How to Release a Bowling Ball

Bowling is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age or skill level. 

An untrained eye would tell you that bowling simply involves knocking down the pins. That is true on a surface level; however, that sentiment undermines the variables that go into obtaining a strike. 

It fails to comprehend the challenges of getting all 10 pins down in 2 shots. 

Nonetheless, many beginners manage to land a lucky strike now and again. However, unless they develop a proper form, footwork, approach, and release, consistent strikes will continue to elude them. 

Bowlers looking to improve can benefit plenty by developing their release. 

A release is directly responsible for the trajectory of the ball. Whether a ball hooks, spins or goes straight is mostly reliant on the delivery/release.     

The construction of a ball is also a factor in its movement. 

For instance, polyester balls often travel straight and lack hook potential, urethane balls have more hook potential than polyester balls, and reactive resin balls are known to have the greatest hook potential. However, reactive resin balls are the most difficult to control and they can only be used expertly by professional bowlers. 

How to Release a Bowling Ball – Straight or Hook?

There are two types of shots you can play in a bowling lane—a straight shot and a hook shot. 

A straight shot, as its name suggests, involves throwing a straight ball into the pin deck. It has fewer revolutions and hook movement, and is mostly used for getting spare pins placed far into the corners. 

Meanwhile, a hook shot provides a better angle to the pocket. An angled entry from the pockets (1-3 pocket for the right-handers and 1-2 pocket for the lefties) considerably increases your chances of getting a strike. 

Hook shots have greater power and pin-carry action too.

Releasing a Straight Shot

Step 1: Keep the ball at chest height towards your dominant hand. Have a relaxed grip on the plastic/polyester ball. A relaxed grip facilitates a straighter ball path and discourages hook and revolutions on the ball.

Step 2: Pace through your approach.

Step 3: Extend your arms for a backswing. Make sure your hands remain firm and straight through the backswing. 

Step 4: When releasing the ball, focus on getting your thumb out of the finger hole first. Only after the exit of your thumb should you withdraw your index and middle fingers. 

The ball should be released as it reaches your ankle region from your backswing. 

Step 5: Follow-through properly by keeping your arms and hands straight and upward. Ensure that your palms face upwards during the follow-through. 

Releasing a Hook Shot

Step 1: Get your hands on a ball that has a good hook potential. Start with a urethane bowling ball. Unlike a reactive-resin ball, bowling balls featuring urethane coverstocks are much easier to control. 

Step 2: Make sure the finger holes are drilled as per the size of your fingers. An improper fit can result in incorrect hooking and disastrous results. 

Step 3: You can either have a firm grip or a strong grip on the ball. 

A firm grip facilitates an arching ball path and gives you a decent hook and revolutions on the ball. A strong grip provides an angular ball path. 

To maximize the hook potential of the ball and revolutions on it, go for a strong grip.  

Step 4: Ensure the ball is at chest height towards your dominant hand. When you keep the ball up high, you increase the distance in your swing arc, allowing you to generate greater power in your shots naturally. 

Step 5: Keep your knees relaxed and bent to a small degree. Have your body in a slightly sloping position.

Step 6: Be swift in your approach so you can benefit from the momentum gained from running. 

Step 7: Release the ball when it nears the ankle area. 

Step 8: This is the most important step and I need your undivided attention here. 

During release, ensure that you withdraw your thumb first. You hook the ball with your index and middle fingers, so they should be withdrawn only at the last moment. 

When removing them, simultaneously flick your fingers in a counter-clockwise motion (right-handers) and clockwise motion (left-handers). 

Step 9: A proper follow-through is important for accuracy. 

Your hands and arms must be straight and in a handshake position upon release. A handshake position is where your thumb points towards the ceiling and your palm faces the lane. 

Useful Tips to Help You Release Better

1. Have a delivery routine

To have the perfect release, you must have a delivery routine that you are comfortable with.

This includes having a uniform starting position and knowing where to stand when bowling. Many take 4-5 steps from the foul line to form their starting position.

2. Avoid large strides

During the approach, avoid taking large strides as it can ruin your flow and momentum. Take a couple of timed steps, then take skip steps, and slide forward. 

The approach routine can only be perfected through regular practice. If your approach is off, you can expect a disastrous delivery. 

3. Aim for the marks

Aiming for the marks on the lane can help you reap plenty of benefits. The marks are prevalent for a reason; they help steer your ball right into the pocket. 


There is only one sure-shot way of perfecting your release—you can only do it through regular practice. 

Be diligent during your practice sessions and don’t hesitate to train away from the bowling lane. You can practice bowling at home too and go through your release with a tennis ball. 

It’s all about training your body to make the right moves during release. Through muscle memory, you will be able to retain and remember the correct movement/feeling while on the bowling lane. Good luck!