- The distance from the foul line
- The location of their feet
- Body position
- The approach
All of these work together to get the bowler closer to the best approach toward an optimal throw.
The Foul Line
The goal is to release the ball from the hand as close to the foul line as possible, without crossing the line itself. Because of this, bowlers take measures to make sure that they start their approach from the most appropriate distance possible. Lanes will have line markers for guidance, making it easier for bowlers to measure their approach. A suggested measurement is to start about two inches away from the foul line and to take five normal steps back from the line. This is where the approach begins.
Consistency is key to foot placement in bowling. And an accurate foot placement leads to an accurate body placement. The bowlers use guide dots on the floor of the lane to mark the starting points to their approach. This is where they start every approach to their throw. Bowlers often vary in the direction of their approach; some walk straight on, while others curve in their stepping. Ultimately, they adjust based on repetition and practice, discovering what works best for their throw. The foot placement also differs for left-handed and right-handed bowlers. Right-handed bowlers will start with their left foot pointing toward the lane, and left-handed bowlers will start with their right pointing forward. This forward foot is known as the slide foot, or the foot that bowler’s end up on at the end of their approach. The front foot is ideally placed slightly in front of the back foot, with only two to three inches of separation between them. This is the starting position for any approach to the lane.
The first part of body position is holding the ball. The bowler places their fingers in the holes of the ball with their dominant hand and supports the bottom of the ball with their non-dominant hand. Good body positions are relaxed, vertical with good posture, and with an even weight displacement on both feet. The knees will be bent, with the head pointed toward the end of the lane. There are three possible positions in which to hold the ball; in front of the face, at the waist, and with the arm elongated down below the waist. Most bowlers will begin with the ball placed at waist height, with upward changes being made based on bowler preference. For the best movement, the ball will be held on the side of the dominant hand. Both hand movements and feet movements should be intentional and focused in the direction the ball should be moving.
Keeping in mind all of the previous positions, the bowler makes their approach toward the foul line, remembering to keep their head level and their body pointed down the lane. Each step forward will shift the hips open and closed, but at the end of the approach, the bowler aims to be in a similar stance in which they started, with the non-dominant foot forward and the dominant arm ready to throw the ball. Bowlers will often lean forward, keeping their shoulders above their knees, allowing for stability and balance.
When approaching the foul line with the ball in hand, it is important for arm movements to match up with leg movements. On the first step with the dominant foot, the ball should move away from the chest, above the waist. On the second step, the arm and ball will drop down at arm’s length. For the third step, the bowler will move the ball back behind them, to gain momentum for the throw. On the fourth step, the ball moves back down to line up for the throw. While this can vary based on the number of steps a bowler takes, the arm movements should be the same in the last four steps toward the lane.