The hook shot is a technique where the bowling ball curves in its path down the lane, in contrast to a straight shot. If you want to consistently score a high average (over 180), you will have to learn how to throw the hook because it will get you more strikes.
This is true because the hook pattern gives you a better angle your target, known as the pocket, which is the spot between the 1 and 3 pins (right-handers) or 1 and 2 pins (left-handers). With the hook, the bowling ball will hit the pins with more force and lead to better pin carry. And because of the hook ball’s spinning action, you’ll get more strikes even you don’t hit the pocket precisely!
While it takes some hands-on practice and a lot of determination to become adept at the hook ball, the basics are not too difficult to learn. This article will get you started.
First Things First: Invest in Your Own Ball
The first thing you should do is invest in a bowling ball of your own, as having one drilled to your hand is essential to developing your stroke. If your fingers do not fit in the finger holes, you won’t be able to manipulate the ball correctly to cause the hooking action.
Also, the house balls you will find at the alley are made of cheap plastic and they often won’t hook much no matter what you do. Read our guide to choosing the right bowling ball.
The Basics of the Hook
Many bowlers mistakenly try to force spin with their wrist or by moving their arm sideways across the body. But instead of making the ball hook, this will only make the ball hard to control and you’ll often end up in the gutter.
The proper bowling swing is on a straight plane, like a pendulum. The hook is caused by a combination of two forces, side rotation and revolution. These are the result of the way you release and rotate your fingers, not any movement from your wrist!
1. Getting the Thumb Out
When throwing a hook, use the same approach technique that you are already comfortable with. You first need to remove the thumb from the bowling ball, which should happen right as you make your final step with your foot.
This is an important step for a hook shot, because your middle and index fingers are the ones that will be dictating the hook. If you leave your thumb in for too long, it will be very difficult to control.
2. Finger Lift
After removing the thumb, the weight of the ball will be transferred to your fingers and the ball will be at the lowest point of your armswing.
At this time, you remove the middle and ring fingers from the ball, while simultaneously turning them counter-clockwise for right-handers and clockwise for left-handers.
It should be a swift, natural flicking motion of the fingers, and they should come up and to the side of the bowling ball.
This is known as lift and it gives the ball more force while allowing you to control your shot instead of weakly dropping it onto the lane.
3. Follow Through
For a proper follow-through, your arm should continue to swing forward and towards your target. It should end up looking as though you are giving a handshake.
Overall, this release is perfect because it results in the right combination of side rotation and revolution. The ball will travel straight down the lane at first before the side rotation takes over, causing it to hook into the pocket.
A Helpful Comparison: Underhand Football Spiral
For many bowlers, it’s difficult to picture exactly how to turn your fingers as you release them from the ball, as the movement is very precise.
It may be helpful for you to think about throwing a football spiral underhand.
If you have a football handy, take a minute to practice throwing an underhand spiral. To do this, you will need to rotate your fingers up and to the side of the football. This is remarkably similar to what your hand should do at the release point of a hook shot.
This comparison really helped me when I was first learning how to hook, and I hope it makes sense for you too.
Consider Lane Conditions and Don’t Overdo It
The only way to truly learn how to hook a bowling ball is actually to get out on the lanes and practice. These fundamentals will get you started, but different bowlers will need to make tweaks and adjustments in order to match their own style.
Once you get the ball spinning the right way, you should know that more hook isn’t necessarily better. While it might look the most impressive for your ball to sweep all the way across the lane and into the pocket, a big hook will be harder to control.
Also, a hook ball is very dependent on bowling lane conditions. This means that different amounts of oil on the lane will affect your hook. In general, the ball will hook much easier on a dry lane (meaning little oil), while on an oily lane, it will be more difficult.
Despite these complexities, the hook ball is very satisfying once you put in some practice. Once you get your first strike by hooking the bowling ball directly into the pocket, you’ll never want to go back to straight bowling!
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