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Questions on grip types, accuracy and adjustments – February 2009

Q: My 12-year-old son is just starting to bowl. Is it better for juniors to start with a conventional
grip or a fingertip drilling?

A: I prefer to start all beginners, regardless of age, with a conventional grip, and then go to a fingertip as the bowler becomes a little more skilled in their timing and release. The conventional grip provides a little more control, and I’ve always felt that one should learn to control the ball prior to learning how to throw a big hook. As a side note, one of the greatest bowlers of all-time, Glenn, “Mr. 900” Allison, has used a conventional grip through most of his career... and done pretty well.

Q: I need a tip or two about what I should do to control my ball at release. I find when I release the ball,
it doesn’t always go on its intended path, and usually veers to the left. My normal target is the 2nd arrow, and when I’m bowling well, I usually hit that target and go on to hit the pocket. When I miss, it is always to the left. It feels like I am throwing the ball from outside to in, and sometimes around my waist.

A: One of the common causes of throwing the ball left of target is raising your head and body prior to release. This is usually a result of trying to see where your ball is headed. I always tell my students to keep their eyes on the intended target down the lane until the ball crosses that target. If you think that your swing is going from outside to inside, I’d suggest that you hold the ball to the right side of your body in the
stance and at the pushaway point. This will start the ball on the correct swing path, if the ball is left to swing the arm freely.

Q: In the 1970s, I averaged 200-plus. I quit the game in 1981, and did not return until 2004. I am now 70 years old and throw a big hook with a 14-lb ball at a speed of 10- to 11-mph. I can’t control these reactive balls, though, and my average has dipped to 148. I used to throw a urethane ball but can’t find them anymore. Do you have any help for this aging, formerly good bowler?

A: There are a few manufacturers that still make urethane balls, and they are relatively inexpensive. Because
of your slow ball speed, I would definitely recommend going to urethane. Also consider raising the height of your pushaway, which in turn would increase the height of the backswing and thus create more ball speed naturally. Finally, do not be afraid to switch to a 13-lb. ball. I’ve seen several bowlers who still average in the 190s with a 13-pounder.

Q: I love to watch the PBA Tour on TV. A few tournaments back, Wes Malott seemed to have everything going when he shot 289 game, but then in the title match, he totally lost it and did not break 200. How can a bowler of his caliber bowl so badly after having a great game?

A: I also watched that match, and it seemed that Wes threw two pretty poor shots in the 1st and 2nd frames of that title game. Just guessing here, but that may have taken away some of his confidence, and he started believing that the lanes had changed, so he started making adjustments based on those poor shots. Sometimes the mind can play tricks on you, especially under the pressure of bowling one game for a title. Wes is not the first great bowler to totally lose his line in the final match, and he will not be the last. I’m sure he’ll learn from the experience and be even tougher next time.

Q: Is there a good method for shadow bowling before league play? Should you try to figure out the line
early or what?

A: I usually throw the first few balls slowly, just to loosen up the body. I then try to increase the speed in the next few balls, until I am up to my normal speed. The final few shots are to determine the line to play, and the very last shot is always at the 7-pin only (or 10-pin for right-handers). During practice, I make
sure that I watch other bowlers in the league who throw the ball similarly to me to get an idea of how their ball is reacting.