Strike For Show, Spare For Dough


I have discussed spares in a previous Latest Tip, but spares can’t be talked about enough. The path to success in our sport is with the second shot of a frame. Everyone can strike - you’ve all done it many times. Not that impressive to be honest. But a bowler who can spare consistently with precision, knowledge, and purpose has my full attention. If you are in league or a tournament and striking a lot, you are not the only one. But who amongst you is going to make the majority of your spares? That is the bowler who is left standing at the end. Look at the top pros and their spare percentages. It is off the charts. They will all tell you how much spares matter. Do yourself and your game a favor - spend more time practicing spares in your trainings. Practice is not for score, so shoot a spare shot on your first ball, and then a strike shot on your second ball. That way you are guaranteed to get 50% spare shots and 50% strike shots. It will certainly pay off for you when you need it.

Q & A

Have a Question of your own? Ask your questions right here:

qna@rkhcoaching.com

 

Questions will be answered on this page.  Check back often to see if your question has been posted.  If I don’t know the answer, I will make something up... No, I wouldn’t do that... as far as you know…

 


My teammates keep telling me to slow down. Is that really the best thing to do?

-John P.

Georgia


It depends on what exactly they want you to slow down. Most of the time, people are referring to your feet. In this case, I would say that it is probably not the best thing to do. Most bowlers actually do not move quickly enough to the line. The feeling may be that it is too fast, but in reality, it is not. And the reason is simple - ball speed. Today’s best bowlers certainly do not throw it slow. And if your feet and body are moving slow to the line, the ball will have that same tempo going down the lane. And if your arm is just swinging faster to get the speed, this will be inconsistent at best. I would suggest you keep your speed up and ask for another solution to whatever is ailing your game.

-Coach Ron

 

Q & A Archive


I notice that halfway through my approach my eyes move off my target. Why is this such a challenge?

-Henry W.

Utah


Seems crazy, doesn’t it? Why is it so hard for bowlers to keep their eyes on their target for a mere 3-5 seconds? Well, first of all, it is a skill just like any other skill you work on in your physical approach. So, be sure to give it the time it deserves in your practice sessions. And don’t try to combine this skill with something else when working on it or it won’t be getting the sole attention it requires. Also, be sure to stay hydrated while bowling by drinking lots of water. Dehydration, even at the smallest levels, has been shown to increase eye movement in athletes. And finally, practice managing your mental stress more effectively while you bowl. Falling short of this has also been shown to increase eye movement.

-Coach Ron

 



When I put my hand in my ball in the stance, the holes feel snug. But it seems like I lose the ball off my hand at release. Tape doesn’t seem to help. What is causing this?

-Tom S.

Ohio


It sounds like you may have some early timing. What you have described is a common symptom. Bowlers often have the sensation of losing the release when the feel of the thumb hole seems to be fine. This is because the arm gets ahead of the body at release and the hand turns early. This causes the thumb to drop out early without any leverage for a strong release.

-Coach Ron

 



On bowling balls, I have seen some with the pin above the fingers and some with the pin below the fingers. What’s the difference?

-Bill S.

Canada


The pin position up or down on a bowling ball is primarily for distance. For example, when a pin is positioned above the finger holes, this will cause the bowling ball to go a little further down the lane before starting to hook. If that same ball had a pin that was below the finger holes, it would want to start rolling earlier. It’s a small tweak to ball reaction, but it can certainly make a difference that is important.

-Coach Ron

 



I have heard some bowlers talk about urethane bowling balls. I am a league bowler and don’t bowl many tournaments. Do I need to have one?

-Marie F.

Arkansas


In short, no. Urethane bowling balls are great choices for tournament bowlers, especially those who may often see short oil patterns. For your leagues that you are competing in, reactive balls will do the job you need. And be sure to have a plastic ball for your spares. Your league lane oil is probably somewhere around 40 feet or so. Urethane bowling balls are good tools when the lane oil is shorter in length or lower in volume. So, as said earlier - in short, no; on short, yes.

-Coach Ron

 



Can I practice too much??

-Jason B.

