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How To Find The Bowling Pocket


Learning how to find the bowling pocket is a big step to increasing your "strike" potential, leaving easy spares to convert, and to improving your overall scores. The goal of all bowlers, and certainly with you beginner bowlers and newcomers to the game, is to deliver your ball into the pocket and to get a strike. How to find the bowling pocket can be accomplished by understanding three factors:
  • Pocket location
  • Initial alignment
  • Lane adjustments
The center of the pocket is located on the 17.5 board on the pindeck. Using a right handed bowler as the example, the pocket is on the 17.5 board counting from the right edge of the lane. The center of the "head pin" pin spot on the pin deck is located on the 20 board, the exact center of the bowling lane.

A pocket hit is one in which the bowling ball contacts the head pin first on the right side of the pin and then contacts the 3 pin next. Ideally, the angle of entry the bowling ball arrives at the pocket is about 30 degrees as the ball travels from bowlers right to bowlers left (right handed bowlers). With a sufficient angle of entry, the ball will not deflect too severely to the right upon impact with the head pin and thereby will continue into the heart of the pin formation and contact the 5 pin next followed by the 9 pin. This type of angle of entry will produce the best chance for a strike result. In some cases with high rev-rate players (those who rev-up the bowling ball and hook the ball a great deal), the ball will actually contact the 8 pin after the 5 pin and because of the high rev-rate and minimal deflection, and the chances of producing a strike are further enhanced.

The bowling arrows are located about 15 feet past the foul line toward the pins and are in a triangular configuration. From bowler's right to left (for right handed bowlers), the arrow nearest the edge of the lane is referred to as the "first arrow" and is located about 5 inches from the edge of the lane surface and the next arrow toward the lane center is the 2nd arrow which is located on the 10 board from the right edge of the lane. Opposite is true for left handed bowlers. Since the 4th arrow (center arrow) is aligned exactly on the same board as is the head pin and the five pin on the pin-deck about 60 feet from the foul line, the pocket is located just 2.5 boards to the right of the 4th arrow.

Typically, most bowling centers use a lane oiling procedure which creates the highest volume of oil conditioner located between the 2nd arrow on the right of the lane and the 2nd arrow on the left side of the lane. Also, the heaviest volume of oil is located from the foul line where the bowling ball first contacts the lane surface down the lane to approximately 20 feet distance past the foul line. Of course, each bowling center has its own oiling procedures, but in many cases, the 2nd arrow is a good place for initial alignment to the pocket.

Depending on your release technique, targeting the 2nd arrow is the logical place to begin your deliveries while warming up for a session on the lanes. If you roll a perfectly straight ball delivery, you will have to use an angle from about the 6 or 7 board just beyond the foul line toward the 10 board (2nd arrow) and continuing down the lane to the pocket at 17.5 board. Your sliding shoe should end up with the instep about 5 boards left of the release point where your ball first contacts the lane surface just beyond the foul line (again, for right handed bowlers).

If you have a modest curve or hook ball delivery, then you will use an angle from left of the 10 board, say about the 13 or 14 board just beyond the foul line, your slide shoe instep will cover the 19 board, and your ball will continue toward the 10 board or 2nd arrow, and then continuing further down the lane to the break point about two-thirds the way down the lane, and then finally hooking to the pocket.

In cases with bowlers using "back-up" ball deliveries or with very sharply hooking deliveries, more extreme angles to the 2nd arrow will be necessary so the ball will ultimately end up hitting the pocket.

Adjustments in initial alignment will be needed when a ball is delivered accurately toward the 2nd arrow but does not end up solidly impacting the pocket. In cases where the oil condition is extremely heavy and your ball slides a little too far and misses the pocket to the right or barely contacts the head pin, make an adjustment from your initial alignment on the approach and where you sight near the 2nd arrow to the right. If you miss the pocket left, move left. These are rule-of-thumb adjustments and of course, there are always exceptions to any rule. In most bowling centers in the world, however, the 2nd arrow is a good place to align your self initially to target the pocket.

The amount of adjustment for missing the pocket from your initial alignment, either to the left or to the right, depends on how far you missed the pocket after rolling your ball over the 2nd arrow. We recommend a "parallel adjustment system" whereby you simply move your feet two boards and your target on the lane one board, in the same direction, either to the left or to the right. Moving your feet two boards right and your target on the lane one board right, as example when the ball slides too far and misses the pocket to the right, will close your angle and create a more direct route for your ball to travel and contact the pocket. If after adjusting 2:1 ratio to the right and your ball still does not make it to the pocket solidly, then adjust another 2:1 boards to the right. Continue making 2:1 ratio adjustments until your angle matches to the oil conditions and your ball finally contacts the pocket solidly at the 17.5 board.

Adjusting in the opposite direction, 2:1 boards to the left from your initial alignment positioning, will work for lanes which have less than heavy oil and which causes your ball to hook too early and miss the pocket to the left (again in the case of right handed bowlers). Multiple adjustments of 2:1 boards, either left or right, will either close your angle to the pocket on oily lanes or open your angle to the break point down the lane on dry lanes.

There are lane conditions which may cause you to adjust perhaps five to ten times in increments of 2:1 ratio, either left or right, depending on how severe of heavy oil you encounter or how dry the lanes become? Do not fear making these adjustments and targeting areas of the lane away from your original alignment positioning.

In fact, practice making 2:1 adjustments, in both directions and multiple times during open bowling sessions where your scores do not matter as an excellent practice technique. Move 2:1 to the right from your initial alignment, roll a couple of deliveries, move again another 2:1 the same direction, and do so until your target on the lane becomes the 1st arrow instead of the 2nd arrow. Same thing moving to the left, make a series of 2:1 board adjustments until your target on the lane becomes the 3rd arrow. Although the ball will likely not contact the pocket solidly while practicing these adjustments, your adjustments will become familiar and comfortable to make and you will trust them during competition.

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The process of alignment is very geometric and matches nicely with use of the bowling arrows, the break point, and ultimately, the pocket. bowlingball.com recommends you consult certified coach or a bowling professional for more information on alignment. Of course, we offer literally hundreds of articles and videos dedicated to helping you better understand the game of bowling. Feel free to browse our "BowlVersity" located at the top of our home page to find more articles to review. We hope these tips help.

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