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Jeff Piroozshad's Expert Bowling Tips

-See The Shot

3/26/2000 - By Jeff Piroozshad
     Have you ever thrown what you thought was a pretty good shot--you hit your mark, kept your balance, released the ball cleanly--and still didn't come close to the pocket. Many bowlers' first reaction is, "Wow, the lanes are drying up already?" In some cases, that might be true, but if the lanes have been pretty consistent until then, it is doubtful, though not impossible, that the lane conditions have dried up that much since the previous frame.

     A bowler has to remember that there is more that goes into accuracy besideshitting a target. There are many ways to simply hit a target. You can hit it going straight, left to right, right to left, with variations of angle within those. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to a few other points on the lane. In order to make a path for a ball to travel, you need to have at least two points of reference: a starting point and a finishing point. Generally, bowlers pick from a combination of these four parts of the lane: the foul line, the dots, the arrows, and the break point.

     The foul line is pretty self explanatory. It is the place where the ball is at release, and is the starting point for the ball's path on the lane (even though the ball lands a foot or two out on the lane). But how can you tell where the ball is at the foul line while you're looking out on the lane? For most bowlers in the world, the bottom of the bowling ball will be seven boards over from the inside part of the sliding shoe. Those with a thinner frame may have it come out to six boards, while those with larger frames may have it come out to eight boards. If you see where you slide when you release the ball, you know where the ball was at that moment.

     The arrows are, well, the arrows. There are seven of them, positioned on boards 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35. It is important to remember that a bowler is allowed to target between arrows. This sounds pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of bowlers who will only look at the first arrow, second arrow, or third arrow and not even consider that they can look in-between arrows. However, looking at a specific arrow is still a good place to start.

     The dots are exactly halfway between the foul line and the arrows. The arrows are fifteen feet past the foul line, so the dots are seven and a half feet from either. There are two sets of five dots, one set on the right side of the lane and one on the left. Starting from either side, the dots are located on boards 3, 5, 8, 11, and 14. Note that the only dot that lines up with an arrow is the second dot with the first arrow. On the other side of the lane, the dots are located on boards 26, 29, 32, 35, and 37. Remember that the dots are halfway between the arrows and the foul line. Therefore, if you want the ball to travel a path that starts out at board 17 and hit board 11 at the arrows, all you have to do is figure out what board is halfway between 17 and 11. Taking the average of those two numbers, we find that one should aim at board 14, which is the fifth dot. Bowlers find it useful to look at the dots in many instances. If there is a lot of oil on the lane, looking closer to the foul line sometimes help the ball roll sooner. Some bowlers don't like looking out all the way to the arrows, as it makes them dizzy, or just simply uncomfortable. Also remember that the closer something is, the easier it is to hit.

     The last point, and probably the toughest challenge, is the breakpoint. What makes the breakpoint interesting is that it's always different depending on the lane conditions. The breakpoint is the spot where the ball changes direction and starts to hook into the pocket. More/longer oil translates into a breakpoint further down the lane. Less/shorter oil translates into a closer breakpoint. However that is not the end of it by any means. Remember that lanes change. As the oil carries down, so too does the breakpoint. If a lane is oiled 30 feet and buffed to 35 feet, one can expect the breakpoint to be somewhere in the range just past there. The ball will not start to hook as soon as it hits dry. Because of its forward motion down the lane, the breakpoint will be just past the oil/dry line. Also, those bowlers with higher ball speeds and less aggressive equipment will see a breakpoint further down the lane because their styles are not as lane-condition sensitive. The new Brunswick Anvilane synthetic lanes have 4 markers way down the lane that bowlers can use as either a target to see what they want to hit, or as a reference point to see what they did hit. Those markers coincide with the second and third arrows on each side. People use breakpoint reference for a few reasons. When the heads are drier, looking further down the lane helps the ball clear the heads a bit better. Sometimes the backends are a pit spotty. Looking at a breakpoint can help a bowler be accurate in the backend, where accuracy matters in those cases. Bowlers often look 40 feet or more down the lane in order to make sure they stay out of a certain area--possibly an out-of-bounds area or an extreme dry patch. There are other reasons of course. Bowlers are very improvisational and come up with new ideas by the game.

     Now that you have these points in your mind, draw an imaginary line that goes through the ones that you have decided to focus on. Remember that it will be a STRAIGHT line (Note: a line can be angled, but it will still be straight. "Straight" does NOT mean perpendicular to the foul line). The line does not hook or curve until the breakpoint, which would be the end of the line anyway. When you deliver the ball, try to keep the ball on this line. It will help if you try to get your bowling shoulder above this line when you release the ball. By paying attention to more than one point on the lane, you can become more adept in recognizing the difference between good shots and bad shots, hopefully preventing you from making unnecessary adjustments.

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