Texas


You can do anything too much, and practicing is no exception. There has to be a balance. Some of the concerns of practicing too much or for too long at one time include:

  • burnout
  • physical injury
  • wearing yourself out physically and mentally prior to a tournament
  • practicing the wrong things and/or the wrong way
  • losing motivation if goal setting and achieving are not utilized
Again, remember balance is the key. And remember it is about quality, not quantity. Good practices, even for just an hour at a time, can be hugely effective. Set goals, have a few skills in mind that you are going to work on, don’t keep score (to keep your focus on you and not your results), and always finish your practice by ‘turning your brain off’ and just bowling to help develop the feel you worked for that practice.

Don’t overdo it. Don’t neglect the other parts of your life. Have a few, or several, good quality practices a week that leave you feeling like you accomplished something significant each time, and you will see better results sooner - without feeling exhausted or burned out.

-Coach Ron

 


 

It seems like no matter what I do, I can’t get any of my strike balls to work for picking up my 10 pin. They all want to hook left just before getting to the pin. Every once in awhile I will pick one up, but it has to be perfect. What can I do?

-George L.

Colorado

 

Well, there are two primary options. First would be to make an angle and hand position change with your strike balls when shooting the 10 pin. Move as far left as possible to create more angle through the oil in the middle part of the lane. Then try to relax your wrist more and create as little rotation as possible at release.


Secondly, and more preferably, get a plastic ball for shooting your right side spares. In today’s game, a plastic ball is one of the most important balls in your bag. You can significantly increase your margin for error for right side spares with a plastic ball. You will still want to move left as much as possible and use a relaxed release, but you won’t have to be “perfect” like you have to be now when using a strike ball for those 10 pins.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 

 

When I am bowling league, I keep thinking about my timing and I probably shouldn’t. What are your thoughts?

-John M.

Wisconsin

 

There are two types of focus: internal and external. Internal focus is for training when you are working on things such as your timing, swing, release, etc. Results are not important, and hopefully, you are not even keeping score. Your focus is on your process of throwing good shots. External focus is for league and competition. This is when you are watching the ball reaction and making adjustments to the lane conditions. If you are thinking about your timing and are being internal, then your focus is not where it should be in league. Trying to manage both internal focus and external focus at the same time is difficult and will most likely lead to lower results.


Try to leave your timing thoughts to training and let your game take over naturally in league. At that time, limit your thoughts to ball reaction and lane adjustments.

-Coach Ron


 



I am going to join three leagues this coming fall and was wondering how many bowling balls do I really need to be competitive?

-Jason B.

Missouri

 

Not knowing how many different centers you will bowl in and the lane conditions you will face, three balls would be the minimum and four would be optimal. With the three ball arsenal, you would need one ball for oil, one for medium to dry, and a plastic ball for spares. With the four ball arsenal, you would need one ball for oil, one ball for medium, one ball for dry, and a plastic ball for spares. With these arsenals, you would be competitive on virtually all house patterns and would also be able to make the necessary ball changes due to lane transitions. To make the best ball choices and drilling layouts based on your game and the center’s lane conditions, we strongly recommend you talk with your pro shop professional. He or she will be well versed on what particular balls have worked with different styles in their center. As you can see, regardless of how big your ball arsenal is, a plastic ball for spares should always be included.

-Coach Ron


 



I have just returned to bowling after ten years away. I am bowling in three leagues and have very little time for practice. I am concerned that I will not see much improvement this way. Your thoughts?

-Jamie W.

Tennessee

 

Your concern may be justified. When you are bowling in leagues, you are trying for score, so physical skill improvement is not if the forefront of your mind. You most likely will see limited improvement this season unless you are able to devote more time to practice. And don’t forget - practice is not for keeping score. You need all of your focus in practice to be on physical development, and all of your focus in league to be on scoring. So, our advice would be to eliminate one or two of your leagues, and devote that extra time to practice and getting your game back to where it was and better. If not this season, next season for sure.

-Coach Ron


 



I have returned to bowling after an absence of a few years. The span on the ball I am using feels too short, and I feel like I have to squeeze the ball to get good lift, which in turn, is causing me to not be able to relax my arm swing. What are the symptoms of a short span and how do I correct the problem?

-Frank M.

