Pulling the Ball - Part 1

            “Pulling” the ball, also known as “tugging” is one of the most common errors in bowling. A pulled ball always goes inside the intended target line. It often produces some nasty splits. In fact, the phrase “pulling the ball” is sometimes a misnomer; the ball actually pulls you.

            Since there are so many reasons for pulled shots, I have divided this article into a two part series. Part one deals with cases where you were bowling well and suddenly began pulling the ball. Next month, part two will deal with a chronic case of pulling the ball.

            If one day, you are bowling well and then suddenly realize that you are pulling the ball, something has changed. Now, before you accuse me of pointing out the obvious, consider this. If the change were obvious you could fix the problem yourself. 

I will tell you right now that the most common example I have found for the “sudden tugs” is early timing. Early timing happens when the ball reaches the release point slightly sooner than normal. It’s the “cause” of the early timing that must be found. The causes of early timing are far from the obvious when they arrive in the middle of a game. You can’t feel the change because it is so subtle. I will go through the most common causes:

  Shortened Swing Cycle: “Swing Cycle” is a term that I made up to describe the amount of time it takes your ball to go from first motion (push away) to release. A “Shortened Swing Cycle” is when the ball takes less time to complete the swing. Since the swing cycle is shorter, the ball arrives at the release point too soon…early timing. This shorter amount of time can come from too much or too little muscle as I will explain in the next few topics.

Holding The Ball Back:  You are holding the ball back when you don’t allow it to fall freely after the push-away. This is extremely common when a bowler is feeling a lot of pressure to throw a good shot. Sometimes when we are under pressure our armswings tighten up because we want to be very precise and accurate. This makes us want to control the armswing and again shortens the swing cycle and we get…early timing.

Long first step: The length first step sometimes starts growing and that will give you early timing. This is especially true of 5 step bowlers.

Lazy Push Away: When your push away gets lazy, your arm will not go out as far and the ball will take a shortcut to the bottom of the swing. This, in turn, will lower the backswing slightly so the ball can make the whole trip in less time than normal. This shortens the swing cycle so…early timing.

Cutting off the backswing:   This occurs when we don’t allow the ball to reach the full height of the backswing. We get in a hurry to throw the ball. This shortens the swing cycle so you get….early timing. Make sure you wait for the ball to reach its full height in the backswing and start down before you add any “juice” of your own.

Bending the Elbow:  If you tend to bend your elbow between the top of the backswing and the release, you may be prone to early timing; especially if you throw the ball harder. Sometimes “elbow benders” will bend their elbows just a little more than normal and they literally shorten the length of their arm. If you don’t believe me just measure the length of your arm using a yard stick and then bend at the elbow and measure again. The more you bend your elbow, the shorter the swing cycle, thus…early timing.

Forcing The Ball:  If you force the ball more than normal without making any timing adjustments, then you shorten your swing cycle…early timing. This is not a steadfast rule because forcing the ball can make some people actually throw the ball outside their intended target. This gets complicated and involves Newton’s Third Law of Motion. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I am not going to go into physics because that would take up too much space. So, if you are pulling the ball just try not to force it as much and see if it helps.

Those are some of the early timing tugs that few people know about. I will now list a few other reasons for pulling the ball.


 The Grip:  If the ball starts ever so slightly sticking on your thumb, then you will start to tug it. If you start squeezing the ball more than normal, you will get the same result.

Swing Angle: Your swing angle refers to the type of swing you have and the angle the ball comes off of your hand at the end of the swing. Just about everyone has a different swing and swings are very complicated. I will go into swings more in part two of “Pulling the Ball” but in the mean time, just try pushing the ball away in different directions and see what happens.

Aiming at your target: This may sound crazy, but if you try too hard to hit your target, you will tend to pull the ball inside the target. This is simply because your vision is centered on your body, but your ball is not. For example, if you stand in the middle of the approach and point at the head pin with your index finger, the tip of that finger will be nearly in line with your nose. You’re ball, on the other hand is in line with your shoulder, not your nose. Some people have an eye dominance problem that makes matters worse. For example, a person may be left eye dominant and right handed. This makes a bowler more likely to pull the ball. So look at your target, but don’t aim at it too hard.  Just have faith you will hit it.

I hope this information will help you cure the sudden tugs when you get them. Of the 10 things listed, you will most likely only do 2 or 3 of them. Always check these 2 or 3 things first when you get those sudden tugs. They will solve your pulling problem 90% of the time. 


Be sure to check out my website www.bowl4fun.com for more tips and details as well as a live bowlers’ chat room each night after 11 PM Eastern Time. My email is rclifton@triad.rr.com