Tip 6

How to play the twig

    There are many times that both right and left hander's need to be out on the twig to score well. The twig being the 1-2 board. It has been my experience that very few people are able to play there or have enough confidence to play there when there is big money on the line. Today's tournament bowlers have to learn to play every inch of the lane or their scores and their wallets will be left behind. We know we need to learn to play the twig but how do we get started. 

    I suggest you start off with a plastic ball if you have one. If not use the least hooking ball you have. Often on a league shot the gutter is very dry and that makes it hard to throw a lot of today's hook monster balls. Don't worry about knocking pins down at first. You only have to learn to set the ball down at the right spot and have it stay on line to the break point. 

    Next you have to realize that when you are playing the gutter your ball trajectory has to be parallel to the gutter. You can't loop the ball. You have to set the ball down at the foul line on or right next to your target board. I suggest you start out trying to hit the 3 board first. That gives you a little room for error.  It is very helpful if you can get a friend to watch you bowl from behind. Have your friend watch you throw a normal ball and see what board your ball lands on as soon as it hits the lane and what board your slide foot is resting on. You need to know how many boards right of your slide foot you set the ball down. Let's say that number is 5. This means that if you slide on board 20 on a normal shot then your ball lands on the 15 board near the foul line. 

    The next thing you do is walk up to the foul line and get into your finishing position. Using the example above you need to put your slide foot on the 8 board. This means that if you end your slide on the 8 board that you should set the ball down on the 3 board, our target board. Make sure your shoulders are square to the foul line. Remember this is the most down and end shot of all down and end shots. You can't have an open shoulder or you will toss the ball in the gutter. Now you know where you need to end up at the foul line. 

    The next question is where do you start from? That depends on your foot work. If you are a straight walker you got it made. Just start out on the 8 board and see if that is where you end up at the line. If you drift in your approach then you will have to figure your drift into the formula. It doesn't matter where you start from but you have to end up on the right board at the foul line and your shoulders square. If drifting is a problem and it is for a lot of bowlers when it comes to playing the twig, you have to consider your drift like a current in a river. If you were going to drive a boat straight across the Mississippi you would have to aim the boat a little up stream in order to end up at the right spot on the other side. If you were to aim the boat directly at your dock on the other side you will miss the dock and end up way down stream from where you intended to go. A drift in bowling is the same way. If you are right handed and you tend to drift 5 boards to the left then you better start out 5 boards to the right of your target slide board. Just like the boat, it may be a good idea to face a little up stream. That may cut down on your drift a little and help get your shoulders square at the line. I work with a left handed pro that has to stand as close as he can to the ball return when he is playing the twig on the right lane and face the 7 pin on the left lane. This is a little awkward but it is something he has to do if he is going to live with his drift pattern. 
Now that we know where to end up at the foul line and how to get there what's next? 

    If the center management will allow it place a piece of white tape doubled up on the 3 board beside the 1st arrow. Put another piece 3 feet past that one and one 3 feet before it. All 3 pieces of tape are on the 3 board. Now go up and throw some balls. Look at the middle piece of tape on the 3 board. Have your friend watch your set down point and whether or not you hit the target piece of tape. If you do everything correctly the ball will set down on the 3 board at the foul line and continue rolling on that board to your break point around 40 feet. BUT that is not how it goes for most people just learning to play the gutter. There is a multitude of things that can happen to make this difficult for you. The number one most common problem is trust. Most people are afraid of the gutter. Like it was the Grand Canyon or something. IF you are afraid of the gutter I suggest you go ahead and toss one in there. Believe it or not I have seen that help a lot of people. Believe me EVERYONE that plays on the gutter throws one in there now and then. 

    The #2 most common problem is it looks like to you that the piece of tape you are supposed to hit is in the center of your body. It also looks like if you end up at the line where I say and you throw the ball where I say it will go straight into the gutter. This is all an illusion brought on by what's called the diminishing vanishing point. If you look down a lane it looks like it gets narrower at the other end. That is not the case but it does look that way. You have the same problem with the gutter. It looks like the gutter tilts in toward the center of the lane. You just have to trust that it doesn't.  It helps some people to overcome this by looking farther down the lane. That is why I said put one piece of tape 3 feet past the first one. Look even farther if you have to. It has even help some people to look shorter so try looking at the 1st piece of tape if you have problems with the middle one. The biggest thing is you just have to keep doing it till you get it. Moving out onto the gutter is also a good way to straighten up your swing. You can't have much swing angle if you play there. The ball has to come off your hand pretty square. 


What it "Looks" like to your eyes

The way it really is

    Another good tip is to resist the urge to throw the ball harder. We often feel if we throw the ball harder it will go on line better. That is usually not the case. If anything you will tend to throw the ball more toward the gutter. When playing the gutter trust is a must. You have to trust and "KNOW" you are going to hit your target don't aim at it. You have to practice playing the twig during  every practice session. You have to be 100% confident playing there or you will never be able to do it when there is money on the line. You also must be able to use different hand and wrist positions to make the ball come off the gutter at just the right distance down the lane. Good luck!