Starting Points: Lining Up Your Shot and Other Approach Basics

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

By Staff Writer Tim Gagne

When I watch bowlers at my local center, specifically the newer ones, I notice they all seem to stand in the same place and throw the ball up the lane. These bowlers usually all throw a straight ball and all start on the center dot. After that point, the differences become greatly noticeable. They all have different finish points, different targets, different swings, but they all seem to hit the headpin all the same. These shots can range from being wide left to wide right and everything in between. Besides the inconsistencies that all bowlers have, are there other things causing them to all start in the same place but be all over the lane?

The Approach Layout

As you can see above, each dot on the approach corresponds to an arrow and board number on the lane. Some houses have five dots, which start from the 10 board and go to the 30 board, and some have seven, which start from the 5 board and go to the 35 board. Knowing where you start and finish is key to beginning your quest for consistency. You should always aim to start each strike shot from the same board, walk towards your target, and finish at the same board when you release the ball.

Increasing Pin Count

Earlier, I mentioned straight bowlers starting from the center dot. This dot would represent 4th arrow or the 20th board. The usual amount of boards between the middle of the body and the arm is 5 boards, meaning they are going to be rolling the ball up the 3rd arrow or 15th board. The “pocket” lies between the 17th and 18th board on the lane, while the “perfect” entry angle for a ball is 4-6 degrees. In basic terms, you want to be looking to come through the pocket at an angle and not as straight as the usual beginning bowler ends up hitting the pins. An easy way to adjust for this is to move out, meaning towards the right for a right handed bowler and towards the left for a left handed one. By moving out and angling your line to hit the pins on the 17-18 board, you create more option for carry. This will be similar to how someone who throws a curve creates pin carry, but on a more basic level.

Lining Up

If you are having difficulty finding where you want to line up with a shot, there are a few basics you can also incorporate into your decision making. If you notice you are consistently missing in one direction, you can use this to your advantage! The basics to using this is “miss left, move left” and “miss right, move right”. This means if you are aiming at the second arrow, for example, and keep missing the headpin to the left side, you should move your feet left and continue aiming at the second arrow. This will slowly move you into a spot that hits the pocket! If you throw a hook, there is usually a more advanced way to maneuver and adjust, but you can also try this out and gain some information from it.

Wrap Up

That’s about it for this week! I hope I can bring you some extra pins in your games! Next time I will be tackling the approach, again, but in a bit more detail. Until then, good luck, bowl well, and have fun!


  • I’m starting to bowl in the morning shift again I’m a left handed bowler so my first step is my left foot first l love to bowl I’m retired 3 years now and my average is 135 with 52pins handicap Aloha thanks Richard

    Richard KeAloha Jr on

  • I appreciate you helping me to understand that it is a good idea to always aim each shot from the same board when you are bowling. I would like to join a bowling club that plays in the evenings since I have a lot of free time that I don’t use productively. These tips you shared will help me avoid embarrassing myself in front of the people in the bowling club.

    Thomas Clarence on

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