Ten-Pin Bowling Tips for Beginners

young girl plays bowling
Stateside, most players refer to 10-pin bowling simply as "bowling." (Image: massimofusaro/iStock/Getty Images)

By nature, bowling offers an inclusive sport suited for virtually all skill levels; even your local lanes likely host all manner of bowlers, from casual partiers to hardcore league members. Despite its approachable vibe, all the cliches you hear shouted at the line -- like “it's all in the wrist” and “keep your eye on the prize” -- make for a muddled message. To stack up at the bowling alley, begin your career with a few simple tips in mind.

Start Off Right

Think of your starting position as the foundation of your throw. Reach the foul line with your toes, then turn and take about 4.5 regular-sized steps toward the waiting area -- you'll reach a row of dots. If you're right-handed, put your left foot just left of the middle dot.

That Prize Thing Works

Some cliches become cliches for a reason -- “keeping your eye on the prize” is an essential building block of your bowling technique. The “prize,” however, is a little different than you might think. For your first throw, focus on the second arrow from the right-hand gutter. This makes a straight line that starts at your right shoulder and cuts through the arrow into the “pocket,” or the front three pins.

Rare Up and Release

Remember this basic pattern as you release the ball: Push your right arm out on your first step, let it drop back to your side on the second and swing it forward once again on your third, releasing the ball and sliding forward on your left foot. Of course, switch these positions up if you're a lefty.

Scoop Those Pins

Once you've let loose, it's time to clean up pins -- unless you've bowled a very possible strike. To do so, you need to shift your focus. This time, line up your right shoulder with the target arrow that leads to the remaining pins. For help on the dreaded 10 pin -- the rearmost pin on the rightmost side, a bane of many beginning bowlers -- line up your shot on the far left-hand side, targeting the middle arrow. Perhaps most importantly, don't let the 10 pin get you down; a lack of confidence can kill your game, so have fun and keep on trucking.

More Simple Tips

Always take a trial swing; whether you have the ball in your hand or not, simply go through the motions of your intended throw, without releasing the ball, until you're completely comfortable with the focus and rhythm of your shot. Mind the details of your gear, even if you're not making a heavy-duty investment. As a rule of thumb, bowling beginners do best with light, plastic balls that feature a low hook. Ask the pro shop employees where you can find this type of ball before you hit the lanes.


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