How to Hook a Bowling Ball

Are you a beginner looking to take that next step and improve your bowling game? If you want to hook a bowling ball, then all you need is to master the proper grip and technique and to follow through. Oh, and you need some time and patience too! Soon enough, your friends will be bowled over by your amazing skills.


[Edit]Mastering the Technique

  1. Visualize the line you'll take across the lane. Depending on the lanes you bowl on, this can vary greatly, but let's focus on a typical house condition: most of the oil is on the inside, leaving roughly 8-10 boards of relatively dry lane to be used. These boards can be both friend and enemy to you. Depending on the amount of oil and the way your ball reacts to different lane conditions, you will want to line up your feet slightly to the left-hand side of the lane. Once you get more familiar with your hook, you can adjust your set-up as necessary.
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 1 Version 5.jpg
    • Starting with your right foot on the middle dot on the approach is a good way to test how much the lanes are hooking. It is important to keep your feet closely together to maintain alignment.
  2. Stand with your heels several inches from the foul line. Take the amount of steps in your approach away from the lane to determine your starting position. If you have a 4-step approach take 4 steps, etc. You then want to aim to throw your ball at one of the arrows on the lane. The easiest way to aim is to use the arrow markings or the dots that are just before the arrows on the lane.
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 2 Version 4.jpg
    • For this tutorial, you should start off aiming somewhere around the second arrow on the right, allowing the ball to roll over this arrow, move out to only a few boards from the gutter, and then hook from the dry spot of the lane (about 38 to 40 feet down on a house shot) all the way back to the 1-3 pocket.
      • For a left-hander, this would be the 2nd arrow on the left, and the ball would hook to the 1-2 pocket.
  3. Make the swing. A 4-step approach is recommended, though you can use as little as 1 step and as many as 8 (though most steps over 4 are basically just timing steps where your ball doesn't move). For a 4-step approach:
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 3 Version 4.jpg
    • Push off the ball on your first step, stepping with your right foot first for right-handed players
    • Have the ball be parallel to your ankle at the 2nd step, and start to bend at your knees
    • Be at the top of your backswing by your third step
    • Bring the ball back through and release by the end of your slide.
      • With 5 steps, it's basically the same thing, only you'll start with your left foot instead, and the ball won't move for that first step.
  4. Keep your arm completely straight the entire way through your swing. Having your arm tucked too far behind you or held too far away from your body will cause a bad angle when you release the ball. It's easiest to keep your arm straight if you adjust your push away.
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 4 Version 4.jpg
    • There are many different styles, like bending at the waist (a la Walter Ray Williams Jr. or Wes Malott) or opening your shoulders (a la Tommy Jones or Chris Barnes) when you bring your arm up for the backswing, but sticking to the basics is a good idea when first learning how to do this.
    • Remember, you want the ball to hook when it gets to the dry area at the back of the lane, but until it gets there, the ball should be traveling a relatively straight path, varying only a few boards at most. Again, everyone has a different style, and you can adjust this as you feel comfortable.
  5. Time your release. As you begin to drop the ball out of the backswing, make sure that your palm is directly underneath the ball, facing upwards. Now, as the ball starts to approach your ankle, you want to rotate the ball so that when you release your hand, it is on the side of the ball and slightly under it, just as if you were holding a football to throw an underhand spiral. Then follow through as though you were going to be shaking hands with the pins.[1]
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 5 Version 4.jpg
    • A good way to practice this technique is to actually throw an underhand spiral with a football; similar physics are involved. You can also practice with a tennis ball. If you get it right, it'll go straight and then bounce drastically to the side.
  6. Follow through. Just as important as the release itself is following through with your arm after you let go of the ball. After release it is important to follow through outward onto the lane, not upward. Your fingers will create the upward lift without you having to lift upward on the ball.[2]
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 6 Version 4.jpg
    • An easy way to remember this is the old ESPN advert: "Roll the ball, then answer the phone." Though, hopefully you have better form than the guy in that commercial. And remember, fluidity here is essential: don't do the hand-shake, pause slightly, and then do the follow through -- it must all be one smooth motion. A good follow through is crucial to maintaining consistent ball speed and accuracy.
  7. Make the necessary adjustments. Once you are comfortable with your release and can execute it properly on a consistent basis, you can learn to adjust your footwork in tandem with your release. On a house pattern, you want to move the direction you are missing.
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 7 Version 4.jpg
    • For a right-hander, if your ball hits high (to the left of the headpin), then try moving your feet a couple of boards to the left and keeping your target on the lane the same as before.
    • If you hit the pocket light (to the right of the 3 pin), try moving your feet a couple of boards to the right and keep your target the same. It is important to move your target on the lane when you move your feet. Otherwise you may end up playing very weird angles.
    • Once you become more advanced and start playing on more challenging sport lane conditions, the left and right moves become more complicated and sometimes speed and hand adjustments are required.

