Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Advice for bad bowlers: How to throw a hook

On Monday night, the Rookie expressed some interest in throwing a hook after reading an article in the most recent US Bowler. I am no expert; that's for sure. Nor, am I a coach. So you should take everything you are about to read with a grain of salt. I am writing this for him and for anybody else thinking about coming out of the straight bowling closet. Three of the Movements throw a hook. Johnebob and Daniele do not use a conventional throw. They use a thumb out technique and have had plenty of success doing so. I note this because there is more than one way to skin a cat. In any sport or physical activity, there is the "classic" or widely accepted way of doing something. Then, there are the other ways. If something works, even if it is not widely used, why change it? Anyway, my shot is closer to the classic, and that is what I am going to describe.

Another motivation is that I tried to learn a hook on my own by two methods, trial and error, and watching other people throw one. What I discovered was that you can develop all kinds of bad habits doing this. I made it an overly complicated shot. It's actually a very simple motion. Still, for the first 500 or so shots you take, it feels awkward as hell, but you have to give it time. You have to hone it. You have to learn how to throw it consistently. I am still learning. Again, I am no coach, so don't put too much weight on anything that follows.

Ok... stand up. Now, let you arm fall to the side and relax. Now, rotate your palm, so it is facing forward. Look at how your wrist is positioned, it extends straight out from your forearm. That is how you release the ball when you are a straight bowler. Now, do the same thing, but cock your wrist, so your palm is facing upward. That's how you throw a hook. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Ok, that's not entirely true, but it's close to the truth. I know you are wondering how that could cause the ball to spin. Assume that position again with the wrist cocked upward. Now move just move your thumb upward, so it's opposite your middle and ring fingers, the position it would be in if it were in the bowling ball. Now imagine a 15 lbs bowling ball in your hand. Which way does your hand want to rotate? Inward, right? If you release the ball this way, you will get spin whether you like it or not.

The other secret to throwing a hook is to get that thumb out of the ball first. If you have been throwing straight your whole life, this is a bit scary. You are used to the ball coming off of all of the fingers at the same time. When you throw a hook with that cocked wrist, the thumb comes out, the hand rotates with the fingers still in the ball, and the spin is generated. The middle and ring fingers should only be inserted to the first knuckle. This is why it's important to have a custom drilled ball. The spacing on that house ball you've been using might be too close.

I have two more things to share on the matter. You shouldn't put too much thought on trying to get the ball to spin because if you release it with that cocked wrist, it will. Once, you get the basic motion down, you can start working on getting a higher rate of rotation. If you get too "handy" with it, you will get rotation that is perpendicular to the long axis of the lane, or even a little bit of back spin because you will let the hand migrate to the side of the ball or even to its front. The ideal spin rotates at a 45 degree angle to the lane axis. This will give you the most break. Strangely the best way to do this is to keep your hand behind the ball. If I start getting funky spins, I always think about keeping my thumb behind the ball and directly above my fingers. Here's a nice slo-mo vid of a hook shot release:

Finally, if you haven't done this before, you may find that it's not easy to hold a 15 lbs bowling ball with a cocked wrist. You just don't have the strength. If that's the case, just practice and the strength will come along quickly. Don't be discouraged at first. It will feel strange. You might feel like you can't control it. With time, it will become easier, and your bowling will improve.


  1. My resolution this year, aside from not making any more resolutions, was to try and learn a hook. I am hoping that a trip to the bowling alley will come up during a conference call or meeting or something, but am not too optimistic.

    I live a block from an alley, and this post should help (as long as I don't drink too much).

  2. Do it, K-Terk, but I wouldn't get too serious about it until you get your own ball.

  3. I broke down and bought my own ball this year and it was well worth the investment in terms of getting a better hook. Now to learn the proper technique!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.