How to Release a Bowling Ball

The bowling game 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 proper arm swing, hand position, wrist rotation, footwork, approach, and release, consistent strikes will continue to elude them. 

Bowlers looking to improve their ball throwing can benefit greatly by developing their release. 

A good bowling release is directly responsible for the trajectory of the ball. How a ball reacts on the lane — hooking, spinning, or following the same line — is mostly reliant on the delivery and release.

The construction of a ball is also a factor in its movement and back end reaction. 

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 throw and control, and they are typically used only 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. As the ball rolls it has fewer revolutions and hook movement, and is mostly used as a spare ball to get 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 a right hander and 1-2 pocket for a lefty) considerably increases your chances of hitting all the pins and getting a strike. 

Hook shots carry greater power and pin-carry action in the game, too.

Releasing a Straight Shot

Step 1: Bend the elbow to keep the ball at chest height with the ball slightly towards your dominant bowling hand. Place your thumb, middle finger, and ring finger into the gripping holes.

Have a relaxed grip on the plastic/polyester ball, providing wrist support with your non-dominant hand. A relaxed grip facilitates a straighter ball path and discourages hook and a high rev rate on the ball.

Step 2: Pace through your approach, keeping in line with the second arrow from the left (for lefties) or right (for right handers). 

Step 3: Extend your arm for a backswing. Make sure your wrist and elbow position remains firm and straight in line through the entire swing. 

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

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

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

Releasing a Hook Shot

Step 1: Get your hands on a ball that has good potential for being a hook ball. 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 appropriately for the size of your fingers on your bowling hand. An improper fit can result in incorrect hooking and disastrous results. 

Step 3: As far as hand positions go, 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 more revs on the ball. A strong grip provides an angular ball path. 

To maximize the hook potential of the ball and rev rate on it, go for a strong grip that can be adjusted as your wrist and hand rotates.  

Step 4: Set up by ensuring that the ball starts 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 naturally generate greater power and ball speed in your shots.

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

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/foot area. 

Step 8: This point is the most important step! 

During release, ensure that your hand position allows you to withdraw your thumb first. The ball reacts when you hook it with your index and middle fingers, so they should be withdrawn only at the last moment. 

When removing them at the end of your forward swing, simultaneously flick your fingers in a counter-clockwise motion (right-handers) or 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. This means your thumb should be pointed towards the ceiling and your palm and fingers facing the lane, as if you were shaking hands with someone. 

Useful Tips to Help You Release Better

1. Have a delivery routine

To have the perfect release in every game, 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 a few 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 there for a reason; they help steer your ball right into the pocket. 

Being able to read the lane conditions will also help you to adapt your throw and work with the oil pattern. 


There is only one sure-shot way of perfecting your release — regular practice. 

Be diligent during your practice sessions and don’t hesitate to train away from the bowling lane. If you’d like to practice bowling at home using a tennis ball, you may find this article helpful.

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 and feeling while on the bowling lane. 

For more personalized instruction, consider visiting your local pro shop and asking for a lesson. Good luck!