your approach.
However, there may be instances where you may find that the usual steps may take you way out of the alley. In such situations, take smaller steps and build on your pace to generate momentum as you get closer to the foul line. By taking smaller steps, you will be able to avoid going over the foul line.
It is essential to avoid going over the foul line. In case it does, or your body somehow manages to touch or toe upon the lane past this foul line, then you will lose points for the pins that you strike, and all your efforts will go in vain. So, remember that the starting position should give you ample space to build momentum as you go towards the foul line, but you should not, under any circumstances, cross that foul line.
Align Your Dominant Foot With Your Bowling Hand
Just before you release the bowling ball, you will need to get in the best position possible to get your strike right. For this, your dominant foot will also play a role. It is easy to know your dominant foot – it is the foot opposite to your dominant hand. For instance, you are bowling with your left hand; then, your dominant foot will be the right one and vice versa.
Always make sure that the dominant foot is forward at the time you release the bowling ball. Try to place your body in the center of the lane as you do so, and then with the dominant foot in the forward position, swing in the dominant hand with the bowling ball to make the strike.
With time, you may also want to adjust this alignment that you find to be more suitable to your natural tendencies, but having this formula as a starting point is a good idea.
As you are in the release position, make sure that your feet have at least four inches of a gap and that you point your toes outward. In this position, you will also find that the torso is almost parallel to the foot of your dominant leg.
Have the Right Aim
At this point, the next step is, of course, your aim. There are directional arrows provided in every bowling lane that helps you aim better. These arrows are slightly distant from the foul line, though, but it helps to refer to them when seeking the ball.
Keep in mind that each bowling lane’s center is the oiliest part, and the sides are relatively dry as they have less oil. It is an excellent strategy to aim a little off-center to gain some traction on the lane when you seek.
If you want to hit at the dead center, try aiming at the arrow next to the center on your dominant side. If, for instance, you are left handed, then seek for the hand immediately left of center, and if you are a right-handed bowler, aim for the arrow immediately right of center.
You can also try taking a bunch of practice rolls first so that you get the hang of it and understand how the bowling ball responds when thrown from different angles. During this time, try bowling as naturally as you can. Remember to keep your torso parallel to the foot of your dominant leg, and your dominant arm should also be as straight as possible.
During this entire time, pay close attention to where the ball lands.
Try to Hit the Pockets
To bowl a strike with a straight ball, you will need to hit the critical pockets consistently. A “pocket” is the area of either side of the pin in the very front – the lead pin. If you can hit the pockets consistently, you will be able to strike just as often.
The way it works is that each pocket connects the front pin to the next, thereby creating a domino effect, where if the lead pin falls, it will carry on the momentum that the bowling ball exerted on it and use that force to cause the next pin to drop.
If you can hit the pocket, you have officially found the correct starting position for your swing. In case you have not yet found that sweet spot and are still figuring out how to hit the pocket, pay close attention to what is causing you to miss. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the ball way off the mark?
- Or does it miss the pocket only slightly?
- Is the ball missing the mark in a single direction, say to your left, every time?
Once you made these observations, you will need to realign your starting position by moving slightly in the direction you missed. So, if the ball is missing the pockets by rolling out to the left every time, you will need to move towards your left and try again.
It takes a lot of practice and perfects this, and through trial and error, you will understand the sport’s nitty-gritty. Do not get frustrated if you cannot find the correct position in the first few attempts, but keep trying. After you have had several rounds of practice throws, you will be able to understand what your ideal starting point should be.
Eventually, you can also tweak your throw style and improve your chances to score a strike more consistently.
Improve Your Game
Once you have all the previous steps locked in place, your next step is to make sure that you are continuously making efforts to improve your game. For this, you will need to practice your bowling curve, figure out what speed works best for you, and over time, even adjust your grip on the ball.
Since the pocket you intend to hit is at a slight angle, you will need to practice your curve to hit on that angle. For this, you will need to curve the pocket right at the edge of the lane so that it hits the pocket. You would be well-advised to aim for the arrow that is slightly off-center and on your dominant side.
Professionals call it the handshake position when you curve the ball just ever so slightly so that it seems you are about to offer your hand for a handshake as you follow through with the ball. Remember to keep your arms straight after you release the ball, and as you raise your hand in the air, you should be about to shake the hand of an imaginary person on the bowling lane.
