Are You Making Hand Adjustments?

For years, I thought I could make hand adjustments, but when push came to shove, I really only knew how to roll the ball one way with any consistency. I didn’t practice this enough because I didn’t bowl on varied conditions enough. I really feel it makes a world of difference from the intermediate bowler and the one who is able to compete at the Next Level.

I was (and probably still am to some extent because of the conditions I bowl on :)) guilty of developing my arsenal without really considering hand positions. In other words, I would have a decent arsenal of balls that compliment each other and cover the heavy to dry conditions. However, there are times when nothing seems to work. Sometimes I can’t get the ball to the right breakzone consistently on that night. Sometimes, no matter which ball I use, the backends are simply breaking too much. Frustration sets in and bad scores can come in a hurry.

Understanding even the basics of hand adjustments could change a 3 ball arsenal to a 9 ball arsenal, just like that!
And that’s just the start.

Let’s talk about the basic hand adjustments. In this installment, I will cover what I consider to be basic strategy to be employed at your disposal.
It is centered around what angle your fingers exit the ball and where in your bowling hand to you place the weight of the ball.
It is formally called Axis Rotation.

Everybody has a natural axis rotation. One where if you don’t think about it, the ball releases off of your hand more or less the same way.

Most bowlers naturally have a medium to high axis rotation.
What does that mean?

Typical house bowlers will have somewhere between a 45 and 90 degree release. In other words, on a clock, the fingers exit the ball between the 4:30 and 3:00 position. Generally speaking, a typical house shot favors the medium or high axis tilt. Are you not sure why?

Okay, let’s dig in a little deeper. Let’s understand what this is really about.

Let’s break this down into 3 types of reactions in relation to Slide-Hook-Roll:

  1. Early Roll – The ball goes through the slide and hook phase quicker allowing for a smoother roll
  2. Medium Roll – The ball goes through a medium length slide before hooking and then rolling. This will create a little more aggressive reaction on the backend.
  3. Late Roll – The ball slides for a long time delaying the hook phase, before hooking even more aggressively on the backend.

Further explained…

  1. Early Roll = Early Ball Reaction = Fingers release closer to 5 or 6 o’clock = 0 – 30 degrees
  2. Medium Roll = Medium Ball Reaction = Fingers release between 4 and 5 o’clock = 30 – 60 degrees
  3. Late Roll = Late Ball Reaction = Fingers release between 3 and 4 o’clock = 60 – 90 degrees

Alright, another…

  1. Early ball reaction = Place weight of the ball on the base of you middle finger
  2. Medium Ball Reaction = Place weight of the ball on the base of your ring finger
  3. Late Ball Reaction = Place weight of the ball on the base of your pinky finger

OK, one more…

  1. Early Roll = Low degree of Axis Rotation = Norm Duke, Chris Barnes
  2. Medium Roll = Medium degree of Axis Rotation = Average House bowler
  3. Late Roll = High degree of Axis Rotation = Pete Webber, Ryan Shafer

OK, last one…

  1. Low degree of Axis Rotation = preferable on heavier condition when a earlier and smoother ball reaction is desired
  2. Medium degree of Axis Rotation = Preferable on medium condition or a THS when a medium ball reaction is desired
  3. High degree of Axis rotation = Preferable on lighter conditions when a delayed breakpoint is desired

I mentioned everyone has a natural degree of axis rotation. So how do we affect this? Well…Practice!
Just because you have a high degree of axis rotation naturally, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to have a lower axis rotation when necessary. And you should because on a heavier pattern, the higher degree axis will tend to push the breakpoint further down, which will make it harder to control the backends. Same goes for lower axis players. If you play on a light condition, every ball will tend to get into a roll quicker, making it hard to hold pocket. You need to learn to be versatile.

So practice the following:

If you want an earlier ball reaction,
Place the weight of the ball on the base of your middle finger. Try to release the ball with the fingers exiting between 5 and 6 o’clock. The ball will have a more end-over-end roll. This will allow the ball to transition pretty smoothly on a heavier condition.

If you want a medium ball reaction,
Place the weight of the ball on the base of your ring finger. Try to release the ball with the fingers exiting between 4 and 5 o’clock. This will make the ball slide longer than the Early roll and shorter than the Late roll. It would be ideal on a typical house shot when it is medium volume and length.

If you want a later ball reaction,
Place the weight of the ball on the base of your pinky finger. Try to release the ball between 3 and 4 o’clock. This will have the ball sliding much farther down the lane before making it’s move on the backend. On a lighter condition, this would help as you want the ball to get further down the lane before breaking.

You want to practice and master these techniques.
If you look at the players I’ve named above, especially Chris Barnes and Norm Duke, they are extremely successful, not because they have a low degree of axis tilt, but because while they may naturally prefer that, they can adjust their rotation very effectively when needed.

Just as a side note, I want to say something about the extremes. In other words, you don’t really want 0 degree axis (fingers exiting at 6 o’clock). This will most likely produce almost no hook because you take any almost all side rotation. You also don’t want to roll a 90 degree axis as this will produce a “top”-like effect which will cause completely random breakpoints. There is also axis tilt which affects roll but we will not really address that here. However, sometimes for someone with very high axis rotation, imagining releasing the ball at 6 o’clock is a good “over-correction” to get them to learn the technique of lowering the axis rotation.

Just by learning these 3 basic hand adjustments, you have learned how to adjust your axis rotation and have multiplied your arsenal by a factor of 3!