How to handle dry lanes
When we first learn to bowl, we usually canít hook the ball very much. Even if we use one of the newer "hook-in-a-box" balls it will only hook half as much as the more experienced players. We marvel as we watch the experienced players play the 3rd, 4th and 5th arrows. If we move deeper than the 12 board, our ball wonít make it to the head pin.
However, the new bowler does have one advantage. When the lanes are dry and the better players are climbing on top the ball return, the "new" bowlers with their weak releases shoot the highest scores of their lives. They canít believe how much room they have and how well their ball is carrying.
Once the new bowler learns to throw the ball better and his average climbs to a respectable level he ends up in the same boat as the experienced guys when the lanes dry out. Eventually, the "new" bowler is climbing on top of the ball return trying to get deep enough to keep his ball on the right side of the head pin. Now I will be the first to admit that if you have the skill, getting in front of the ball return and hooking the whole lane is often the best scoring line when the heads give up most of their oil to todayís sponge balls. Not everyone knows how to get in front of the ball return so I want to offer some other things to try.
What happened to that new bowler that was perfectly happy when the lanes dried out? The dry lane condition that gave him the best scores a year ago is now his worst enemy! Well, he got educated. When he was a beginner, his rev rate was very low because his thumb hole was too big. This caused him to squeeze the ball for a late release. His thumb and fingers exited the ball at nearly the same time. Chances are his wrist was bent back which robbed him of the revs he needed to hook the ball.
All of these "bad" habits made him a pretty good dry lane bowler. The beginner bowler may not have had the skills to repeat shots or be very accurate, but the dry lane was never a problem for him.
So now that we are all great bowlers, "legends in our own minds", how should we attack dry lanes? Itís hard to go back to being a dummy after you have been educated but are many avenues we can take from here.
This article is more about how to attack dry lanes with your physical game than the options presented by different balls, polishes and drillings. There seems to be no shortage of information on bowling balls and how to drill them, especially if you have access to the Internet. Thus, I will stick to sharing information that is less known and harder to find.
The first task at hand is to determine just how dry the lanes are. There are many different degrees of dryness. If the lanes are just hooking 5 to 10 boards more than normal, then in many cases the only thing you should do is just get deeper and allow the ball to hook. A lot of bowlers make the mistake of trying to cut down on the hook as soon as the ball hooks a tad more than normal. I say let it hook! Just throw your normal ball speed, release, and let the ball hook. You will most likely have area (room for error) and decent carry. Try to get deep enough that the "high" shots just barely make it back to the pocket.
As the lane gets dryer, continue getting deeper until you reach your limit or the ballís limit. If you have trouble hitting your target when you get too deep, then read the article "getting deeper" on my website for some help.
When the lane dries to a point where you just donít have any more room to move or your ball stops hooking due to too much friction, itís time to try something different. I guess it must be said that by this time you should be throwing one of your lesser hooking balls.
If getting in front of the ball return is not an option for you, then you must hook the ball less. Remember that every board the ball hooks is your own doing. Balls donít hook on their own; not even todayís high tech "hook-in-a-box" balls. First letís look at why balls hook in the first place. Bowling balls hook because we as bowlers apply an axis of rotation at an angle to its direction of travel along with a few revs (RPMs). I will go into more detail of these wonders of physics in a future article but for now it will suffice to say that we put a side spin and revs on the ball. That is why it hooks. The amount of side spin and revs work hand and hand to determine how much the ball hooks at a given ball speed. The amount of side spin must be somewhere between zero and 90 degrees. The rev rate has the most to do with how much the ball hooks. For example, if you increase your rev rate, the ball will hook more. If you decrease your rev rate, the ball will hook less for a given speed and axis rotation.
Most bowlers that I have observed try to throw the ball harder to keep it from hooking so much. The problem is, without realizing it, they increase their rev rate as well as the speed. This makes the ball end up hooking just as much. If you want the ball to hook less in the heads but still have some hook for the back end for good carry potential, you must reduce your rev rate. The less you rev the ball, the more it will skid. Thatís why new bowlers can bowl so well on dry lanes. They have very weak releases with low rev rates.
So how do you reduce your rev rate? You simply bend your wrist back a little. I call this "opening the wrist" By opening your wrist, you move your fingers closer to the top of the ball at the release. This gives your fingers less leverage and time to rev the ball. Opening your wrist even a little makes a pretty big difference in your rev rate and your ballís hook potential.
You can try using your normal release only with an open wrist. This will give you a lower rev rate and, for some people, add more axis tilt. If you find that using your normal release with an open wrist the ball still burns up or rolls out too much, then you will need to move your fingers to the side of the ball. (see Photo 1)
Make sure you keep your wrist open all the way through the release without lifting up your fingers as the ball leaves your hand as in Photo 2. If the lanes are really dry, try placing your thumb into the ball first and then your fingers. Think about throwing the ball more with your thumb, keeping your hand open and relaxed as you go through the release. Try to make your follow-through long and low instead of reaching for the sky.
If the ball is skidding through the heads properly but is too strong on the back end, then spread your little finger out like in Photo 3. This will make the ball much calmer so you can control the burn rate of the ball.
Notice that I have not mentioned anything about throwing the ball harder as of yet. This is because you may not need the extra speed using the open wrist technique. Some people get into trouble when they try to throw the ball harder because it messes up their timing. If you do find you need more speed then hold the ball six to eight inches higher in your stance and back up on the approach by the same amount. By backing up on the approach the same number of inches you raise your ball you will keep your timing more in line with normal.
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