Make sure you have a bowling ball that feels comfortable in your hands. Bowling balls are all made differently, spinning and hooking at different rates. You want a ball you can comfortably raise and lower, but not so light you could throw it around with ease. It's always best to get a ball of your own instead of borrowing it or renting it, as you'll have a better fit and better results.
The average weight for adult men is 14lb and 13lb for women or smaller men. Children usually start at 12lbs.
Make sure your fingers are firmly in the holes but come out without sticking. You shouldn't be squeezing your finger or thumb muscles to keep the ball on your hand, just lightly gripping it.
Balls come with a variety of “Flare Potential” and “RG Radius” ratings. These tell you how likely the ball is to curve back to the middle after a throw. The higher the ratings, the more the ball hooks. Think about your throw — straight on or hooked, and buy accordingly.
Get good bowling shoes. Your bowling shoes are just like regular shoes– they need to be taken care of and it's always best if they are your own. Good shoes have a smooth, regular sole and fit you comfortably. Get a half size bigger than your regular shoe size so that your feet are comfortable as you bowl.
Start in an athletic, upright bowling stance. The most important thing is where you hold the ball. Put your fingers in the holes and balance the ball on your palm around stomach or chest height, using the opposite hand to support the weight. The ball should be slightly to the right side of your body in alignment with the right seam of your shirt (right handed bowlers). Your knees are slightly bent and your shoulders relaxed, and your left foot is on the big dot in the center of the lane (right-handers).
Keep your wrist strong so that the ball appears like a natural extension of your arm. You don't want your wrist to droop down towards the floor.
Find your mark on the lane. There are seven arrows on the lane. Do not aim for the middle, as it usually leads to a split. If you're right-handed, aim for the arrow just to the right of the center. If you are left handed aim for the arrow just to the left. This mark is the best starting place for strikes.
If it is easier, move your feet to the right or left before you start approaching the lane so that your feet are lined up with the correct marker, then just throw straight ahead.
Almost all balls will hook, at least a little, and the lanes are designed for this. You want your ball to hit between the first pin and the next one in line behind it for strikes. This is called the “pocket.”
Time your approach so that your opposite foot lands in front of the lane. The classic move is the 4-step approach, landing with the foot opposite your throwing arm. For right-handers, step forward with your right foot, then comfortably walk forward so that your left foot lands within 6” or so of the lane. Your right foot will then swing out of the way behind your left foot, allowing you to throw the ball freely. Practice a few times without the ball until you find a good starting spot that lets you arrive at the line, left foot down, every time. There are 2 lines of dots along the approach to the lane that are good starting points for you to begin.
Practice taking 4 even steps each time, landing your left foot comfortably, before practicing the throw. You could also start at the foul line (beginning of lane), and walk four steps backward to determine the best starting spot for you.
Reverse this is you are left-handed. The foot opposite your throwing arm should be planted at the lane. If you are left handed, you will land and plant with your right foot.
Push your arm forward on the first step of your approach. As you take the first step of the approach, push the ball out in front of you so that your arm is extended. Use your left hand to support the weight of the ball as your hold it in front of you. The following steps will be for a right-handed thrower.
Remember to keep the ball out to the right side, not in the middle of your body.
Drop your arm so that the ball arcs back towards your leg. As you take the first step with your left leg, the ball will drop so that your right arm and left leg are roughly even. Keep your grip on the ball and let it fall freely. Your elbow will be slightly bent, but gravity is doing most of the work as the ball comes down.
Let the ball continue arcing behind you and up towards shoulder height. As you step again with your right foot, the ball will continue behind your body and up, reaching its apex as you plant your right foot. You will be swinging it back here.
Focus on keeping your wrist strong as you do this, not letting it rotate around. The higher your arm goes back the more powerful the throw will be, do not go too far as this could cause injury.
Swing the ball down as you plant your left foot by the line. Come down with the ball, planning to release it as you pass your leg. Your right leg should swing behind the left leg, getting it out of the way for your shot. It doesn't have to swing way out, like a pro bowler, just out of the way enough that you don't hit it with the ball.
Release the ball by flicking your wrist and fingers up towards your head. As the ball leaves your fingers, snap them up as if you were closing your hands. Think of the children's game where you have a quarter in your hand and someone is trying to take it before you close your hand. You should release as the ball passes your planted leg, at its lowest point.
Look at your mark when release. Don't look at the pins or you will get distracted and throw off key — the arrows are your target, and the ball will do the rest. Remember you are aiming for the first or second arrow to the right of the center arrow.
Follow through. To protect your arm, continue your arm back up on its arc towards your head. Think of drinking from a soda can, bringing your fingers and wrist up to head height.
Know where you want the ball to hit. Strikes are most common when the ball hits the “pocket,” the space between the front center pin and the next pin behind it, directly. For right handed bowlers this means curving the ball so it strikes right between the front pin and the second pin on the right. This scatters the front set of pins, cascading them into all of the pins behind them.
More power means the pins scatter faster, potentially knocking over more pins.
Curving the ball is essential to hit consistent strikes. Remember to work on snapping your fingers and wrist as you follow through.
Left-handers want to hit between the front pin and the left pin in the second row.
Know how lane conditions affect your throw for strikes. An unknown secret of bowling is that every lane is a little different. Lanes are oiled up so that the ball glides straight over the wood without hooking constantly. When the ball is in less oiled, or “dry” areas, it tends to hook more, taking it off the line you threw it on. To make matters even more complicated, the lane patterns will change throughout the game. But bowling your best game ever requires you to read the lane and adjust your shots accordingly, not throwing the same shot 23 times.
