Dropping the Ball
by Ron Clifton

            Some bowlers have a problem with dropping the ball too soon. This usually means the ball will fall off the thumb too early and the fingers won’t have time to position themselves under the ball in order to “catch it”. If you are not sure if you drop your ball too soon, then just listen the next time you bowl. Dropping the ball is usually announced loudly by a “boom” as the ball hits the approach.

            Notice I said approach and not lane. If you are dropping the ball it is landing on the approach and not the lane surface. If you are hearing a loud “boom” but getting the ball out past the foul line dropping the ball is not your problem.


Why is dropping bad?

Dropping the ball robs you of the revs you need to have a powerful ball. Plus if you have a new high tech ball, you are not seeing its full potential.

What are the causes?

            Like everything in bowling, there are many possible causes for dropping the ball. I will go through a few here and also provide the cure.   

Too much room in the thumbhole:

            It is hard to convey just how snug your thumbhole should be, so the best way to find out is to make it too snug and see what it feels like. Some newer bowlers don’t understand that the thumbhole needs to be drilled just a little bigger than the thumb and tightened up using tape and/or Ron C’s Magic Carpet.

            The snugness of your thumbhole is critical to being able to perform a good release and not drop the ball. Everyone’s thumb swells and shrinks from day to day and even from game to game.           

            Buy some white tape from your pro shop and ask for a quick lesson on how and where to place it in the hole; this is very important.

            Keep layering the tape, adding one piece at a time until your ball begins to hang on your thumb a little. Then take a piece out. This is the only way you will ever know how tight your thumbhole should be. If your thumb swells as you bowl and the thumbhole gets too small, take out another piece. If your thumb shrinks in size as you bowl, then add a piece.

Thumb pitch:

If you find yourself in a situation where the ball wants to fall off of your thumb no matter how tight you make the thumbhole, then you need to take a look at your thumb pitch. You will most likely need to move the pitch more forward.

Most bowlers have too much reverse pitch in their thumbholes so they never have any chance of throwing a ball without squeezing it tightly. Thumbhole pitch is “trial and error.” The only way you can ever really know the best pitch for your thumbhole is to keep drilling them.

   Take an old ball and slug up the thumbhole. Then, drill it with ¼ inch more forward pitch than before and go bowl with it. If the ball comes off of your thumb just fine, then slug it and drill it another ¼ inch forward. Keep doing this until the ball hangs on your thumb. When the ball hangs you know you went too far. Back off to the last pitch drilled.

Once you have the thumbhole set up for the right size and pitch, you should not have to squeeze the ball to keep in on your thumb.

Open wrist:

             If your wrist is weak or lazy, then it will be open just before the bottom of the swing. This means that your wrist is not straight or cupped, but bent back. This transfers more of the ball’s weight to the thumb so the ball falls off. Try to keep your wrist cupped and carry the ball’s weight on the fingers. If your wrist is too weak, then try one of the many wrist support s that are in the pro shop.

Throwing into the approach:

            Throwing the ball into the approach means the bowler literally throws the ball into the approach like a crashing airplane. This is not really dropping the ball at all, but the bowler will suffer the same bad consequences as one who does drop the ball. This can usually be solved by placing a towel on the foul line and forcing yourself to get the ball over the towel. Just make sure you are not confusing dropping the ball with throwing the ball into the lane.


            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