Don’t Underestimate the Flat Spot!

As I struggle bowling once a week in a PBAx league, I realized a few things. Firstly, I’m not a pro! 🙂
Secondly, it’s quite difficult to be consistent and successful bowling only once a week. Thirdly, if you will bowl only once a week, a PBAx league may be a bigger bite than you can chew.

All that being said, the lesson here is not to suggest not to bowl in a Sport league or the virtues or lack thereof for bowling once a week, but rather the things to remember when it is so easy to forget.

One of those critical elements of success is the so-called “Flat Spot” at the bottom of the swing.

What is a “Flat Spot”?
So imagine pushing your ball away, it goes into your backswing, and then back down. This is an elliptical shape or a semi-circle. The flat spot comes at the end of downswing and is a part of your release. In other words, you don’t release the ball at the bottom of the semi-circle but rather you get low and project the ball allowing your arm to create a moving line away from your body as you release the ball. Once the ball comes off your hand, your arm will naturally move in the direction of its momentum, i.e., up to continue the elliptical shape.

So it is important to remember that the armswing should not be a simple semi-circle, i.e., it doesn’t just go back shoulder height and come forward shoulder height. At some point when you release the ball at the bottom of the swing, there actually has to be a slight forward projection which creates this “flat spot” effect.

It is a bit difficult to see in real-time but it sure is easy to feel. Have a look at the video below. You can watch Chris Barnes at 2:40 from the side. You will see how smoothly he feeds the ball into the lane. That comes from that “flat spot” at the bottom of the swing where his forward body movement coupled with the downswing creates a momentary parallel hand and arm trajectory with the lane as he releases the ball. His hand goes up so quickly when watching it in real-time it’s hard to see, but try to see it anyway. At 3:58 you can see Patrick Allen do it as well, but the shot is from behind so a little difficult to see. Watch the slo-mo right after the shot.

Why is the flat spot important?
It is critical for several reasons.

One is that it allows you to smoothly feed the ball onto the lane. It is after all the direction the ball is moving. By doing this, you can create relatively easy length. In other words, this projection will allow the ball to go longer down the lane before making its move. It is quite remarkable if you’ve never felt it.

Two is that this smooth feed onto the lane and increased length allows the ball to have a more consistent reaction. This motion naturally allows you to release the ball cleanly without a lot of grab or tug. Without the flat spot, the fingers and wrist will naturally have a tendency to pull up on the ball as your arm attempts to complete the semi-circle motion upwards. This creates a little bit of loft, which in and of itself is not the huge issue. But this also creates a “shorter” reaction. In other words, the ball will want to read earlier. At times, this will make you feel like no matter what ball you pick up, it reacts early. That’s because you are creating an early reaction.

Third, you will generally have increased revs. The arm and wrist are more relaxed. And by thinking about this flat spot, you really focus on projecting the ball and not “hitting up on it”. As my favorite coach always says, “Less is more”. I have found this out, sometimes the easy way, sometimes the hard way.

Fourth, you will create a much more consistent midlane read and breakpoint.
In my personal game, this has always been something I consistently have to consciously remember. When I am bowling two or three times a week and I am bowling well, it becomes second nature. But like I said, only bowling one night a week in the Summer, I struggled with “hitting up on the ball”. Interestingly, I noticed that when shooting my left-side spares (I am lefty), I was extremely smooth, getting low and projecting the ball onto the lane. The ball didn’t make a sound as it hit the lane. I thought to myself, “What am I doing wrong on my strike ball?” It was very profound and obvious at that point. I no longer had that flat spot. Once I began instilling this again on my strike ball, I was able to “ball up” and move left because the projection onto the lane was creating much easier length and a consistent breakpoint.

The idea is to create a more consistent reaction. Hitting up on the ball almost always makes the ball read earlier and less consistently, since your speed and revs will vary. You will also have some loft so how far you get the ball before it touches the lane will be a factor.

One of my favorite queues to remember to do this is to simply start with a good deep knee bend and finish with a good knee bend and posting the shot. Getting low is the easiest way for me to create the “flat spot” effectively. When you do this, you will naturally have better balance, allowing you to post your shots more easily.

Another thing to remember is to avoid to much forward torso lean. The ideal lean is 15 to 20 degree forward lean which is natural as you approach the foul line. Of course there will be some variance but the more forward lean, the bigger the risk that you will be unbalanced at the foul line and unable to effectively create the flat spot. It will alter your swing plane making it difficult to have a parallel swing plane.

So there you have it!
You want that Flat spot!

You’ll get:

  1. Smooth feed onto the lane
  2. Increased length and more consistent reaction
  3. Increased rev rate
  4. More consistent midlane and breakpoint reaction

Remember to:

  1. Have a good knee bend at least at the foul line
  2. Post your shot

Good Luck and Good Bowling!