How to Bowl Strikes

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Choose Your Starting Position

A sample starting position.
A right-handed bowler's left foot aligned with the center dot.

If you're like any other bowler in the world, you want to throw a strike on every shot. But, if you're like any other bowler in the world, you know it's a lot harder to do than to say.

Finding your "strike ball," meaning a shot ​you throw consistently with good results, is very important as it's the basis for adjustments, spares and improving your game overall.

To find your strike ball, you need to find your starting position. Begin by lining up your left shoe with the middle dot on the approach. Place your right foot wherever is comfortable for you and your bowling style. For left-handed bowlers, do the same, but with the opposite feet.

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Choose Your Target

Bowling ball rolling over the second arrow.
Aim to have your ball roll directly over the second arrow.

Aim for the second arrow from the right of the lane, which is about 15 feet past the foul line (lefties aim for the second arrow from the left). The goal is to have your ball roll directly over this arrow on its way toward the pins.

Why is this a good starting point? On most house oil patterns, most of the oil is in the middle of the lane. Throwing your ball on the outside will give you more traction down the entire lane.

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Watch Your Shot

A bowling ball nears the pins.
This ball is going to miss to the right.

Take note of what happens. Did you hit the pocket dead on, resulting in the greatest strike of your life? Did you miss right or left? By how much? By paying attention to what your ball does, you’ll know how to adjust your subsequent shots in the quest to find your strike ball.

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Adjust Your Starting Position

A bowling approach.
Each "board" is slightly over an inch wide.

If you consistently hit the pocket from the initial starting position, you have found your strike ball. Keep throwing it. You will notice over time, however, that the shot doesn't stay the same forever. The more you bowl and the better you get at it, the more you'll realize you need to always be adjusting to the oil as it moves on the lane.

Otherwise, move in the direction of your miss. That is if you missed left, move a few boards to your left on the approach. If you missed right, move right. This might seem backward, but a right-handed bowler misses left because her or his ball hooked too early. Moving to the left on the approach and aiming for the same arrow will force the ball farther down the lane before hooking into the pins. That's why, at this point, you should always aim for the same arrow.

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A bowling ball rolls over the second arrow.
The more shots you throw, the more consistent your accuracy will become.

Finding your strike ball may take one throw or several games. As you throw more balls, you will get better at feeling how your shot reacts and understanding what you need to do to accomplish consistency.

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Other Adjustments

Arrows on a bowling lane.
Choosing a different target or changing speed are two ways to adjust.

There is no rule saying you have to aim at the second arrow. If you’re throwing a huge hook, maybe you want to aim at the first arrow. If you’re having trouble throwing a hook, you might want to aim more toward the middle.

Another simple adjustment is speed. A good way to get more hook on the ball is to throw it more slowly.

However, when first trying to find your strike ball, the simplest adjustment is the starting position. You’ll find yourself naturally making the other adjustments as you get more practice and get a better feel for throwing your ball.