Why bother to pick up your spares?
All too often, beginning bowlers overlook clearing their frames. They're just delighted to have knocked down any pins at all, and laugh as they shoot yet another obvious gutter ball down the alley.
Picking up spares is the one thing that even a beginner bowler can learn to dramatically improve their game. It can easily make the difference between a 110 and 180 average!
While strikes are an important thing to learn, for a beginning to intermediate level bowler, I advise this: Clear your spares and the strikes will come. You will beat most of the competition by simply clearing your frames.
Tools of the trade
Professional bowlers use a "spare ball". That being a regular, plastic ball they use solely for the purpose of picking up their spares.
Even if you have your own ball, try using one of the regular, plain-colored, plastic "house" balls to pick up your spares. They are drilled to roll perfectly straight, enabling you to better hit your target.
Ready... Aim... Bowl!
Take the time to learn how to effectively pick up your spares. Start by looking at your body posture and stance. The way you hold yourself makes a difference. When your wrist is straight yet relaxed and your arm flows smoothly and in a straight arc forward (not curving around your body and back) your aim will be more accurate.
The easiest bowling technique to knock down your spare pins is to aim the ball directly at them in a straight line. It's not the time to use your $300 hook ball; you want to minimize any spin.
Be sure to relax your wrist as you release the ball and it will roll smooth and straight. Take the time to practice picking up your spares every chance you get. Many experienced league and professional players practice by aiming for the 7 or 10 pin. This method allows them to see how the ball reacts to the effort of crossing the lane.
Practice, relax, concentrate and take your time when going after your spare. A moment taken to line up your shot and take a deep, relaxing breath will make all the difference.
A good rule of thumb is to aim your ball at the pin closest to you, striking it on the side opposite any other pins. Always start from the arrow to the left or right of whichever pins remain standing. Roll across the strike target at the pins you're aiming for and before you know it you will be picking up your spares!
What can stop your efforts to pick up spares?
There are a few instances in which your efforts may prove futile. If you know that you're doing the right bowling techniques but are missing your targets, one of the following culprits is usually to blame:
If your ball is too dull or dirty, it can roll early and use up all its energy instead of storing it up until it reaches the back-end. Pop it in the ball-polishing machine.
If your ball is consistently hooking early and slowing down on the back end, it could be the ball's surface. Again, use the polisher or have it buffed with very high-grade sandpaper.
If your ball seems to slip, or obviously moves funny at the same spot on a lane, it could be a divot, oil, or other flaw in the lane. Try a different lane and see if that helps.
If you've tried a new ball surface and a new lane and your ball is still hooking too early, move your feet a little to the left if you're right handed or right if you're left handed to compensate.
With just a little extra effort you can learn to improve your average and clear your frames. You will have a newfound appreciation for the sport, admiration of your teammates and the envy of your competitors once you've mastered the bowling tips and techniques to effectively pick up your spares.
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