Importance of Hand Positioning in New School Bowling

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

By Tim Gagne - Staff Blogger

My local center recently bought new pins for the entire house. There are some great perks that come with new pins that are not simply limited to their shiny appearance and that sound they make before they break in. There also are some nasty downsides for league bowlers in the form of corner pins. Corner pins are the bane of every bowler’s existence. The amount of corner pins left while breaking in new pins is a stark reminder to league bowlers to practice not only picking them up, but minimizing how many they leave. The easy answer to this usually is the bowler will switch balls, but there is an even easier one that also flows better with the transition: changing hand position. These subtle and sometimes forgotten techniques are the old school way of adjusting without needing to move from your sweet spot for longer periods of time.  

The Frustration of Losing Carry

Have you ever had one of those days where you suddenly lose carry? Those perfect pocket shots from over the last year are suddenly ringing up a corner pin? I have definitely experienced this, sometimes nightly. I have noticed the second more and more once the house has put in new pins. Throughout the entire house, the amount of 7-10 splits being left or barely kicked out is much more frequent. The amount of solid 8 or 9 pins increases greatly. Due to all of this, averages generally are down and bowlers are more frustrated; I am more frustrated.

As many of you may already know, house shots encourage free hook and high scores. For your average and above average league bowlers, this is expected. When either of these things go away, bowlers become unhappy. The key is to figure out why this is happening and how to fix it. It takes a trained eye to spot the subtle differences as a ball reads the lane, but pin action does not lie. Watching the ball go through the pins can tell you a great deal of information about how the lanes are playing and how your ball is reacting.

Knowing Yourself

It is important to know your own game to spot the small changes you need to make hand positioning adjustments. For example, I am not very good at making very subtle hand position changes but have some ability for consistency with my speed when I adjust up or down. This is key for when I am attacking the adjustment for solid corner leaves. Knowing I am better with speed control, I spend more time during practice working on my hand positioning than my speed.

If you are not familiar with your own game and what adjustments are easiest for you, practice sessions are the best time to find out. Once you have figured out what works for you, you can get right to work on increasing your carry throughout the night.

Hand Adjustments

When you start noticing you are consistently leaving a corner pin, you should look at the option for a hand adjustment. Hand adjustments will be minor changes that, at the release point, can affect the amount of revolutions on the ball. There are three basic hand positions:


For hand adjustment, you want to increase your rev rate for solid corners and decrease it for weak corners. From your natural position, which is just your normal way of releasing the ball, you can either get your hand more under the ball or more behind the ball. The more your hand is under the ball at release, the more rotation you will get on the ball. This is due to the amount of time you take to release the ball naturally and how much extra movement you need to get around the ball to allow your release to complete. The more your hand is behind the ball, the less rotation you will create due to how much less space your hand needs to cover before you finish your release.

After some time, these adjustments become second nature and allow you to even go to the old school style of making half board moves with your feet, eyes, or break point. This enables the bowler to stay in their sweet spot longer as the night goes on and, with good execution, will create more carry, higher scores, and improve your game.

Wrap Up

Proper adjustments are often the difference between 10 in the pit and a PBA washout. Matching up your ball speed to your rev rate is also key to widening your arsenal on harder patterns. Most bowlers know they want to speed up on the short shots and be slow on the long shots, but they can also achieve similar with hand positioning if they have the abilities. The best way to learn and develop those abilities is practicing. Next time I’ll be touching on the practice session and how to maximize your time during practice sessions.

1 comment

  • One of the most insightful and valuable training tips I have read.

    Paul Veslock on

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