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Tips for Aiming in Bowling: Using the Arrows and Dots

After you’ve gotten a grip¬†(pun intended) on how to hold a bowling ball, it’s important to learn where you should aim in order to knock down the most pins. This article will teach you how to consistently hit the right spots and cut down on your gutterballs.

Spot Bowling: Shifting Your Focus

There are two major ways of aiming in bowling, pin bowling and spot bowling.

When you’re a beginner, it’s most likely you will be looking at the pins when you throw the bowling ball. After all, they are your ultimate target so it makes sense to look at them when you’re making your shot.

This is known as pin bowling, and although it can be effective, there is actually a better way to do it. Instead of looking all the way down at the pins, you should keep your focus closer to you.

Spot bowling is the preferred method, and this means aiming at the target arrows spread across the lane about 15 feet down from the foul line. If you aim your ball according to these seven arrows, you will have a much better chance of consistently hitting your target.

The reasoning behind this makes sense if you think about it. The pins are 60 feet away from you, while the arrows are much closer to you.

It is much easier to hit a target that’s closer rather than farther, and if you can hit the right arrow, your ball will most likely continue down that path and hit the right pin.

Where to Aim?

But which arrow is the right one to aim for? This question does not have a simple answer as it depends on a variety of factors including your own bowling style as well as the lane conditions.

If you throw a relatively straight ball, you should aim for the center arrow, as this corresponds to the head pin.

As you might know, however, hitting the this pin directly head-on often leads to splits, so it’s good to hit it at a slight angle, a spot which is known as the pocket, which leads to maximum pin action and more strikes.

The spot in between the 1 and 3 pins is the pocket for right-handers (see diagram on right), while it is between the 1 and 2 pins for lefties.

Because of this, it’s a good idea for the right handed bowler to aim slightly to the right of the center arrow, and the lefty to do the same on the left side. If you throw a ball that hooks or curves, factor this in to your arrow selection.

Additional Suggestions

In order to make sure that you are starting from the same position every time, take note of the dot or board you are standing on in the approach area and make sure to line your feet up with that spot each time.

If you successfully hit your target arrow but your ball does not hit the pocket, either switch your aim to the next arrow (or the spot in between two arrows) or adjust the placement of your feet.

Since no two bowlers throw the ball exactly the same way, your results will vary. Learning how to aim in bowling is very much a process of trial and error. If you keep at it, however, you will discover what is the best for your own stroke.

Soon you’ll be wondering how you ever managed without the arrows!

What's next?

You could raise your average 10-15 pins just by focusing on one usually neglected part of your bowling game. Learn More Here

11 Responses to Tips for Aiming in Bowling: Using the Arrows and Dots
  1. Ann Gosselin
    September 28, 2011 | 5:15 pm

    Can you help please….I’m a beginner, right handed and need help figuring out where to stand and which arrow to aim at in order to hit the 10 pin. Thank you

    • Joseph (BBT Writing Staff)
      September 29, 2011 | 5:17 pm

      Hi Ann,

      Certainly; we’re happy to help!

      There isn’t going to be a single correct way to do it, and some of the details will depend on your own style. First, do you throw a straight ball or does your shot have a hook?

      The 10-pin is the toughest single-pin spare for right handers because you don’t have much room to work with and the ball usually travels from right to left.

      Many bowlers like to stand all the way over on the left side of the lane and bowl across it to hit the 10. It’s common to aim at about the middle arrow in this case, but this will depend on how your own ball travels and if you have hook.

      Others will line up near the middle of the lane and aim at the second or third arrow from the right. The one thing I would avoid is standing right over on the right side of the lane, because this will give you no margin for error and result in a lot of gutterballs.

      The best thing to do is stand in a few different spots and see what feels most comfortable. Your target arrow can depend on your style, the type of ball and even lane conditions.

      Hope this has been helpful, and do let us know how it goes!

  2. Richard Rodriguez
    September 28, 2014 | 9:45 pm

    Is there a different approach to dry lanes then oily lanes I’m aiming for the second arrow but still going Brooklyn. I’m left handed. I’m a 150 average

    • Tom
      October 30, 2015 | 8:32 am

      Since your missing your shot by at least five boards I would move 4 boards with your feet to right n 2 with your eyes or target to get throw more oil n allow ur ball to skid longer before it hooks if u still miss right continue moving right in 2:1 ratios 2 feet 1 with target until u contact the pocket consistently

    • Rich curro
      January 25, 2018 | 6:50 pm

      The ball will hook alot harder when lanes are dry. If your a righty move like 3 boards left through a shot if its still not right keep moving.. u will find it

  3. martha
    August 19, 2015 | 5:21 pm

    Im a right handed bowler.when used the second arrow my ball miss the head pins and go left side of pins. are come short of the head pins. where to stand and ajustment.

    • Tom
      October 30, 2015 | 8:40 am

      Since your missing your shot by at least five boards I would move 4 boards with your feet to right n 2 with your eyes or target to get throw more oil n allow ur ball to skid longer before it hooks if u still miss right continue moving right in 2:1 ratios 2 feet 1 with target until u contact the pocket consistently always move in the direction you miss your target miss right move right miss left move left in 2:1 ratios unless you miss your intended target arrow then that due to poor shot,for dry lanes I would use a polished ball something lower gritt like 1500 to grit on drys to avoid burning out or losing ball energy,as a last resort try changing ur finger position to spread index and pinky to have ur ball rollout of its hook,or tuck index and spread pinky with a straight arm release if none of this works you probly are using to strong of a ball for lane conditions.

  4. henriettafenner
    March 7, 2017 | 8:35 am

    I am a right hand bowler. If my left foot is at the inside of the middle arrow – am I suppose to end up in line with the middle dot at the foul line with my left foot?

  5. Barbera Peters
    September 15, 2017 | 12:53 pm

    I was hoping to take a date to a bowling alley this coming week once I can find a place to go but I have never actually gone myself. You mentioned that when it comes to aiming the ball it helps to aim for the center arrow if you throw relatively straight since it will be most likely to hit the center pin. That is a great piece of advice for me to keep in mind once I find a center for us to go.

  6. don salinas
    February 7, 2018 | 9:42 am

    ok bowler

  7. Kay
    February 10, 2018 | 3:37 am

    Where do you focus your eyes on during bowling? Is it on the arrow for example the 2nd arrow? If I were to move my eye target one board right, does this mean that I need to focus my eyes one board right of the 2nd arrow?

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