Article Contents

  • 1. The ball matters
    • 1.1. Plastic
    • 1.2. Urethane
    • 1.3. A word on rubber
  • 2. Spare shooting release
    • 2.1. Ball speed and wrist supports
  • 3. Mental considerations
    • 3.1. What’s on your mind?
  • 4. Conclusion

We are bowlers. We know that there are lots of variables in our universe that have to come together to yield a strike. Many times—thankfully—they do all come together and we enjoy watching the entire rack succumb to our efforts. Equally often, however, the pins refuse to cooperate, leaving us with a spare attempt.

For all of the skills and techniques that improve your odds of striking, once you have to convert that spare, none of those techniques matter—until the next frame. Right now, right here, different ball choices, an entirely different skill set, mental game considerations, and unique strategies come into play. We’ll cover those first three in this article, saving spare shooting philosophies and strategy for the second half of this series.

As bowlers, we need to learn and understand the world of spare shooting. It’s not always as fun or exciting as blowing the rack with a screaming messenger, but if we ignore spare shooting, we do so at our own peril.

The ball matters

On the professional tours—including the PBA, PBA50, and PWBA—Norm Duke is one of the very few standouts when it comes to not needing or using a “spare ball.” Then again, Norm also uses 16-pound equipment and doesn’t put any bevel on his thumb or finger holes. He’s won titles competing on the “young tour” years after becoming age-eligible for the PBA50 circuit. Simply put, there are things Norm does that are far above the skills of us mere mortals!

Can you learn how to “kill” your strike release and not need a spare ball? Yes, with a great deal of practice. But let me ask you this: if you needed to hammer in a nail, would you hunt for a rock, or buy yourself a hammer? Bowling has more than enough moving parts, so the first piece of advice I can give for would-be spare shooters is to keep things simple. Let’s ...

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Joe Hoenig

About Joe Hoenig

Joe Hoenig is a USBC Silver coach and a graduate of the Dick Ritger Bowling Camps. A Licensed Master Social Worker by profession, Joe works full-time as a Clinical Trainer and Educator for a health insurance plan and takes his love of teaching and bowling onto the lanes, coaching both youth and adult students of all ages and skill levels. Additionally, Joe is a volunteer coach for the Suffolk County, NY Bowlympics youth travel league, which calls South Levittown Lanes its home.