How to Hook a Bowling Ball: 6 Steps to Improve Your Game

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Get a Ball Drilled to Your Hand

Liz Johnson
Don't think for a moment Liz Johnson's ball isn't drilled to fit her hand. Photo courtesy PBA LLC

You don’t need a ball specifically drilled to your hand to hook your shot, but it makes it much easier. For maximum ease, get a ball with a reactive-resin cover stock and have it drilled so you can use the fingertip grip.

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Grip the Ball Properly

Fingertip grip.
A proper fingertip grip. Photo © 2009 Jef Goodger

Preferably, you should use the fingertip grip. If you’re using a house ball or other ball that requires a conventional grip, you might want to remove your thumb from the ball. This will make hooking the ball easier.

Keep in mind, plastic cover stocks (which coat almost every house ball in the world) are specifically designed to go straight. Forcing them to hook isn’t impossible, but it won’t be as effective as with a urethane or reactive-resin ball.

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Take Your Normal Approach

Carolyn Dorin-Ballard approaches the lane.
Carolyn Dorin-Ballard takes her normal approach. Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

If this is your first time using a reactive-resin ball, you’ll probably find you’re already throwing a hook. The more you bowl, the more you naturally start to throw a hook. A reactive-resin cover stock will bring that out.

Regardless of the ball you’re using, take your normal approach to the foul line before you start your swing.

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Swing Your Arm As a Pendulum

Norm Duke's backswing.
Norm Duke keeps his arm straight in his backswing. Photo by Craig Hacker/Getty Images

There are so many myths about the release because that's the main aspect of bowling that affects how much a ball hooks. Your arm should swing straight back and then straight forward, just like a pendulum. Crossing your arm in front of your body does not add hook to the ball; it merely directs the ball straight at the gutter and takes away all control. Also, you don’t need to accelerate your arm through your swing. When you raise your arm behind you, let it naturally come down before releasing the ball.

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Focus on Your Fingers During the Release

Chris Barnes' release.
Chris Barnes prepares to release his thumb first, and then his fingers. Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

Another myth of throwing a hook is that it’s all in the wrist. It’s not. You can do serious damage to your wrist if you’re repetitively cranking it back and forth while holding a 16-pound object.

The main aspect of the release is your fingers. Your thumb should exit the ball first, leaving your two bowling fingers to control the hook of the ball (your index and pinkie fingers can also affect the hook).

When releasing the ball, you should naturally flick your fingers as you let go. Not too much, but you should be able to feel some control over the ball as you let it go.

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Follow Through

Kelly Kulick follows through.
Kelly Kulick follows through in position to shake hands. Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

After release, your hand should be in the same position as if you were shaking hands. You don’t need to overdo it, and if you do, it could cause injury. If your hand is in the same position as Kelly Kulick's, left, you're in good shape.

The more you bowl, the more control you’ll get over your hook, and you can adjust these tips accordingly to fit your game. Every bowler is different, but these general principles should give you a good start on hooking a bowling ball.

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