How to Spin a Bowling Ball

Once you have mastered the technique of releasing a straight ball, putting spin on a bowling ball and executing a smooth hook release comes next.

The satisfaction from getting your hook shot into the pocket and having the ball knock down all the pins is unparalleled. Once you experience this electrifying fulfillment, you will never again want to muck around with straight shots. 

How to Spin a Bowling Ball in 3 Steps

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t achieve better bowling ball spin by swinging your arm across your body, nor will you reap the results you seek through an excessive flick of the inner wrist. Such incorrect techniques can be counterproductive and lead to erratic shots. 

As with any shot, you should face your torso forward when you begin the approach and keep your stance position steady with your body weight evenly distributed.

To hook a ball, throw it as you would for a straight release. The only difference between the shots lies in your ball release and what you do with your fingers; your goal should still be to maintain a constant grip and keep your wrist straight. 

1. Withdraw your thumb first

The approach technique of releasing a straight shot and a hook shot is the same; however, at the releasing period of a hooked shot, focus on withdrawing your thumb before the other supporting fingers. Your middle and first finger on your dominant hand will be responsible for manipulating the hook. 

Failure to get your thumb out in time can result in disastrous unpredictable shots. Timing your thumb’s exit from the holes is paramount for greater lift, control, spinning motion, and improved accuracy. 

2. Flick your fingers

As mentioned earlier, your index and middle fingers are responsible for generating hook and spin in the ball. 

Upon the withdrawal of the thumb, the index and middle fingers bear the entire weight of the bowling ball up until the release. 

As you loosen your relaxed grip even more and release the ball, simultaneously flick your fingers in a counter-clockwise motion if you’re a right-hander or clockwise if you belong to the club of left-handed bowlers (see this article for tips on choosing a ball for lefties!). 

It is important not to force this modest spin action — it should be done swiftly and naturally with the fingers ending up on the side of the ball in a handshake position with the palm facing to the left (for a right-handed bowler). If the ball seems to be erratic or inconsistent in movement, try doing less finger rotation until you notice the minute differences in each throw. 

3. Follow through

The perfect follow-through action must be performed for optimum accuracy. 

So, have your arms and hands directed upwards and towards the pin deck after release to finish out the forward swing. The motion should feel similar to giving a handshake. 

Hook Shot vs. Straight Shot

A recreational bowler relies on a straight shot to knock down pins because it’s easy to send the ball forward. Hook shots, on the other hand, are used by most successful bowlers and are much more difficult to pull off. 

Straight ball delivery can be beneficial for getting spare pins and decent bowling averages — but they can only take you so far. If you want to rub shoulders with the bowling professionals, you will need to learn how to spin a bowling ball consistently.

Why is a hook/spin ball better than a straight shot? 

Well, a hook ball gives you a better angle at the pocket from the foul line. Shots that hit the pocket generally have the highest chances of knocking down as many pins as possible. 

Right-handed bowlers go for the 1-3 pocket while the lefties aim for the 1-2 pocket. 

Additionally, hook shots have phenomenal power behind them as the ball travels down the lane, and have greater pin carry action too. Hook shots can substantially up your bowling skills and help you improve your averages at the bowling alley.

Now that you are aware of the benefits you can derive from a hooked/spun bowling ball, let’s discuss how you can execute them. 

The Right Ball for Spins

Material

Plastic balls, usually constructed of polyester, don’t possess great hooking motion potential. They are usually regarded as straight balls; you will need to exert plenty of power when you release the ball even to achieve a minimal hook reaction.

Attempting to hook with a plastic ball will result in complete exhaustion and unfavorable results. 

Bowling balls constructed of reactive resin coverstock tend to generate the most reactive hooking patterns. Thanks to their porous surface they have greater friction, hooking potential, and pin-carry action, making them the best bowling balls for hooking experts

Since reactive resin balls are extremely reactive, they can be difficult to control too; that’s why they work best for seasoned players. Start using them only after you have some experience hooking a bowling ball.  

The best bowling balls for those who are new to spinning/hooking are those made of urethane. Urethane bowling balls are easier to control but still have moderate hook potential, and should help most players to achieve at least a small and consistent hook every time they release the ball.

Finger Holes

Once you have chosen your ball, you’ll need to have holes for your fingers drilled into it. Having custom-sized holes will help you to avoid getting your fingers stuck, allow for consistent finger rotation, and keep your bowling fingers comfortable.  

The holes must be large enough to accommodate the smooth insertion and withdrawal of the fingers. An improper fit can prevent you from manipulating the ball properly, which then prevents you from spinning/hooking the ball correctly.  

Custom holes are important — after all, the hole size needed for adult women can be vastly different than the size for adult men! After you have your equipment ready, you can start concentrating on perfecting your form, technique, and release. 

Summary

Of course, it is everybody’s dream to get strikes with the most vigorous hook shots. Though impressive to look at, those shots are extremely challenging to control. 

Focus on generating the right amount of hook instead. An excessive and vicious spinning of the ball is not the right way to go about things. 

Forget about looking extravagant on the lane — consistency in your bowling game and in each ball roll is what you should aim for. 

Follow the steps discussed above and practice at your local bowling alley. Only countless hours spent practicing how to hook, along with numerous adjustments, can help you understand how much spin/hook you need under a variety of circumstances. 

Lane conditions can also affect your hooking potential. The more oily the lane, the more difficult it is to hook.

Be careful not to rush through your practice. Practicing your release in full throttle too soon will have your hand reverting to its previous swing cycle because of muscle memory.