We are not machines! If we were, I think we actually wouldn’t score as well :). If you watched the matchup of Chris Barnes vs EARL (Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher), you will know that Chris destroyed the machine. Part of that actually comes from the exact repeatability of EARL hindering it’s scoring. With it’s accuracy, every 3 or so balls actually depletes the oil forcing the robot to make adjustments more quickly. Chris can miss by inches, make hand, speed, trajectory, and other adjustments on the fly, to stay in the pocket and keep carrying. So even the machine needs our brain to strike. It has testing advantages of course and that’s not the focus of this article so let’s move on…
Well, I know we all have trouble now and then with hitting our targets. When I say targets, you have to consider multiple points or areas, not just one. Let’s start by looking at the picture below. The Red arrow points to the typical targeting area for most bowlers, at the arrows. This is where our eyes look as we begin our approach. The Purple arrow is called the Breakpoint or Breakzone. This is where the ball stops moving away from the headpin and starts to move towards the headpin. Usually, it’s just beyond the length of the pattern, which is of course invisible to the naked eye.
What are you looking at?
I know that it’s pretty easy to default to just focusing solely on the target “at the arrows” because we “area bowl” on a house shot. However, we should then not be surprised by strange carry issues because you can enter the pocket at various angles and entry points. You should really have a good understanding of your breakzone targets, also know as your breakpoint. I will call it breakzone because it is never just a single point you can hit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a bowler hit their target at the arrows and are upset because they did not strike. That’s because they hit 10 instead of 7 at the breakpoint, causing the ball to come in to the pocket with less angle, leaving the corner pin.
For those bowlers looking to take the next step in the game, you need to develop a good understanding of breakpoints and how to “draw the line” between your target and your breakpoint. Check out my previous article on targeting.
One area I have focused on lately is how far I lean forward on the backswing and in my delivery in general. Some bowlers have a very steep backswing. That in and of itself is not a huge issue if it’s part of your game. For me a high backswing has been part of my game. I’ve tried to reduce it quite a bit as it had become an achilles heel of mine for hitting my target consistently.
It tended to throw off my timing, my ball speed, and plain accuracy.
Nowadays, I still have a relatively high backswing, but it predominantly occurs when I lean too far forward with my upper body. If you measure the angle of arm to back, it wasn’t much more than 100 degrees, but because I was leaning forward 45 degrees or more, the backswing can appear perpendicular to the lanes. It really wasn’t ideal for me.
So what’s the point of all this. Well, when I leaned to far forward, I was bringing my arm to high. That in turn delayed my downswing. It also created a rocking motion in my overall approach. That was changing my head position, altering balance at the foul line. With my arm in the swing longer than it should be, my swing plane was affected and I would sometimes pull the ball or spray it wide. Basically, when it happens, things fall apart. Also, if I didn’t rock my upper body back, I would feed the ball into the lane rather than out onto the lane.
So what I wanted to do is remind folks of a few key concepts for targeting. First, you need to have a system that draws a line between your target and breakpoint. You need to understand which line allows the ball to ultimately turn towards the pocket with the best carry angle. Second, keeping your swing plane steady is important. If it is variable from shot to shot, you may hit your target, but randomly hit your breakpoint. On a house shot, this may still get you to the pocket, but don’t be surprised if you don’t carry the corner pin. Third is to be aware if you lean forward with your upper body. In today’s game, it is common to see many players leaning forward to help generate the high backswings. However, you need to do it as consistently as possible. Sometimes I would get too relaxed, and my backswing would get higher with more forward lean. That just leads to timing and targeting problems.
I know it might seem that these things can all get too complicated. However, sometimes remembering a couple of key things helps keep you in sync. For me, one of those things is to not lean too far forward on my backswing. That usually does wonders for my timing and accuracy. If you’ve never noticed this in your own game, hopefully it’s one small tip to help you become that much more accurate.