How to Hook a Bowling Ball

Hooking, also known as curling, is an exceptional strategy to score more points in bowling. Straight shots are great, but if you’re aiming to be a professional bowler or even just a high scorer, being able to hook bowling balls and increase ball speed is something you must master. 

When a professional player can hook a bowling ball and throw it down the lane, the ball will likely score some good points and be fun to watch in the process!

While it may seem like a pretty straight-forward and easy technique to execute, it is not. A conventional grip is often not enough to execute a quality hook.

Hooking takes a lot of practice to master and the quality of a ball hook depends on various factors. If you are looking for some guidance on how to hook a bowling ball, follow these simple steps. 

3 Steps to Master Hooking

1. Find the right bowling ball 

A plastic house ball will not help you with hooking. It may be good once or twice, but if you are serious about learning this technique you’ll need to get a good reactive ball, your own ball, that offers good hook potential. 

Manufacturing companies have launched many balls over the years that offer exceptional hook potential compared to the average plastic ball at your local bowling alley. A large number of these options could be the right ball for you.

It is not necessary to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy the best hook ball. A decent model that’s easy on the wallet will do the job and help you practice your ball hook in the initial stages. 

To perfect a great hook shot, many bowlers recommend that you choose a ball that comes with a reactive resin coverstock.

Where plastic balls and house balls don’t often provide traction, reactive bowling balls do and have enough grip and control on the lane oil, making them the best bowling balls for hook shots

Also, you don’t need to pick a 16lb bowling ball for the best hook. The weight of the ball is solely dependent on what you are comfortable with and doesn’t dictate the quality of a ball hook. 

For better comfort, it is best to buy an undrilled bowling ball so you can have the thumb hole custom-drilled based on your finger size. Your middle and index fingers will also be measured for the two additional finger holes.

Drilling can be done at an affordable price at any bowling alley or pro shop.

2. Get the basics right

To master hook shots, you must master the fundamentals of hooking first. 

Grip

To hook the bowling ball, make sure that you go with a fingertip grip. 

Just remove your thumb from the hole and use your other two fingers to aim and throw the ball. This makes it easier to hook the bowling ball. 

For beginners, until you get comfortable, you can remove the thumb just as you take the final step to the release point and swing forward.

Lane Oil Conditions

A big, visually delightful hook may not always be the best approach to scoring more strikes. While hooks can be easy to master on dry (light oil or light-medium oil) lanes, they may be difficult on slick (medium-heavy or heavy oil) lanes. 

Having said that, if you can practice and master hooking for all these lane conditions, you won’t ever want to go back to straight bowling. (See an article about lane oil patterns here.)

Practice

No matter what ball you use, practice is the only way to master this technique. If you aren’t able to practice often at the alley, you can always practice at home using a tennis ball or something similar. 

Try not to target dramatic hooks just yet. The goal is to launch a ball with small curves, veering its angle to the left (if you are a right-hander) or right (if you are a left-hander). Once you can consistently launch a hook ball correctly with the right combination of natural flicking motion, you can consider bigger curves.

3. Master the technique 

Holding the ball in a fingertip grip, you need to focus on the following aspects:

Body Language

Ensure that your footwork and swing mechanics are in sync and time-coordinated for a proper release. Your shoulders should also be facing forward. 

During the swing, keep your arm straight and avoid bending your elbow. 

The Release

Just as you are about to launch the ball, remove your thumb. Before you release your middle and ring fingers, complete a side rotation of your hand and wrist like you are getting into a handshake position. 

If you are right-handed this will be counter-clockwise, and for a left-hander this rotation should be clockwise. Your palm and fingers should be in the same hand position they would be in if you were actually shaking hands with someone. 

Once you rotate your hand and wrist, the fingers come up to the side of the ball so you can launch with more force and control, rather than just dropping the ball on the lane. You should always try to avoid dropping the bowling ball dramatically on the lane as this will cause the ball to bounce drastically and can cause damage and/or injury. 

In other words, just swing your arm like a pendulum in a straight path towards your target. 

If you keep your thumb in the same position instead of moving it before this rotation, the bowling ball may travel straight instead of hooking, or you may not have control over the hook. 

The Fingers

Hooking is all about your ability to manage your middle and ring fingers during the launch. 

Before you rotate and after the thumb is out, your middle finger should be at the 6 o’clock position. After rotating, it must be at 3 o’clock (for right-handers) or 9 o’clock (for left-handers). 

The movement of your arm should be led by the ring finger to ensure that your arm and entire hand stays under the bowling ball.

Aim

On a standard lane, bowling pins are 60 feet away from the foul line, which makes it difficult to target them directly. 

You should learn to make good use of the directional arrows that are about 15 feet from the foul line to aim and launch the bowling ball. For starters, try to aim between the 2nd and 3rd arrows. 

Footwork

The best strategy is to take a 4-step bowling approach

We will detail the steps for a right-hander. If you are a left-hander, just use the other leg. 

Most bowlers start by taking a first step forward with the right foot as the arm pushes the bowling ball down and into the backswing. 

Begin to swing the bowling ball forward and make your second step with the left foot forward. By this step, the bowling ball should be beside the right calf. 

As the bowling ball reaches the swing’s highest point, bring your right foot forward. 

As you start to throw the bowling ball, your right foot must slide sideways so that you can follow-through with your swing at a better angle. Bowling shoes are essential to achieve a smooth slide. 

In this fourth step, your left leg should be bent at a 45-degree angle and the spine at 15 degrees. 

Additional Tips

While the technique can be mastered only through practice, here are a few tips that can you help you get there:

  • Even when you are not bowling, continue visualizing your hook motion in your head.
  • Always start learning hooks with small curves. Dramatic curves should be tried only once you master the basics.
  • Your hook target (which pins you are aiming for) should remain consistent.
  • Talk to the alley management and find out when the lanes are usually oiled. Try to practice when the lanes are drier since that is when hooks are easier.
  • Experienced bowlers often say that the best time to throw the hook ball is when it is between your shoelaces and toe of the sliding leg.
  • Complete the side rotation only in your wrist and fingers, not your arm.
  • Consider using accessories like wrist supports for better comfort.

Final Note

For exponential growth in bowling and consistent scoring, hooking is a must. 

Only through a lot of practice can you master hooking, but once you do you won’t want to use any other technique since it is both very satisfying and visually appealing! 

The next time you go bowling, remember to try out hooking by using the information in this article to improve your game. 

Also, spend some time watching someone else launch hook balls in the alley. Who knows? You might pick up a thing or two.