New Jersey

 

Well, you have already described some of the symptoms – squeezing the ball, tight arm swing, etc. Generally, the biggest symptom is the feeling that you have to squeeze the ball and that you just can’t relax your hand or arm no matter what you try. When you notice any of this occurring, it is time to visit your pro shop professional. That person is the expert who can effectively check your fit to see what corrections, if any, are needed. As an adult, we recommend you get your fit checked at least once a year. For bowlers under the age of 18, every couple of months is a good idea. So, to correct the problem you are having, you need to see your pro shop operator as soon as possible. The corrections in your fit after your absence will make all the difference in the world for your physical game and future improvement.

-Coach Ron

 



 


I have been told that my foot and ball should arrive at the foul line at the same time.  Is this true?

-rebecca t.

Kentucky

 

Absolutely, if you want to have extremely early timing!  But for effective timing and better bowling, the lower body should arrive to the line before the ball.  This is how a bowler creates leverage.  In fact, this is how athletes in many sports create leverage - quarterbacks in football, pitchers in baseball, golfers, etc.  To create power, leverage and balance, the lower body arrives at the foul line shortly before the ball does.  This also allows bowlers to create shoulder angle and better accuracy at hitting their intended ball paths.  A lot of previous teachings in our sport told bowlers this.  But with today’s game and the leverage and power needed to increase pin fall, the two halves of the body do not arrive at the same time.

-Coach Ron

 



 


How important is it to keep score during practice sessions?

-John M.

Oregon

 

Rarely is it important. In fact, it can be detrimental to a quality practice. If your practice is designed to work on physical components, then keeping score will take your complete focus away from that. Practicing requires internal focus, or what happens before the foul line. Competition requires external focus, or what happens after the foul line - ball reaction, lane changes, etc. For a very efficient and quality practice, you should bowl without scores so that results are not on your mind. Then you can devote your full attention to skill development. And conversely, in competition, focus your attention on the lane and ball reaction with little to no thoughts about your physical game. You have to go with what you have!


Spend a significant portion of your practice time honing the skills of versatility – ball speed changes, wrist position changes, rotation changes, loft changes, etc. These are not physical game fundamentals, but adjustments you can make on top of changing your angles on the lane. Having these in your bag of tricks will allow you to adjust to any lane condition without sacrificing your physical game. And this will allow your focus to always be in the right place. Having these tools really increase your confidence as well. And when you are confident, you are likely to throw the ball much more consistently physically and mentally.

-Coach Ron

 

 



 

When I practice, I have internal focus while I am working on different parts of my physical game. I always finish a practice session off with about 5-10 minutes of external focus, just watching my ball reaction and making moves to strike. My problem is that as soon as I go to a hard lane condition and am focusing externally, it seems that my technique changes quite a lot. For example, today I bowled on shark, and all my focus was external. I compared video today from yesterday, and everything is a lot worse. How do I bowl completely externally focused on difficult conditions yet still keep my technique the same? I don’t want to be worrying about my physical game during a tournament, especially not on a hard pattern with no room for error.

-Bob D.

New York

 

You shouldn’t have to worry about your physical game during competition. You certainly have the right practice and competition mindsets. The problem could be in your versatility. When you encounter difficult lane conditions and make moves to strike, maybe it’s not enough. Consequently, your body and physical game are making unwanted adjustments to compensate for what you need your ball to do. This could explain why you look and feel so much different from training to competition.


Spend a significant portion of your practice time honing the skills of versatility – ball speed changes, wrist position changes, rotation changes, loft changes, etc. These are not physical game fundamentals, but adjustments you can make on top of changing your angles on the lane. Having these in your bag of tricks will allow you to adjust to any lane condition without sacrificing your physical game. And this will allow your focus to always be in the right place. Having these tools really increase your confidence as well. And when you are confident, you are likely to throw the ball much more consistently physically and mentally.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 


I generally have timing issues. Can you give me some keys on the start in the bowling approach?

-Fred W.

Michigan

 

The important thing to remember is that a good start equals a good finish. The best key to give you is when to start your ball movement and swing. If you take a four step approach (and are right-handed; just reverse this if left-handed), the pushaway should start with your first step. So, engage the whole right side of your body at the same time. If you take a five step approach, the arm would move with the second step. In essence, this is the same as the four step approach – the only difference is that the left foot moves first without the ball moving. It’s a baby step to “get you going.”

