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Advanced Spare Shooting

Excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals - Second Edition By Michelle Mullen


Although the 3-6-9 board adjustment system has been around for a long time and is still taught, modifications in this system have become necessary because of how differently lanes are being oiled. In addition, people are bowling on so many different lanes conditions that using just one formula makes picking up spare tricky.

When the 3-6-9 spare system was developed, the numbers worked almost flawlessly when oil was applied in a more blended pattern across the lane (i.e., lightly on the boards by the gutter and gradually and incrementally increasing in units toward the center of the lane).

However, on today’s typical house shot (THS), the lanes are oiled differently from that blended shot years ago. The oil is much more built up in the center, with a more defined oil line between the oily and dry boards. There is a huge contrast between the units of oil in the middle and those that are outside toward the gutters. This creates a much less predictable reaction as the ball crosses through the wet and dry conditions of the lane. When the ball hits the high volume of oil (nicknamed wet), it just slides. When it hits the much drier boards, it hooks a lot.

In addition, people bowl in different bowling centers or on different lane conditions or in tournaments or other competitive events. If this is true for your, you may find that you cannot count on your ball hooking the way it does in week-to-week league play, and that your angle is critical for the proper reaction to your left-side spares (for right-handed bowlers) or right-side spares (for left-handed bowlers). If you are missing spares because of this and dealing with lane conditions becomes frustrating, consider taking lane reaction out of play. Rather than adjusting and continuing to use your performance ball, try using a plastic ball that doesn’t hook to roll straight to the spares, so you can simply rely on angle.

Finally, when you are playing way outside on the lane, as in the first arrow, you are so far out that when you try to move more to get your spares, you are actually too close to the gutter to make some of the adjustments in the 3-6-9 system. This is another reason to learn to shoot more directly at your spares, independent of lane conditions, at least as an option.

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