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DYNAMIC BALL ROLL: Improve Your Ball Roll With These Five Keys

By Bryan O’Keefe
The more bowlers try to force more energy from their hand to the bowling ball to improve its roll, the less responsive the ball. With today’s bowling balls, you simply want to let the ball roll off your hand. When urethane balls were more prevalent, bowlers were taught to release it after it had passed their ankle, and lift it a bit. “Lift” is a thing of the past.

Today, we’re not trying to add muscle. Speed isn’t everything. We’re also looking for a relaxed, smooth release. There are five keys to getting a more dynamic ball roll. Follow these and let your ball perform the way it was meant to.

1. Make sure your grip pressure stays relaxed. One of the most common mistakes bowlers make is squeezing the ball at release, thinking that they will be able to put more on the ball. In reality, you’re sapping energy from the ball. Squeezing leads to inconsistency and inefficient ball roll. The release shouldn’t be thought of as a point in time. It should simply be a byproduct of trying to get from your backswing into a good finish position. It’s not much different than watching a baseball pitcher who throws the ball 95 mph. When pitchers try to squeeze the ball at the release to throw it harder, they invariably lose both velocity and control.

2. Make sure the ball is close to your ankle at release, and your elbow is tight to your body. When your elbow is flailing outside your hand (pointing to the side wall), you end up with the dreaded chicken wing! Keep your elbow straight and tight to your body.

3. Stay in a strong, balanced finish position. Not only will this help with your shot repeatability, it will aid your effort to impart the same amount of energy to the ball every shot. If you’re falling off to one side or the other your swing simply can’t be producing the same energy. Bowlers can get a little lackadaisical with their finish. A good way to test your focus is to bowl an entire game in which you hold your finish position until the ball has hit the pins. If you can do that, you will more than likely bowl a good game. If you are not balanced at the line and can’t hold that finish position, this drill will make the problem obvious.

4. Keep your fingers at or below the equator of the bowling ball at release. Your hand should be behind the ball and your fingers slightly under it. Keep your hand in a firm position. If your hand is above the line and on top of the ball, your ball roll is going to suffer. It won’t be as strong or powerful as it can be.

5. One of the most important factors in improving ball roll is maintaining consistent upper-body posture as you enter the final steps of your approach. Regardless of what your body posture is during the first three or four steps of your approach, once the ball gets to the top of your backswing and you enter the slide, you need to maintain good upper-body posture. Make sure you are not bending forward at that point or pulling back with your upper body. Failure to maintain consistent upper-body posture affects your ball roll, your launch angles, your shot repeatability and your ability to stay balanced.

— Bryan O’Keefe is Assistant Coach and Facility Manager at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas.

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