Figure Out the Speed
You will also need to understand what speed works best for you. Speed will help build momentum when you are about to release the ball. Proper speed will also generate the force to ensure that the pins fall over, and you can get a strike.
Using too much force may seem like a good idea at first, but anything more than optimum will not result in an accurate aim. Extra energy may allow the pins to continue standing on the floor, which the softer throws will eventually be able to strike down.
The bottom line then is to throw the ball with just as much force as is needed to strike down the pins. The modern-day bowling alleys of today come with speed trackers. These speed trackers are a great tool that you can use to your advantage. You can keep practicing to see what speed yields the best results and adjust your throw to maintain that speed over time.
Recording and monitoring speed will give you a new perspective and an added advantage that was not there earlier when people had to estimate the rate of the throw to surmise what pace works best for them. Now, with this technology available in bowling lanes, you can put it to some real good use.
If you find the speed is too much, do not try to reduce it all at one go. Instead, try reducing the rate in small increments. Get comfortable at lesser speeds and then reduce it further some more till you hit the right pace.
Always remember that slower pocket hits are still better than faster pocket hits as a slow impact will allow the pins on the lane to hit the other pins, thereby causing that domino effect so that the other pins along with the lead pin also fall.
Adjust the Grip
Having a very tight grip, particularly with the thumb, can cause the ball to hook too early or make it roll in the wrong direction. You will need to gently insert your fingers in the ball – whether you are using the conventional grip or the fingertip grip.
Adjusting the grip becomes more comfortable if you have the holes drilled into the ball customized to your fit. Your thumb should give out just slightly earlier than the middle and ring fingers as you release the ball.
Quick Reference Guide
By way of a quick reference, you can follow the instructions given here to bowl a strike with a straight ball:
- Choose a bowling bowl that is not too heavy. If you are buying it from a specialized store, make sure that you get the holes drilled to suit your span.
- Use proper bowling shoes with soft rubber heels and soles made of leather.
- When you are using the straight bowling technique, use the conventional grip to hold the bowling ball, that is, dip your middle and ring fingers till they are two joints deep in the bowling ball’s holes.
- Figure out your starting position by taking four normal strides from the foul line with your back towards the pins.
- For the release, align your dominant foot with the dominant hand; if your dominant hand (the hand with which you will be bowling) is the right hand, then your left foot will be outwards when you are releasing the bowling ball.
- Ensure that your torso is parallel to your dominant leg’s foot when you are releasing the ball.
- Aim for the pockets. Always aim for the pocket areas on either side of the lead pin to derive maximum benefit from your throw.
- If you are missing the pockets, move towards the direction in which you are missing to better your chances. Doing this might seem counter-productive, but as you move towards your miss’s direction, your chances of hitting the pockets increase.
- However, it might seem logical that if you move the opposite way, you will hit the pockets straight, but in bowling, it does not work that way. Use this as a talisman, and move in the direction of the miss.
- Figure out what speed works best for you. It is not necessary that the greater the speed, the better the chances of your winning. There are instances where a slower release has shown a greater chance of success.
- Some bowling alleys come with a speed tracker. Make the most of this technology to monitor your speed and boost your performance. They will give you a throw by throw rundown of the speed you have thrown the ball.
- You can then modify your pace accordingly. A slower speed can as much lead to poor performance as an incredibly fast speed. Once you understand that you need to alter the speed, you can increase or decrease your speed accordingly.
- If your speed is too high, initially consider reducing it in increments rather than by doing so abruptly. You will not be able to sustain it if you reduce the speed suddenly, whereas if you do so in increments, you will retain the technique as a muscle memory over a long time.
- Lastly, practice regularly for consistent results and feel free to tweak small details here and there as and when you deem necessary. No amount of technical knowledge is beneficial until practiced sincerely for a time.
In this video, you will find more relevant material on learning how to throw a straight ball. The host, Randy Peterson, is himself a bowling expert, and he shows how to best throw a bowling ball in a straight line down a bowling lane:
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some pointers on how you could get a strike with a straight ball. The key is not to rush as that will not help the score that strikes you are after. Instead, master the technique, pay attention to every detail and every step in the process, and be slow and smooth. With enough practice, the method will be second nature to you, and you will be able to score the perfect strike quite effortlessly.
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