Bowling can be entertaining if played well, but you might have the longest time of your life if you are constantly hitting the gutters. However, don’t be discouraged since that problem can be overcome with skill and experience.
So, how to avoid gutter balls? Generally, you just need to improve your bowling form and body mechanics. Aim to practice posture for hitting strikes until it becomes second to nature, and in that way, you will be more inclined to score than to hit out of bounds.
What Is A Gutter and A Gutter Ball?
For those who are not familiar with bowling terms, “gutter” refers to the two canals on each side of the bowling lane.
Any ball moving out of the playing lane will end up in the gutter and slide back to the “ball-returning” mechanism. This setup prevents the ball from getting stagnant at the sides or rolling towards the adjacent lane.
On the other hand, the term “gutter ball” refers to the ball going to the gutter and results in no score. In bowling, you will have two tries to clear the pins.
If you made a gutter ball on your first try, and you manage to clear all pins on the second try, this will be counted as a “spare” instead of a “strike.”
How Can You Avoid Gutter Balls?
Now that you know that the gutter is on the side, it is logical to just direct the bowl at the center, right? While that’s true, a linear approach is actually not the best method to secure strikes.
If you want to get strikes, you need to hit the pins at a specific angle. This is why you see pro bowlers apply a spin to their shots. This is to curve the ball, so they can achieve that necessary angle.
Nevertheless, on route to this stage, you will undergo countless trials and errors. In other words, as you practice perfecting the form in hitting a strike, you will encounter a lot of gutter balls. On the other hand, you also have to maximize your practice time.
So, to reduce your mistakes and to improve drastically, here are the things you need to do to avoid gutter balls and bowl like a pro.
Consider Using Bumper Bowling
One way to avoid getting out of bounds is to bowl without the possibility of a gutter ball. This means that you have to block the gutters with barriers set up by the bowling alley operators. It cannot be viewed as cheating but a training instead.
After all, you first need to develop your confidence in your game. Bowling out of bounds will never be helpful to you, which is why bumper bowling is an excellent option.
As time passes by and you gain more confidence and grow in form, you can welcome more challenges by having the barriers lifted and play actual bowling competitively.
At first, bumper bowling can be fun because there is almost no risk of bowling out of bounds. However, the danger of being complacent still exists, and you might become too dependent on the barriers when playing.
Therefore, you should keep in mind that bumper bowling is only meant for confidence-boosting as you try to seek the perfect bowling form.
Select the Right Weight
The heavier the ball, the harder it is to control. Unfortunately, this also means that a heavy ball can disrupt your usual playing posture, especially if you have a tough time controlling it. So try to pick the ones that you can manage to carry.
With that said, you might be thinking, “what if you select the lightest ball instead?” Well, there are pros and cons of using light balls.
One of the cons is that you can apply excessive force easily. Therefore, hooking cannot be easily achieved. This is crucial because hooking is essential since it is the ball’s tendency to curve its path and hit at an angle where you can score a strike.
Another downside is that a light ball may not generate enough momentum to drive through the pins and deliver either a strike or spare.
Of course, all of that can be compensated with skill, but as a beginner, you can start by selecting the appropriate ball weight: not too heavy yet not too light. Then, get familiar with it and practice your form to perfection.
Practice Bowling Form to Perfection
Now, all you need to do is to be dedicated in practice. Unless you understand your body mechanics, you cannot develop a perfect stroke.
The only way to do that is to practice the correct form repeatedly until it is second to nature. So, with that said, here are the ways on how to bowl like a pro:
You see that guide dots away from the foul line? Put yourself in that position. At that distance, you can time yourself to build enough momentum and execute a proper swing.
The guide dots are 12 feet behind, and make sure that your final stride will just be 6 inches away from the foul line.
As you get ready to move, your “slide” bowling foot must be pointing at the middle guide dot. Initially, your feet must be together. Then, walk with each forward step pointing to the middle guide dot.
Approaching the Foul Line
As you approach the foul line while building momentum, walk in a straight line. Your final step must be pointing at the center guide dot of the foul line. Then, hold the ball firmly and comfortably with your wrist straight always.
Swinging of Arm
While you are building momentum as you walk, start a swing along the path. Swing your bowling arm at your back with the ball firmly gripped.
Then, swing the arm to the front as you move forward and make sure the ball’s motion remains parallel to your path.
Keep the bowling hand straight and wrist firm before releasing. When swinging forward, start rotating the wrist slowly inward to stimulate a spin upon release. Release the ball once it is swung near the ankle of your final stride.
The torso and hips must remain parallel to the foul line as you walk and swing the ball. In other words, do not dash forward in a sideward orientation as if you are releasing the wildest punch of your life.
Remember the dots where your toes need to be aligned, and keep an eye on which arrow on the bowling lane to aim for a strike.
Always aim for a strike on your first try. From the initial position until releasing the ball, maintain your eye level.
As mentioned, your last stride should be at least 6 inches away from the foul line. The final two steps are the most important to complete the chain of motion. If your bowling arm is on the right, the last step you take before releasing the ball is the left foot.
Once you release the ball with wrists rotating inward to generate a spin, follow through the motion.
This is for motion continuity and releasing of the remaining built-up energy. This also promotes smoothness in your bowling stroke and lessens wrist injury.
Maintaining of Balance
Obviously, you will be in a state of imbalance due to having a weighted ball on one side of your body. This is where the swinging of the non-bowling arm helps, as it serves as a counterweight.
Also, as you take your last stride towards the foul line, the back leg must slide almost sideward in the opposite direction to counter your release motion.
Here, you are almost in a lunge position, but the back leg is contorted a bit to the other side. This way, you can remain balanced as you follow–through. Also, keep your shoulders relaxed but not too low to not compromise the pivot of your swing.
Yes, there will always be a tempo in every movement. This is due to the routine you are practicing.
If something is off, it means that your current movements are not in the same tempo as that time where you got a perfect form and a strike. To address this, you can make micro-adjustments accordingly.
With enough practice and concentration, you can bowl like a pro in no time. As long as you learn how to avoid gutter balls, you can score in the game.
However, if your ball went to the gutter on the first try, recalibrate your aim and fine-tune your form so that you can at least score on the second try.