[Edit]Customizing Your Bowling Ball

  1. Get the right equipment. No matter what you do, if the bowling ball can't catch any friction on the lanes, it's not going to hook. Generally, you need a ball made of Reactive Resin or better (e.g. particle-load or newer epoxy resin cover stocks) for anything but the driest of lanes. These are very easy to find and can be bought at relatively little expense, though resin is more expensive than urethane cover stock and will be an investment in your game.[3] Check out your alley -- how oily are the lanes?
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 8 Version 4.jpg
    • Though most bowling centers do offer "house balls," they are generally plastic (polyester) and won't hook very much, though they are good for most spares since they will travel very straight.
    • Having your own plastic ball for spares (spare ball), and a resin ball for strikes and some spares (spare ball) is a good idea for any level of bowler as house balls don't usually fit your hand perfectly and won't carry pins very well.
  2. Use the proper grip. When you're getting your ball custom-fitted to your hand, you want to know how you hold the ball, your point of axis, and how your grip lies. Grip the ball with the two middle fingers (the middle and ring fingers) of your dominant hand (i.e. the hand you write with), and place your thumb the whole way into the thumb hole.[4] There are 2 main types of grips:
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 9 Version 3.jpg
    • Conventional: the middle and ring fingers are inserted up to the second knuckle (this is seen in most house balls)
    • Fingertip grip: the same fingers are inserted only up to the first knuckle (fingertip grips will give you more revs than a conventional grip and are easier to hook)
      • A new thing out these days in the bowling community are Vacu-Grips. These grips will expand and contract to your finger width; this helps if you are going to bowl a lot. You will find that most of the pros use a fingertip grip as it allows you to get your thumb out of the ball first allowing you to "lift" with your fingers creating revs on the ball.
  3. Have your ball(s) drilled correctly. This is a personal thing depending on how and where you bowl, so you will need to talk to your local pro-shop operator for advice on this one. The drilling for the ball is very important, if not crucial, so make sure the drilling is appropriate for the conditions you bowl on and your own physical limitations. Obviously, it is critical that your own ball is fitted to your hand, but if you purchase a ball, the pro shop operator will do this as part of the cost of the drilling.
    Hook a Bowling Ball Step 10 Version 3.jpg
    • Talk to your pro-shop guy about your wants -- he may be able to recommend things you don't realize you need. Maybe a fingertip grip? A lower or higher RP differential (lower differential hooks on pearl or matte coverstock, higher on resin)? Or even a different ball or different weight completely!


  • This takes some practice and adjusting, so don't give up on it if you don't get it right away.
  • Keep the ball close to your ankle at release. Hooking the ball is all about creating leverage. The closer the ball is to your ankle at release, the more your fingers can be under the ball. As your hand rotates around the ball, your fingers "catch" the holes and provide upward force, thus creating spin and revolutions.
  • It can help you a great deal to simply watch and learn from some more experienced bowlers, like the pros on the PBA, or even some of the more talented bowlers you might see at your local bowling center. More often than not, they will be willing to give you some friendly advice if you show some interest in their skill.
  • When you swing the ball, it is important not to force the swing. It should be a pendulum-like action, allowing gravity to dictate the swing. Should you need more or less ball speed, hold the ball higher or lower before push-off (higher for faster, lower for slower). Trust your ball; there is no need to force it down the lane.
  • If your ball has too much speed, it will be harder for it to catch at the dry section of the lane, resulting in a smaller (or no) hook. If your ball doesn't have enough speed, it can hook early, causing you to hit high.
  • In addition, there is the Sarge Easter grip. This grip is uncommon and much more advanced. It is designed to help power players control their shot by increasing axis tilt, which helps delay the hook of the ball. Also, tucking your pinky finger and changing your index and pinky finger positions are more advanced techniques that slightly alter the release but are not a good idea for beginners.
  • You should consider getting a coach to help you, and see what works best for you.
  • Try not to twist your wrist as you release. This will make the ball deflect off the pocket, resulting in a five pin or a nasty split. Keep your hand under the ball and lift with the fingertips.
  • While big hooks generate more power, it is important to note that, generally, the bigger the hook is, the more difficult it will be for a beginner to control. Find a happy medium that you feel comfortable with and doesn't compromise your balance. Then you can fine tune your shot to add hook or cut back on it, depending on lane conditions.


  • Be very careful when first trying this. If you can, use a lighter weight ball than you're used to at first, just to get the feel for the release. It is also a good idea to have a more experienced bowler or coach watch you while you do it.
  • Lane conditions can dictate how much hook potential you have. If you are not making it to the pocket or crossing over onto the Brooklyn side, it may be the lane conditions, therefore don't try to crank the heck out of the ball at first, learn to adjust. It is after all the most important thing in bowling!
  • This release is prone to injury if done incorrectly, so again be very careful and try not to over-throw it. As in golf, less is more. It's more about swing mechanics than raw power here. If you "crank" too much it can result in serious wrist, elbow, or shoulder injury.[5]

[Edit]Things You'll Need

  • A resin bowling ball with a moderate hook rating that is good for the entry level bowler. Once you have learned to hook it, a more aggressive ball may be appropriate.
  • A towel, preferably a micro-fiber towel to wipe off oil between shots. Resin bowling balls absorb oil on every shot. Wiping them often and using oil removing cleaner between series will help maintain their longevity. Otherwise they will lose some of their hook and consistency after a few hundred games.
  • If you are having trouble keeping your wrist straight you may also need a wrist brace to prevent injury and keep your wrist straight. Wrist braces help create more consistency as they limit your wrist's range of motion. Consult your pro shop to see what size and style will be best for you.
  • Bowling shoes. Having your own shoes is important to the consistency of your slide as well as balance and timing.
  • A bowling video can help you a lot. Currently, someone has uploaded Walter Ray Williams Jr.'s 3 part video lessons to YouTube under: Walter Ray Williams Jr. video.
  • A coach. It is important, especially for beginners, to have a coach. Practicing without one can sometimes lead to the development of bad habits. A few lessons are a good idea for someone just learning to bowl. Coaches are like a human manual that can help you forget your bad habits and maintain good ones.

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