How To Never Miss Another Spare
If you have an old plastic ball in your garage or basement, you may want to put it back in your arsenal.
Why? Using a plastic ball will allow you to be a more effective spare shooter no matter the circumstances. The practice of throwing the same ball at spares that you use for strikes is falling out of favor with many of today’s bowlers, especially those who compete on more challenging lane conditions.
In decades past, the traditional technique for converting spares was to use the same ball and the same amount of hook used on the first ball. The key to success was changing your position on the approach and your target on the lane.
Today’s bowlers are finding the key to consistent spare shooting is to throw the ball on a straighter line to the spare
to reduce the amount of error that is inherent with a hook. To do this effectively, bowlers are also finding they need a ball with less surface friction, because generally today’s strike balls have significantly more hooking power than they used to have.
So many players have gone back to plastic and to accommodate the market, manufacturers still sell these inexpensive plastic models along with more expensive “designer fun balls” that also will do the trick. If you are not in the market for one of these balls, your option is to take one of your reactive or older urethane balls and have it polished to reduce surface friction. Even then, you may discover plastic is the least expensive way to deal with those tricky cross lane shots.
While ball choice has become increasingly important for shooting spares, the release is equally important.
If you eliminate axis tilt, you will see an improvement in your spare shooting on lanes that have a flatter, more challenging oil pattern.
To reduce the amount of hook, or axis tilt, which translate into a straighter shot, your hand position with your thumb at 12 o’clock. As you make your delivery, you should maintain this hand position while also making sure you eliminate any wrist movement. This will allow you to throw the ball straight.
Too many times, we see bowlers try to use a ball that does not hook without concern for how they release it. When you continue to rotate the wrist and fingers like you would on your strike shot, the ball will read the oil and it may either slide farther right or hit dry boards and turn slightly left.
Side rotation under these conditions can be hard to see because it happens so gradually. However, you will feel the affect as the ball travels down the lane and misses your intended back end target by an inch or two. Eliminate side rotation, even if you are throwing plastic, and you will make more spares.
Beyond ball selection and release, the third major concern for converting spares on a Sport condition is angle of attack. This is the most dramatic change many Sport bowlers are making to deal with spares.
Today, rather than abide by the traditional cross-lane formulas, top-level bowlers are developing an alternative spare game, playing straighter down the boards in attacking spares. It is a system we call “parallel spare shooting.”
Why should you change to this new system? Depending upon conditions, the more boards your ball crosses to make a spare, there is less margin for error if you miss. The theory is, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so the closer you can be to your intended target when you release the ball, the less chance there is for error.
As an example, bowlers are using a modified, more direct angle of attack for corner pin spares rather than the extreme cross-lane angle of attack. For example, a right-hander who would shoot at the 10 pin starting from the extreme left edge of the approach and target the fifth or sixth arrow should consider moving right on the approach and using the third arrow as the target. Instead of moving right on the approach and using third arrow as your target for the 7 pin, move left into the center of the approach and use fifth arrow as your target.
The idea is to keep your body position in a more squared position, whether you are shooting right- or left-side spares. In addition, for shooting combinations like “washouts” and “buckets,” you will reduce your chances of chopping those spares if you attack them closer to head-on rather than trying to hook the ball into them.
Practice the parallel approach on all spares to find your comfort zone. It takes practice and a little time to get the feel, but once you learn to envision the parallel moves, this technique will pay big dividends once you have mastered it.