The Basic Of Grip And Roll

by John Williams
(BTBA National Coach)

THERE are many new - or fairly new bowlers Attending centres and either joining leagues or bowling with friends on a regular basis. Many have become World of Tenpin readers, so it would seem appropriate to write about some basics.


Although some of the more experienced bowlers have types of bowling ball grip which are personal to them and their game, there are three basic grips upon which any variation is based. My advice is to start with the grip known as the 'conventional' one when you get interested enough in bowling to purchase your own equipment - this is really the time when bowling starts to be the most enjoyable.

The conventional grip lets bowlers insert their fingers into the finger holes down to the second joint from the top. This grip is usually the best for beginners because it gives a greater feeling of security and confidence when holding the ball. Also, this grip allows better control while learning the fundamentals of the sport.
House balls, which are invariably drilled with the conventional grip, are the first introduction to rolling a ball that most people encounter. Whilst this grip is ideal for beginners, there are experienced bowlers who like to use this grip as well.

The 'fingertip' grip is the most used among league and better bowlers. Because the fingers are only inserted into the ball as far as the first joint, it increases the distance between the thumb and fingers, thus giving a brief extra time difference between the thumb and fingers being released, which allows the fingers to give more 'lift', so imparting more revolutions to the ball.

Changing from the conventional to the fingertip grip should be seriously considered as one's standard of ability improves. If, however, a bowler is inaccurate, then changing to the wider span would probably make the inaccuracy more so.

Now let's look at the semi fingertip grip. Unlike the conventional grip, where the fingers are inserted into the ball down to the second joint, or the fingertip grip where the fingers go in as far as the first joint, with this grip the fingers are inserted to a point more or less midway between the first and second joints. Having this little extra 'finger in the ball' could give more confidence in holding the ball than the other grips, especially in the backswing.

However, one's fingers do not really bend between the knuckles so it can be a difficult grip to maintain a constant grip and feel. Also, as the ball comes off the fingers during the release, there is a danger of the finger holes at the surface of the ball catching in the crease formed by the first knuckles, causing inconsistency during the release. However, thin fingers are less likely to have much of a crease, so for those bowlers the problem may not exist.


Now let's consider the three basic types of roll on a bowling ball - full roller, semi-roller and spinner.
We'll deal with the full-roller first. This type of delivery creates a ball track that includes most, or all, of the circumference of the bowling ball, so the track could be the full 27 inches of the ball's circumference. This type of track is usually the result of some clockwise turn of the hand at release for righthanders, but not enough to produce a 'back-up' or 'reverse hook' track. Generally, the hand is at the side of the ball or slightly in front throughout the downswing and then the hand begins to open slightly during the delivery with the thumb and thumb hole position being between 10 and 12 o'clock. With the thumb now released, the fingers will be lifting, imparting a counter-clockwise rotation on the ball as the hand continues to open, turning clockwise.

A limited amount of roll, produced by the counter-clockwise rotation, means a moderate hook from right to left will take effect. This type of ball does not create a big hook or heavy pin reaction, so may not have the potential scoring ability of, say, . semi-roller. It does, however, have some advantage when playing on 'hooking' conditions, which is often the case in a lot of our centres. It will maintain consistent roll track, with a moderate hook, and probably have a better roll for the angle of entry into the 'pocket' .

There are bowlers using full-rollers who have the ability to come very strongly through the ball a release, creating extra counter clockwise turn which will increase the amount of side roll.

Next we come to the semi-roller - probably the most formidable with regard to hitting power and pin action.

In this case the ball track is to the side of the finger and thumb holes. As you will see from the diagrams, it is a much reduced distance of the ball surface than that of the full roller.

As this track is less, spin is caused and the axis is tilted. Because of this spin element, a semi-roller is not far removed from a semi-spinner. If the distance (circumference) of the ball track is around 25 inches, it is classed as a semi-roller, but if the distance is less than that, it could be classed as a semi-spinner.

A semi-roller is produced by the counter- clockwise ball turn, which may be the result of arm and hand turning in that direction (anti-clockwise). Again the thumb and thumbhole position is between 10 and 12 o'clock and the ball is released off the inside of the hand, lift being applied through the fingers and extension helping with the axis tilt.

The spinner has a track a good distance from the thumb and finger holes and uses a very small cir- cumference. It is created by using a twisting turn with the wrist and the thumb turning sharply downwards, which will cause the track to be slightly tilted. Then it becomes a strong spin like a top. The forward momentum created by the approach and pendulum swing causes the ball to move down the lane, although spinning on a very small area of the ball.

The spinning movement of the ball when it hits the pocket lays the pins down horizontally so they, in turn, knock down further pins. Again, it will maintain its line on extreme hooking conditions but on very oily lanes with oil carried down the ball will be strongly deflected.

The problem with this type of delivery is that there's no real angle of entry force into the pocket, and accuracy and consistency of release vary because it is difficult to repeat the strong wrist rotation. If the spin movement is not strong enough on dry conditions, the ball could stop spinning and just roll for- ward.

Get the advice of a BTBA certified instructor to help with any changes you want to make to your game, and enjoy the benefit of the correct methods of coaching.