Bowling Tips for Picking Up Spares


While many bowlers focus on adjusting to make sure they throw a lot of strikes, spares are also an important facet of the game. A missed single-pin spare could cost your score up to 11 pins if you strike in the next frame. Spare shooting techniques may vary depending on what pins you leave on your first shot and what you are most comfortable doing.

Throwing Straight

  • Even if you curve the ball a lot, you can simplify spare shooting by lining up the pin or pins remaining with an arrow on the bowling lane and throwing the ball completely straight at them. If you have a plastic bowling ball, this method will still work if you release the ball as your normally do with a curve. Plastic balls don't pick up friction nearly as well, so they curve hardly at all. If you don't have a plastic ball, you can focus on coming through straight with your reactive ball without lifting your fingers to create curve. Your mark can be anywhere on the lane, as long as the angle you choose lines up with the spare.

Adjust Off Your First Shot

  • Many spares are in close proximity to the spot on the lane you tried to hit on your first ball, so you can make small adjustments off your first shot to pick them up. For instance, if your are right-handed and leave just the 2-pin, move your feet slightly right and throw the same shot you would when trying to get a strike. The farther right you move, the farther left the ball will curve, since it hits the target earlier and rolls sooner. Since the 2-pin is to the left of the head pin, the ball will curve into it instead of the head pin spot.

Curving at Spares

  • You also have the option of curving the ball at spares, though the oil patterns on the lane will dictate how successful you are. This strategy should be avoided if you are bowling on an unfamiliar oil pattern or at a bowling center you are unfamiliar with. If you are right-handed and leave a pin on the far left side, such as a 7- or 4-pin, you can move severely right and curve the ball where you know there is less oil on the lane. The ball will hook into these pins if you keep your speed and curve consistent, and you are correct about where the oil is on the lane.

Simplify Things

  • Once you have developed a way of throwing at spares that works well for you, you can apply these techniques to pins that are near one another. If you like to curve at the 7-pin, you can also curve at the 4-pin since they are in close proximity to one another. If you are comfortable throwing a plastic ball or throwing your reactive ball straight at the 10-pin, do the same thing for the 6-pin.

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