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 aim to be a professional bowler or score higher, then hooking is something you must master. 

When a professional player hooks the bowling ball and throws it on the lane, the ball does not just score some good points but also becomes something nice to watch! 

While it may seem like a pretty straight-forward and easy technique to execute, it is not. Hooking needs a lot of practice to master and the quality of a hook depends on various factors. 

If you are looking for some guidance on how to begin your journey on hooking, follow these simple steps. 

3 Steps to Master Hooking

1. Find the right bowling ball 

An in-house plastic ball would not help you with hooking. It may be good once or twice but if you are serious about learning this, you need to get a good reactive ball that provides good hook potential. 

Several manufacturing companies have launched many balls over the years that offer exceptional hook potential. 

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

I recommend that you choose something that comes with a reactive resin coverstock.

Where plastic balls don’t provide traction, reactive 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 16lbs ball for the best hook. The weight of the ball is solely dependent on what you are comfortable with for your weight and it doesn’t dictate the quality of a hook. 

For better comfort, it is best to buy an undrilled ball so you can custom drill the holes based on your finger sizes. Drilling can be done at an affordable price at any bowling alley. 

2. Get the basics right

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

Grip

To hook the 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 hooking the ball easier. 

For beginners, until you get comfortable, you can remove the thumb just as you approach the foul line. 

Lane Oil Conditions

A big, visually delightful hook may not always be the best approach to score points. While hooks are easy to master and score 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 wouldn’t want to go back to straight bowling, ever. 

Practice

No matter what ball you use, practice is the only way to master this technique. When you don’t practice in the alley, you can always practice at home using a tennis ball or something relevant. 

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 consistently launch good hook balls, 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 are in sync and time-coordinated. Your shoulders must also be facing forward. 

During the swing, maintain your arms completely straight without 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, rotate your hand and wrist like you are offering a handshake. 

If you are righthanded, this must be counter-clockwise and for a left-hander, this rotation should be clockwise.  

Once you rotate your hand and wrist, the fingers come up to the side of the ball so you get to launch with force and control rather than just dropping the ball on a lane. In other words, just swing your arm like a pendulum towards your target. 

If you don’t remove your thumb much before this rotation, the ball may not hook 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. 

The movement of your arm should be led by the ring finger to ensure that your arm stays under the ball and not otherwise. 

Aim

On a standard lane, bowling pins are 60 feet away from the foul line and so are not ideal to be targeted directly. 

You can make the best use of the directional arrows that are about 15 feet from the foul line to aim and launch the ball. For starters, you can aim between the 2nd and 3rd arrows. 

Footwork

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

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

For the first step, your right foot should step forward as the arm pushes down the ball. 

Swing and make your second step with the left foot forward. By this step, the ball must be beside the right calf. 

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

Once the ball is thrown, your right foot must slide sideways so that you can follow-through with your swing. In this fourth step, your left leg must be bent in 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:

  • When you are not bowling, keep visualizing your hook motion in your head several times.
  • Always start learning hooks with small curves. Dramatic curves should be tried only once you master the basics.
  • The target should be being consistent with your hooks and practice more often.
  • Talk to the alley management and find out when the lanes are usually oiled. Choose the time when the lanes are drier since that is when hooks are easier.
  • The best time to release the hook ball is when it is between your shoelace and toe of the sliding leg.
  • Rotate only 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 a lot of practice can help you master hooking but once you do, you wouldn’t want to go for any other technique since it is very satisfying and visually appealing! 

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

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