Line Up Your Spares

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So you’ve been bowling quite a few times now and feel pretty comfortable with your approach, release of the ball and looking for strikes. You’re normally able to maintain the initial ball somewhere around the middle of the lane and hit the headpin most of the time. That’s terrific! I expect that some of my suggestions have helped to get you there. Believe it or not, that was the easy part–now it’s time for the actual challenge within the game of bowling, picking up your spares.

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

It seem sensible that the fewer pins standing, the easier it should be to knock them down. Well, I am here to tell ya, that just ain’t so! Even if you don’t count splits, consistently picking up your spares may be the hardest part of this game for many bowlers. The thing is, the fewer the hooks, the smaller the goal –hence, less room for error. Think back to some of the strikes that you have had and the way the hooks were flying all over the place. You may not have hit the pocket (between the 1 and 3 hooks for righties) or even the head pin, but somehow all of that pin action caused a strike. Spares are a different animal though. Fewer pins and less pin activity requires greater precision. Don’t worry, it’s not impossible–here is a technique that can greatly improve your spare shooting, which in turn increases your scores (that sounds good to everyone).


3-6-9? Actually, this might be the quickest and easiest way to boost your consistency on spares. The 3-6-9 refers to the floor boards on the lane. You will be moving your toes that number of floor boards to the left or right so as to attempt a given spare. This method only works once you’ve got a place on the approach that you place your feet on for your first (strike) ball, as well as a spot on the lane (many bowler us the arrows) which you aim for on this shot. The amount of boards you will move to the left or the right will be based off of your strike ball place on the approach. I will explain this from the ideal hand bowlers’ perspective, so if you are a lefty use the same principle simply invert the direction of the transfer.

Why Do I Have to Move?

The seven front hooks which you see when you’ve got a full rack are what you will use to determine your move, starting from your strike ball position on the approach. You will move you place on the approach the opposite direction of the side of the headpin your remaining pins are around. For each pin left of the headpin, you may move your feet three planks right while aiming at precisely the same arrow. Conversely, for each pin right of the headpin, you’ll move left three boards. Since there are three pins to either side of the headpin, you will move 3, 6, or 9 board. Initially this sounds and feels like it is exactly the opposite of everything you need to do, but trust me it works.

On the flip side, if you leave the two pin, since it’s the first pin left of the head pin, move your feet three floor boards to the right of your strike ball spot, while aiming at the same arrow. This will feel awkward at first but you’ll get used to it. When You’ve move for your spare there are key elements to your success:

Walk to the foul line in your normal speed and STRAIGHT!
Roll the ball in the exact same speed as for your first shot–don’t slow it down.
Many bowlers trying this for the first time have a tendency to walk twisted without realizing it; attempting to walk toward their arrow. For the 3-6-9 method to work for you, you have to walk in a straight line. To see if you’re walking straight, pay attention to where you placed your feet to begin you spare approach. Many bowlers use the dots on the approach to get themselves lined up. Well, the very same dots are right at the foul line. Once you let go of the ball look down at the dots and see if your slide foot is on or near the same dot (board) that you started on. If so, great! If not, keep working on it, you will get it eventually.

Got to Pay Attention to Yourself

Watch the ball roll on your usual arrow. If you don’t, there isn’t any way to tell if you are doing this right. Accuracy is critical, but slowing down the ball is not necessary. If you can usually hit your mark for your strike ball, you will be able to do this with a little practice, but slowing down the ball changes everything about your strategy and release which effects your accuracy. Do not do it. Maintain the same rate as your first ball; that is the approach and release that feels most comfortable so stick with it–your just standing in another spot–what else should be the same.

What if There’s More Than 1

This suggestion concentrates on the single pin spares, merely to get accustomed to the new feel on the lane. For multi-pin, non-split spares, begin with aiming for the pin closest to you. As soon as you get used to shooting individual pins using the 3-6-9 method you will understand how to make small adjustments to get more that one snare.

This Can Work for Everyone

Those rolling a hook might need to adjust slightly based on the amount of hook you get. That’s it! Not too hard, just takes practice. As I said, it seems awkward at first, as if you are trying to do the opposite of what your mind believes to be appropriate. Keep working on it you will get it–and in turn your scores will go up!Have pleasure on the lanes.

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