Bowling Tips

Let the good times roll!

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Bowling shoes

Whilst adults are able to bowl in their own flat soled shoes, our bowling centres all offer a wide range of sizes, from the tiniest children's Velcro fastening ones, to large big-footed adult ones (approx. size 12/13*). Our shoes are specially designed to protect our floors, while also allowing you to slide smoothly on the lanes when bowling. Shoes are all cleaned daily, although you may like to bring a spare pair of socks if you prefer.

Bowling ball

From our lightest 6lb to our heaviest 14lb, with grip sizes XXS right through to XXL, there’s a ball to fit every bowler. The balls are colour coded by weight, with an engraved letter showing the grip size. Your perfect ball should be comfortable to hold and not too tight on the grip, allowing your two middle fingers to be inserted down to the second joint.

Safety first!

Please take care when picking up and putting down the balls to avoid hurting your lovely little fingers, or back.

Dress comfortably

It’s important that you’re able to move freely when bowling, so make sure you wear something comfy. Sorry ladies, that means short skirts probably aren’t the best choice!

* All bowling measurements are imperial i.e. pounds & ounces, feet & inches.

This is the name given to the runway area before the start of the lane, and also describes the action you go through just before releasing the ball.

Before you start bowling you need to find your starting position. Most bowlers use a four-step approach, which means starting just over four steps away from the foul line.

Begin by stepping onto the same leg as the arm you bowl with. So step right first if you’re right-handed and vice versa.

On your first step, the ball should be pushed out in front of you at arm's length (known as the push-away). This will help to gain momentum, which is needed, as opposed to strength.

The ball will now go into a natural swing as you continue your approach. On your second step, put your opposite arm out to the side to help you balance. Your second and third steps should increase (very slightly) in length and speed.

Your final step should finish in a slide, bringing you to a controlled stop. You should arrive at (just before) the foul line at the same time as letting go (the release) of the ball.

Think of your approach to be a smooth, controlled walk, swing and roll. Accuracy will always win over brute strength, but you’ll need to know how to aim properly first!

Practice your steps before taking your turn to check your distance and make sure you are happy with your technique.

The better your aim, the more pins you’ll knock down!

So to start, the ball should be in line with your shoulder (rear sight), before approaching in a straight line. Then, when you release the ball, you need to aim for the third arrow on the lane from the right-hand side. Let the momentum extend your arm after the release (follow through) and finish with your thumb pointing at the pocket (gap between the 1st and 3rd pin) = bullseye!

If you line up correctly, aim straight, and your ball rolls over the third arrow on the lane, then you should get yourself a very good score.

If you want to improve your aim further, then check out our advanced section.

In order to get a strike you need to get the ball in the pocket (between the headpin and 3rd pin to the right).

If your aim (see previous section) is accurate and you’re still missing, then try adjusting your position slightly. If you’re missing to the right, then move your feet more right. If you’re missing to the left, move your feet left.

You don't have to move too much, probably somewhere between one and three boards will do the trick. While you’re adjusting you’ll need to make sure your front sight (third arrow) remains the same – it’s your pivot point. Remember though, you can’t make these adjustments unless you’re sure your aim was accurate in the first place.

There’s another basic principle for picking up spares. Normally you’d want to hit the pocket with your first ball to get a strike. However, if you have pins remaining, you need to apply basic principle No.2. If the pin/s are to the left of the pocket, then move your feet right, keeping the same pivot point (third arrow). If the pin/s are to the right of the pocket, move your feet left. Depending on what pin is remaining will determine how much you should move:

  • Pin number 2? Move 3 boards right.
  • Pin number 4? Move 6 boards right.
  • Pin number 7? Move 9 boards right.

(This is known as the 3-6-9 system)

It’s more or less the same principle for the other side of the lane too, but because you’d normally hit part of the 3 pins if you were aiming for a strike, you don’t need to move your feet quite as much.

  • Pin number 3? Move about 1 board to the left.
  • Pin number 6? Move a further 3 boards to the left.
  • Pin number 10? Move a further 6 boards to the left (this will be approximately 7-8 boards left of your original strike position).

It’s important to remember these two basics principles. They’re the foundations on which you build your game. But there are also other systems and more advanced techniques. When you are ready to take your game to the next level, consider the following:

  • Get further tips from a qualified instructor (ask at your local centre)
  • Join a league for a bit of healthy competition. There are leagues to suit all levels of play from novice to advanced
  • Buy your own bowling ball for a better fit and improved results. You may even get a free bowling ball if you join a special beginners' league.

Here at Hollywood Bowl we want you to have as much fun as possible while you’re with us. Your safety is extremely important to us, so please ensure that all young children are supervised at all times, and that they don’t run around the centre, as this could cause injury.

Here are a few tips (which we recommend adults tell children) to help you play safely.

  • Don’t place your hand inside the ball return at any time. Wait until the ball has returned fully onto the rack. If a ball doesn’t return fully then please ask a member of our team to assist you.
  • Please don’t touch the balls that are on the rack while you’re waiting to bowl, as your fingers could become trapped when the ball returns.
  • Don’t step over the black line at the start of the lane surface. Our lanes are coated with a special oil varnish to protect them and the surface is really slippery.
  • Never go near the bowling machine at the end of the lane. If your ball gets stuck please call a member of our team.
  • Should you notice any slippery surface or spill a drink yourself, please call over one of our team members who will be happy to help.
  • Pick up the balls carefully and hold with both hands.
  • Children should use the lightweight balls. If a heavy ball falls on your toes, it’s going to hurt!

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