Swing Paths:
Part 1

by Ron Clifton

            What is a swing path? The swing path is the route your ball takes as it travels from the initial point of movement to the release point. In other words the shape of your swing. I believe that there are as many different swing paths as there are fingerprints; every bowler has his or her own unique swing path.

            I know what you are thinking: “But coach, my swing is just as straight as the perfect pendulum of a grandfather clock.” Well, no it’s not…even if you try to make it that way. I have observed thousands of swings over the years and I have seen very few that are actually straight.

            I know many of the “How to Bowl” books tell you to hold the ball in front of your shoulder, push straight out, allow your arm swing straight back, and release. This way, you will have a perfect swing and hit the target every time. What could be simpler?

            This may seem good on paper, but in the real world, it seldom works out that way. There are just too many variables in play that can and will alter your swing path. I will list a few of these variables to give you some idea of how complicated such a simple idea can be:

1.      Tension in the arm and hand (grip pressure).  The slightest tension in the arm will alter the swing path.

2.      Where the ball is held in the stance. Placing the ball in different places causes different swing paths.

3.      Footwork. If you take any steps out of line while your ball is swinging, it will alter the swing path.

4.      Shape of the arm and elbow. Many people have different shaped arms which makes their swing unique.

5.      Flexibility of the shoulder. Everyone has a different amount of flexibility in their shoulder which affects what the ball does at the top of the backswing.

6.      Pushaway direction. Even people that “think” they push the ball straight out usually don’t do so. Pushing the ball in different directions causes a different swing path.

7.      Position of your non-bowling arm. What you do with your non-bowling arm affects the swing path.

8.      Wrist position. Open wrist, cupped wrist or cocked wrist: they can all affect your swing path.

9.      Timing. Early timing, late timing or just unorthodox timing; your timing routine will have an effect on your swing path.

10. Ball weight, Your Weight, Wide Hips, Narrow Hips... There are just too many factors to list.

As you can see, with so many variables affecting your swing path, it is virtually impossible for most people to simply have a straight pendulum swing. In fact, many of the best bowlers in the world don’t have anywhere near a straight armswing. Most of the successful bowlers on the Pro Tour these days have a looped armswing. In these armswings, the ball travels on a path that takes it a little outside the shoulder near the top of the swing and then loops inside as it starts its downward path.

If not a straight swing then what is best? The best swing path is the one that best works for YOU. The author takes a bow…thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank very much. I hope you enjoyed the show!


What... you want more? Now we run into a problem. There are some things that I have been reluctant to write about because they can be too complicated (i.e. swing paths). I can envision my readers tying themselves into knots trying to make their armswing act a certain way without me being there to say “stop that before you hurt yourself”.

I decided that some discussion and a few tips are in order; so the average reader can make a few changes that will positively influence their game.


What should the armswing accomplish? Before we go messing around with our armswings I guess we should understand what our goal is.

The swing path should accomplish 4 things:


1.       Allow you to hit both targets consistently. For those that hook the ball, the swing path should allow you to play deep inside and swing the ball to a breakpoint to the far outside. For example, cross the 3rd arrow and hit a breakpoint outside the 5-board and back to the pocket when the lane condition demands it.    When you are playing down the boards, then the swing path should allow you to play straight down the 2-board: ball after ball. Being able to play both lines may require two different swing paths for the same bowler.

2.      Repeat the swing time after time. The best swing path in the world is worthless if you can’t repeat it.

3.      Don’t cause any stress on the arm or shoulder. Seemingly effective armswings that injure the bowler over time are ineffective.

4.      Bring the ball close to the ankle. At the point of release, the ball must be close to the ankle for maximum leverage and consistency.


So what can you do on your own? Well, you can do a lot of experimenting. All people are different, so everyone reacts in different ways to changes. Next month I will go over some changes you can try and see how they influence your swing path.


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 11P.M. Eastern Time. My email is rclifton@triad.rr.com