Many people have visited their local bowling alleys to take advantage of free bowling games or otherwise to try out a new hobby. The game looks simple enough—roll a ball down a 60-foot lane and knock over as many of the ten pins as possible. Most discover, though, that the game is not so simple. Nevertheless, some beginners are able to become good bowlers even before they buy the more expensive balls and other equipment.

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What to Expect at a Bowling Alley

When you first arrive at a bowling alley, you will need to request a lane. In some cases, many lanes may be available. However, the alley may be busy, especially on weekends and during times when bowling leagues are playing. A single lane can handle six to eight bowlers at a time (especially for beginners), though four or fewer is usually a better number.

Selecting Bowling Shoes

You will probably need to rent shoes, and you should bring your own socks to wear underneath. Although the alleys usually spray the shoes after each use, many people have worn the shoes that you will wear. The shoes will not be fashionable, and it will not be worth the effort to ask for a better looking pair.

You cannot bowl using street shoes, and socks alone are not a good choice. As you approach the lane to release your ball, you do not want the traction that street shoes have. However, you also do not want to slide around on your socks. The lane itself will be covered in oil, and if you step on this oil (especially in socks), you are likely to fall. A significant number of people have suffered injuries at bowling alleys, and these injuries are often caused when they step on oil.

Selecting a Bowling Ball

You will also need to choose a house ball to use. These balls will be different colors, with each color representing a different weight. As a rule of thumb, select a ball that is no more than 10% of your body weight. Thus, a person who weights over 160 pounds can select a 16-pound ball (the heaviest), though you may prefer a lighter ball. Note that the weight of the ball alone usually will not affect how many pins you knock down.

You will need to test several balls to find holes that fit your hand. The fingers should be snug, but you should not have to jam your fingers into the holes. You should also not have to stretch your hands uncomfortably to fit your fingers into the three holes.[3012]

Goals in Bowling

Each bowler will bowl ten frames for each game played. The bowler will have at least two chances to knock down all ten pins. If the bowler knocks down all ten pins on the first chance, the bowler has thrown a strike. If the bowler fails to knock down all ten pins on the first ball but knocks down the remaining pins with the second ball, the bowler has thrown a spare. The bowler will earn a higher score by throwing strikes and spares, so these are always the goal for every frame. The bowler’s score will be even higher if the bowler throws two or more strikes in a row. A bowler achieves a perfect game of 300 by bowling 12 strikes in a row (i.e., a strike for every frame, plus two extra strikes for the “bonus” throws in the tenth frame).

Several websites provide summaries of how to keep a bowling score. In most bowling alleys, scoring is automatic, and players can watch their scores without having to calculate anything.

Throwing a Ball

It is best for a beginner to adopt a simple approach to throwing a ball.[3012] The following steps can help a beginner to develop a good fundamental motion. These instructions assume the bowler is right-handed; simply reverse the instructions for left-handed bowlers.

1. Stand to the right of the head pin (the single pin at the top). You want to aim for the spot between the head pin and the one immediately behind it and to the right. This area is generally called the “pocket.”

2. Start with your feet together (slightly bent) and the ball extended at chest level in front of the body. Use your left hand to balance the ball.

3. Take a step with your right foot. As you do, release your left hand, allowing the ball to fall.

4. Take a step with your left foot. Let gravity move the ball down and then behind your body. Do your best not to use muscle. Instead, let your arm serve as a pendulum that merely directs the ball.

5. Take a step with your right foot. The ball should be behind you as you take this step.

6. Take a final step with your left foot. You should glide towards the foul line as you take this step. At the same time, release the ball as it falls near your left ankle. You should keep your hand straight for this shot because you want to throw a straight ball.

7. Follow through properly by letting your hand extend outward naturally. In other words, continue to let momentum move your arm forward, even without the ball.

This form applies whether the bowler is going for a strike or going for a spare. More advanced bowlers will change forms depending on whether they are throwing strike balls or spare balls, but a bowler throwing a straight ball will not change form.[3013]

Any Bowler Should Follow the Arrows

A bowling lane will have small dots behind the foul line and arrows several feet away from the foul line on the lane itself. A bowler can aim for certain spots on the lane by trying to roll the ball across the given arrow. For example, a bowler may line up on the second dot from the right behind the foul line and aim for the spot just to the right of the head pin. To accomplish this, the bowler can line up the spot he wants to hit with the second or third arrow on the floor. Lining up a shot correctly will likely take some practice, but this is an effective way to throw a more accurate ball, whether the bowler is a beginner or more advanced.[3011]

As a Beginner, Do Not Try to Throw the Bowling Ball Like a Pro

You might have watched professional bowlers torque their bodies to put an extreme amount of spin on the ball, allowing them to throw strikes. If you try the same form with a house ball, you are likely to throw the ball right into the gutter because the house balls are not designed to hook at all. More expensive bowling balls are covered with urethane or types of reactive resin, and these balls do not absorb any of the oil on the lanes. When the ball hits the dry spots near the end of the lane, the spin causes the ball to accelerate into the pins. A house ball will not grab the dry spot and will likely just keep spinning in the same direction as thrown.

Join a Bowling League

Bowling takes regular practice, and a good way to get that practice is to join a bowling league. Most bowling alleys have leagues that consists of bowlers of all abilities, and those who join leagues may receive give-a-ways, such as free bowling games, free bowling balls, and so forth.