-Coach Ron

 



 


Is it normal to use a fingertip grip for your strike ball and a conventional grip for your spare ball? I saw a bowler the other night with this.

-Janice D.

Florida

 

This is something that is not widely done and not recommended. Our guess is that person is using a conventional grip on the spare ball to reduce the hook potential of the ball. The problem is going from one type of grip to the other and maintaining consistency. Those are two very different types of grips, and it is best to stick with one. Our recommendation would be to stay with the fingertip grip on every ball. And with the spare ball, the hook can be reduced by using less rotation at release. This combined with a plastic coverstock will keep the ball on the desired straight path to the spare.

-Coach Ron


 



I’m having trouble with early timing. When watching myself on video, the ball is almost at the top of the backswing on my second step (4 step approach). There are no delays in my cadence and my feet are already moving fast, the swing just seems faster. How can I delay the swing to correct this?

-Bill W.

Alabama

 

If your feet are moving fast, try these other ideas: Make your pushaway shape bigger Make your pushaway motion and the beginning of your backswing slower and smoother Make your backswing higher If these ideas don’t work, try a 5 step approach and see if you can gain a better rhythm between your arm swing and your feet.

-Coach Ron

 



 


Should you feel the weight of the ball in your hand/palm all the time and does the forward swing really happen naturally with zero initiation from your part as long as you let gravity does the work?

-Howard W.

Hong Kong

 

These are two really great questions. Feeling the weight of the ball in your palm all during the swing would indicate that your hand is staying stable. This is good and would mean that your bowling thumb and wrist are not moving left to right. If your hand opens or closes (thumb moves outward or thumb moves inward), this can cause your swing to go offline and create accuracy problems. It can also cause inconsistency at the release point.


It’s unrealistic to think that the forward swing will happen without any effort on your part. You are hanging on to and swinging an object that weighs up to 16 pounds. There is always going to be a little force on the arm and hand. The key is to minimize that as much as possible. This is done by making sure the fit of your ball is good and comfortable and that you are not having to squeeze it to hold on to it. Another key is to not try to get all of your ball speed with your forward swing. Too many players over-accelerate their forward swing in an effort to get more power. The power should come from the whole body, not just the forward swing. If these two items are taken care of, the forward swing should be smooth and consistent with the rest of the swing, with minimum force exerted.

-Coach Ron

 

 




Sometimes I have problems following through to the target. What factors negatively affect the follow through?

-Emily M.

California

 

The most likely reason you cannot follow through to the target is because of improper timing and posture at the foul line. If your timing is early, typically you will be leaning forward at release, and this forward posture position restricts how you follow through. But even if your timing is mostly good for your game, check to see if you are leaning excessively forward during your release. As soon as your posture becomes more upright with just a little forward tilt, you will see that your follow through can continue through to the target with no problem.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 


Typically, when I miss my target it is almost always to the right (right-hander). What causes this?

-Max w.

Australia

 

There can be several causes for this.  The two most common would be swing direction and timing.  If your back swing goes in behind your back, then your forward swing oftentimes will go out to the right.  And if your timing is late at your release, this will cause your shoulder angle to be open to the right, again causing you to miss to the right.  Another possible cause is if your body angle in your stance and during your approach is too much to the right relative to your target and intended ball path.  This open body angle will make the ball go right of your intended target.  Check these three common causes and see if they apply to your accuracy problems.

-Coach Ron


 


 


Do I always need to use my most hooking ball when the lanes are oily?

-Gary B.

Ohio

 

Absolutely not. In many cases, this would be the wrong decision. You need to keep an open mind when making a ball selection for a given lane pattern. If the pattern is flat, you will want to see the lane as direct as possible and select a ball that gives you a controlled and predictable motion at the breakpoint. Sometimes, your most hooking ball will not be the best choice to accomplish these two goals. In some cases, you will be better off choosing a medium ball that you can keep in a direct line and that will be predictable down the lane. In your practice session before scoring begins, start with your benchmark, or medium, ball to get a read of the lanes and then make your best choice from there. Don’t get caught in the mental trap that heavy oil = most aggressive ball.

