Closing The Shoulders
Excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals - Second Edition By Michelle Mullen
You will have to close your shoulders to shoot more directly at some spares. Closing your shoulders to make left-side spares (right-handed bowler) or right-side spares (left-handed bowler) is a very awkward feeling at first. This is because on all other shots, your shoulders are either parallel to the foul line or slightly open, as when you throw a hook ball or when you shoot at spares on the other side. It feels off to close your shoulders because it is so different from what you are used to.
In fact, how it feels to close the shoulders is the biggest obstacle I see bowlers face, and it is typically why so many end up abandoning this system. It simply feels too weird at first, and so they do not stick to it to benefit from the advantages it provides.
Note: When you close your shoulders, also close up your hip and foot so that you are in alignment on the swing side of your body in the stance. This helps the spine to stay relaxed and makes it easier to stay in alignment throughout the approach.
What is also very different is seeing the ball go straight. This is the very reason your shoulders need to be closed to throw the ball cross-lane. Often, it takes only going directly toward a spare with a plastic ball in league play and missing it to quickly abandon the system. This is especially true when your teammates give you a hard time, telling you, “If you had hooked at it, you would have gotten it!” Rather, you just needed to execute better or adjust your angle. It takes practice to get comfortable executing at this direct angle.
There is a reason professional bowlers go more directly at spares, whether they flatten their wrists or use a spare ball. It is to take the lane conditions out of play. You may have to be a bit more accurate, but the advantages often outweigh the challenges to change. I encourage you to stay the course.
I know when I first learned to use this system, I always felt as though I wanted to pull the ball across my body when my shoulders were closed. It is simply a matter of getting used to turning your body, but still following through with your swing at a 90-degree angle in relation to your shoulders. Forget about any notion to stay parallel to the foul line.
Almost everyone who tries this for the first time feels as though she is facing the wall! But rest assured- you are not. It is just that the feeling of closed shoulders feels so drastically different from what you are used to on all other shots. The most closed you will ever have to be is when shooting the 7 pin (right-handed bowler) or the 10 pin (left-handed bowler) with a plastic ball.
When you close your shoulders, also close your hips and feet in your stance so that everything stays aligned and relaxed. You do not want torque in your spine. In the stance, align your swing shoulder, hip, and foot so that your entire side is uniformly closed to face the spare. The biggest obstacle I see facing bowlers is getting comfortable with how foreign this feels at first to close the shoulders directly toward a spare but still follow through straight at 90 degrees.
I frequently have to stand behind my students and put my arms over their shoulders with my hands pointing to the pins to reflect the angle they are actually facing versus what they think they are facing. Almost every time, the bowler is not closed enough, although she feels as though she is. Once she sees where my arms and hands are pointing, she learns to close the shoulders more that she thought she needed to. It’s all about lining up the swing so it can follow through straight and get the spare.