The most common pattern is wet in the front and middle, and dry on the outsides and back, like a big triangle of oil pointing into the center of the lane. This means a throw to the outside will curve back to the middle, where a throw in the middle might not curve until the last second. This is why you aim out to the side, instead of down the center — it cause the ball to move out, then curve back in right to the pocket.
As the day goes on, oil gets picked up by the balls, making the lane drier and causing the shots to hook more.
Many tournaments have “alternate” oil patterns that force you to change your shots to get strikes. Ask to see an oil pattern or warm-up with different angles and starting positions to find your strike mark.
Find your strike mark while warming up. Starting in the center and throwing for the arrow just to the right of center (right-handers) is a great starting place to learn strikes, but you need to adjust it for your personal thrown. Make sure you watch the arrow you throw at, not the pins. If you are hitting your mark, but still missing the pocket, you should move your starting position.
If your ball is going too far to the left, move 2-3 boards to the left. This means your throw will angle more to the right, giving it more time to curve back to the left.
If your ball is moving too far to the right, move your feet 2-3 boards to the right. This will get your ball out of the oil, allowing it to curve more back to the center.
If you still have trouble, or the ball is hooking a ton, move your mark to the right or left. The closer to center your mark is, the less the ball will hook. However, you should move your starting position first.
Move your starting stance closer to the center as the lane dries up. Near the end of a game, especially with a big group, you may notice your normal shots are hooking more to the center and you're missing the pocket. As you notice your shots curving more to the center, move 1-2 boards to the left (right-handed throwers) and keep throwing at your normal mark, the arrow just to the right of the center arrow. Focus, again, on having the center of the ball hit this mark, not on the pins. If you're hitting your mark but still missing pins, move your feet starting position to accommodate.
This extra hook happens because the balls pick up oil throughout the game, removing it from the lane and causing it to dry out. A dry lane hooks more.
Understand how scoring works to plan your shots well. Knowing how bowling is actually scored helps you decide which pins to go for and when. The basics are easy — there are ten pins, and each pin you hit is worth a point. However, spares and strikes are worth more than just 10 pins. Strikes (X) are worth 10 points, plus whatever you hit on the next two throws. Spares (/) are worth 10 points, plus whatever you hit on the next throw. This means a single frame can be worth more than 10 points if you get a strike or spare.
For example, say you throw a strike in the first frame. In the second frame you hit 2 pins on the first throw and 3 on the next one for 5 total pins. Your first frame would be worth 15 points (10 for the strike, + 2 for the first throw and + 3 for the second). You still score, however, the 5 points from the second frame too. So your total score, after two frames, is 20 points (15+2+3).
If your throw three strikes in a row, your first frame is worth 30 points, 10 for the strike, plus 10 for the second frame and 10 for the third frame. You cannot score you second and third frames until you take another throw.
Spares add to your next shot only. So, if I throw a spare in one frame, then throw a gutter ball immediately after, my spare is only worth 10 points (10+0), no matter what I do after that. A spare followed by a strike is worth 20 points (10+10).
If you throw a strike or spare in the 10th frame you get a free shot at the end, making the 10th frame the only one with three potential rolls. Thus you should always go for the spare in the 10th frame.
Remember that speed makes it easier to pickup spares. Higher speeds mean there is less time for the ball to react and turn off line. Practice a straight, consistent spare shot and you will beat many a people who throw the same shot every time. Everybody can strike. Not everybody spares.
Lower, or “weaken,” your wrist on your shot to get less spin and a straighter throw. This provides a more accurate shot, as less spin means the ball will hook less. To weaken your wrist, start your shot with your wrist curved slightly down, towards the floor. On your follow through, don't let your wrist and fingers snap up as much. This may take some practice, but changing wrist positions is one of the most important skills for intermediate or advanced bowlers.
Adjust your starting position based on your spare. By adjusting your starting position you can often throw right at your normal mark and still get a spare. The boards on the lane (thin wooden pieces running to the pins) are made to give you a measurement system for aiming. If you need to hit a pin left of the center, you move several boards to the right, and vice verse. You then throw at the same mark you aim at for strikes. The system is actually pretty easy to learn and is reversed for the opposite direction of throws.
If you want to hit the first pin to the left of the center, move your start position 3 boards to the right.
If you want to hit the second pin to the left of the center, move 6 boards to the right.
Use the middle of the lane when trying to hit the far right and left pins. Most lanes are the slickest in the middle. Oil is applied to lanes in complex patterns that determine how much a ball hooks — more oil means less hook, or a straighter, more accurate shot. Since a right-hander going after the far right pins doesn't want the ball to curve to the middle, you should throw diagonally across center instead. This ensures a straighter flight, curving just a bit at the end to avoid the gutter and hitting all the pins.
For example, there may be one solo pin on the far right side of the lane. While you could try and hug the gutter, the ball will naturally want to spin to the center because the outside of the line is low on oil. Instead, start your walk from the far left of the lane, throwing the ball from the left diagonally, across the middle, to the far right pins.
Aim for the most pins possible during a split. Unless you are skilled enough to hit the outside edge of a lone pin, shooting it like a missile at the pack of three pins in the back corner, you should take the sure-fire three pins. This is especially important if you threw a strike the previous frame, because any pins you hit now get counted twice, once for the strike and once in this frame.
If you didn't get a strike in the previous frame, you might be more likely to take a risk now, trying to get a spare to boost your score for later.