How to Curve a Bowling Ball

The best way to curve a bowling ball is to spin the ball as you release it. When done right, this technique, also known as a hook, gives you more command over your bowling ball.

It gives you access to the best angle into the pocket, which has the potential to drastically increase your chances of hitting a strike.

Hooking, compared to spinning or throwing straight, is difficult to master. However, if you’re looking to improve your skills and strike pins, your strategy will have to shift from rolling the ball straight down the lane to curving it.

There are various methods you can try to get a bowling ball to hook. 

The Rundown on How to Curve a Bowling Ball

If you want to learn how to curve a bowling ball, you need to focus on your hand movements. 

Contrary to popular opinion, your thumb has little to do with the change in direction or tactic of throwing a bowling ball. The magic lies in your middle and ring fingers.

When throwing a curve shot, you have to get your thumb out of the way and use your fingers. If you release your thumb and fingers simultaneously, your ball won’t curve. 

Mastering the Hook Technique

Nailing the hook shot is the only thing that stands between you and a better bowling score. If you want to go pro, or increase your chances of bowling strikes, this step-by-step guide can help.

Step 1: Start with the Right Ball

You can pick between a plastic, reactive resin, urethane, and particle bowling ball. Experiment with different sizes, weights, and grips. 

You can even pick between a ball with three holes or five holes. Give each a try and see which one works best. 

Generally, you should pick a bowling ball that weighs 10% of your weight. If it’s any heavier or lighter, it can impact your delivery and strike. 

To deliver their A game, most professional bowlers go for a ball size of around 15lbs.

Step 2: Correct Your Posture

Having the right posture is key—keep your shoulders facing forward, your arm and wrist completely straight, and your feet in line with the arrow on your bowling lane. 

This will lower your chance of getting injured and increase your chance of a perfect delivery. 

Hold the ball so that it aligns with your wrist. 

If you’re not using your own ball with custom-drilled finger grips, be careful using house balls; they have knuckle grips that can threaten your delivery.

If you do use a house ball, however, ensure your thumb and fingers can come out swiftly.

Step 3: Be Mindful

Stand away from the foul line but not too far away – four steps should do the trick. 

Remember, the bowling lane is 60-feet long—it’s longer than what it appears to be from the foul line. So make sure to pay attention to the axis of rotation (horizontal angle). 

Step 4:  Aim for the Pocket

If you’re aiming for back-to-back strikes, you should focus on the “pocket.” Depending on your dominant side, it’s the space between the first and third pins or the first and second pins.

You can manipulate the angle of entry at the pocket by changing the distance. To increase the size of your pocket more than a straight ball would allow, you will need to use an entry angle. 

Even a small angle (as little as two degrees) when entering the 1 – 3 pocket will give you a much better shot at hitting a strike.

Step 5: Use the Arrow on Your Lane to Guide You

Always focus your attention on the arrow of your lane. This will help you get perspective and make it easier to rotate should you wish to do some last-minute strategy changes. 

Use the dots on the floor to guide you. 

Step 6: Get in Position to Swing the Ball

If you’ve been playing straight ball for quite some time, swinging a curve ball may not be as difficult for you. 

To get in position, keep your palm behind the ball. Keep your wrist strong, and bring the ball back into the swinging position. 

Remember, every step should match your natural arm movements, the kind you make when you’re walking. At the second step, move your throwing arm back and then come forward before the third and final step begins.

Step 7: Prepare to Release the Ball

When releasing the ball, your thumb needs to get out of the way immediately. Now, the only things controlling the hook of your ball are your two fingers. 

One thing you need to remember is that you should roll your ball towards the pins. Don’t chuck it from a high point or be forceful when you throw it. 

Step 8: Direct The Balls Spin With Your Fingers 

To direct the ball down the bowling lane, bring the ball back to a 4 o’clock position and swing it forward in a 7 o’clock direction. 

When your thumb is clearing up space and your fingers are rotating through, it’s almost like you’re shaking hands. Finishing the movement in a handshake position is the best way to learn how to curve a ball as it helps your hand get that rotating movement right.

When lifting the ball with your fingers, your hand and wrist should move in a counterclockwise rotation to bring it to the handshake position. Direct your ball to the alley while maintaining the same pose. 

This movement will help you throw a curved ball.

Step 9: Timing

As you prepare for the throw, plant your left foot down and swing your arm forward while you raise your right foot. Release the ball with your palm on the right side of the ball. 

The rotation of the hand and wrist should hook the bowling ball from right to left. If you’re left-handed, rotate your fingers and footwork.

Step 10: Practice

This style may take some time to master. If you’re not the most patient person, you can try mixing or switching up different variables and see what works best for you. 

The more you play, the closer you’ll get to nailing it. 

Tips on Curving

Here are a few things you can do to help speed up the process:

  • If you don’t want to make frequent trips to the bowling alley to learn how to hook, you can try it with a pool or tennis ball instead.
  • Choose a lighter ball than the one you normally use. This will significantly lower your chances of getting hurt in the process.
  • If a house ball doesn’t cut it for you, you can get your own ball. Make sure to cover it with a resin coating to increase your chances of delivering a precise hit. 

If it’s a dry lane, consider getting a stiff or pearl coverstock.

  • Ensure that your hand is straight (like in a straight shot) when you swing the bowling ball back. It will give you proper control.
  • Practice different grips. If you find it difficult to nail down, find a compromise between the conventional and fingertip grip. 

Start by inserting your fingers into the holes. You should do this in such a way that your second knuckle sits inside the holes. 

It will give you a better angle.

  • Practice the suitcase delivery. It will allow you to reach high hook potential without much hand manipulation.
  • Work on how you move your body. The more in sync you are with the way your body moves, the better you’ll be able to maintain the proper release point.

Wrapping Up

Learning how to throw a hook is a skill that will take some time to master. Experiment with different bowling balls and approaches, pay attention to specific lane conditions, and time your release. 

Remember, the hook ball requires a lot of practice. Most bowlers, if not all, start with small curves and then gradually move towards more dramatic hooks. 

So start small and be consistent. Don’t take shortcuts that could possibly jeopardize your progress.

With ample repetition, chances are you’ll be able to hit all the tenpins and achieve more strikes in no time.