-Coach Ron

 

 




I have been reluctant to use bowler’s tape.  Isn’t that a crutch or a sign that something isn’t right with the fit?

-Stacy W.

Connecticut

 

Bowler’s tape is not a crutch.  Tape for the holes or skin tape for the fingers or thumb is an adjustment for comfort and hole size.  With temperature and humidity changes sometimes come fluctuations in thumb size.  These minor changes can be corrected by using tape correctly and effectively.  Most bowlers today carry an assortment of sizes and textures to match the feel they are looking for.  Now, if there is an excessive use of tape to make a hole feel right, that may be a sign that it is time for a fit check up and possible adjustment.  Try using some tape to see if you can find an even better feel that what you currently have.

-Coach Ron

 

 



 

Recently, I feel as if my release has become very inconsistent.  I have not made any physical game changes in my game and feel like everything is the way it should be.  I am 27 years old and have been bowling for 15 years.  Any ideas?

-Michael N.

Canada

 

When was the last time you had your fit checked? It may be as simple as that. If you feel good physically and nothing is different in that aspect, have your pro shop professional give you a fit check up. It usually happens that the hand can change just a little and without the necessary fit adjustment, bowlers can start to see inconsistencies in their approach and release. And going forward, be sure to get your fit check up at least once per year, preferably twice.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 

 

There are so many bowling balls to choose from at my local pro shop. How do I know which one or ones are best for my game?

-Karen A.

New York

 

It does seem like there are new ones every week.  But, believe it or not, they all do different things.  There are many decisions that need to go into which bowling ball is best for your game.  This is where your pro shop professional comes in.  This person can watch your game and match the best ball to you and the lane conditions you will bowl on.  The three most important factors when choosing a ball are surface, RG value, and differential. Your pro shop professional can explain what each means and can put all of these factors together for you, your game, and your lane conditions.  Remember, though, a plastic spare ball should always be one of the bowling balls in your bag.

-Coach Ron

 

 




My backswing keeps going too high and I am having trouble controlling it.  Any suggestions?

-Duane E.

Washington

 

The first thing to check is your posture during your approach.  Many people “follow” the ball into the downswing and backswing, and this excessive leaning forward will cause the backswing to get higher.  To make it the correct height for your game and to make it consistent from shot to shot, focus on your spine and upper body.  As the ball moves out and down, keep your upper body stable.  You want to keep a similar spine angle throughout your entire approach.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 

 

Is it best to take the summer off bowling or continue practicing for next season?

-John s.

Texas

 

Well, there is no right or wrong answer here and it is certainly an individual answer.  Some people benefit by practicing and working on needed skills for the upcoming season.  But then there are others who need not only a physical break, but a mental one as well.  This break could be even more helpful to their games than actual practice.  If you are feeling like you are getting burned out or if you feel happy that the current season is coming to an end, this may be your sign to take a break this summer.  If not, go ahead and practice and improve your game with a certified coach for next season.

-Coach Ron

 

 


 

 

The house pattern in my home center is very oily, and I have trouble getting the ball to hook early enough to hit the pocket consistently.  What can you recommend?

-Don R.

Minnesota

 

Don,

Actually, there are several things you can try.  First is with your bowling balls.  You would want a ball that has a low RG value, a low pin position, and a dull surface.  You can discuss these variables with your pro shop professional to get the right matches for your game.  Second is with your physical game versatility.  Obviously, the best battle against  heavy oil is speed.  Move up on the approach and lower your body speed going to the foul line, and this will lower your ball speed.  Playing straighter lines to the pocket is usually beneficial with heavier oil.  Reduce how much angle your ball has going through the heads and mid lane.  And you can also create earlier hook with less hand rotation at release.  When you release the ball more ‘up the back’ and not by getting ‘around it’, you bring the breakpoint closer to you and also reduce how much and how severe the back end reaction will be.  Try each of these separately to see which ones have the biggest effect for you, and then you can determine which variables you need to combine.  Don’t worry - heavy oil is not a problem if you are just willing to implement some new skills in your game.

-Coach Ron