A Smooth Landing (part 1)

            Today’s bowling balls are kind of like airline passengers; they like to make a smooth landing. Those of us that learned to bowl way back in the 1960s and 70s were told to throw the ball way out on the lane and to “lift” up on the ball at the release. The coaches of the day would lay a towel on the lane 2 feet past the foul line and ask us to heave the ball over it. This would require a late release taking place on the upswing and a tightly squeezed grip.

            This type of loft and late release will result in an under / over reaction from today’s high tech bowling balls. These high tech spheres need to skid to the break point, grab the lane and head toward the pocket. When the ball is released from a high altitude it crashes into the lane like a dumb bomb with much of its forward momentum and revs going into the lane instead of down the lane. This is a waste of valuable energy that is lost on the lane surface instead of on the pins.

            The “lift” (today’s term: “hitting up”) on the ball late in the swing will produce an inconsistent rev rate. This will not matter very much on wide open league shots but will make a huge difference on the flatter oil patterns of MegaBuck tournaments, PBA events and Sport Leagues. More and more tournaments are starting to switch to flatter oil patterns to hold scores down. Lower scores tend to produce more entries. Bowlers don’t like to enter if they know they must average 240 to get a check.

            Another problem with a ball released late in the swing on an upward trajectory is a magnification of any mistakes made in timing or in the swing path. This can cause an imperfect shot to become much worse.

So what’s the best way for today’s balls?

There are exceptions to every rule, but I believe that today’s balls should be released early, smooth and parallel to the lane surface. The majority of the best bowlers today release the ball within a foot of the foul line. The ball is off the thumb by the ankle of the slide foot and the fingers are usually out by the toe of the slide foot. The ball lands on the lane with hardly a sound and is often totally silent. This type of release can only be accomplished with a proper fit and a relaxed grip on the ball.

I have a high tech device that I use to help me train bowlers to learn the proper ball trajectory off of the hand. I call this device a Multifunctional Optimal Positioner or mop for short. Luckily for you, just about every bowling center has one in the closet. So if you wish try my training technique, just ask the bowling center for the mop. Just don’t be surprised if they ask you what you spilled.

Another training aid you will need to go along with your mop is a chair. Place the chair in the gutter of your lane and the lane next door like in the photo. Let the stick hang over your lane a little past the foul line. Push the chair far enough away that you will not hit the stick with your follow-through.

The idea is to throw the ball under the stick. It may take a few shots to develop some trust in yourself. Usually the first shot will be laid down a foot before the foul line. This is a natural over reaction to being afraid to hit the stick. Did I tell you about the Dynamite connected to the stick? Oh, never mind.  Your goal is to lay the ball down smoothly, so you can hardy hear it hit the lane. Your ears are a good training tool to bring with you for this exercise.

            Notice in the “Before” photo the ball is flying through the air before it hits the lane. But after a little work with the mop, the “After” shot shows a smooth delivery parallel to the lane surface.


            There are a few more tricks to help you learn the “smooth landing” release and I will reveal them next month in part 2. In the mean time grab your MOPS and chairs and start practicing. You will be amazed how much this will improve your game.

            Special thanks to Andy Scott (photos) for being my guinea pig on a weekly basis. Please visit my website www.bowl4fun.com for a live bowlers’ chat room. Ron is in the chat room most nights from 11PM to Midnight EST.

Bowl great!
Ron Clifton