Maxing Out Your Score

  By Brian Voss

There's a sch'ool of thought in the sport of bowling that says scores have spiraled out of control. PBA exempt bowler Jeff Carter recorded a 261 average for a full league season. My buddy Norm Duke nearly averaged 230 for a complete PBA Tour season. A 17-year-old rolled three 900 series in a matter of weeks. Pete Weber's Tour-leading 215.43 average in 1989 would have ranked him 44th on this year's Tour. What does it all mean? Has the sport become too easy? Aren't scores just relative?

I have spent much time and space in these columns and in other places describing why I think the scoring pace at all levels of bowling has increased, but I think a much more useful discussion for bowlers out there is how to do the things that the pros do to maximize their scores. Obviously, scores are relative and the best bowlers usually figure out how to get the highest scores or, better yet, whatever score is needed in order to win. And it is usually not mentioned much, but technology usually favors the better players much more than it does the average player. So how do average players harness all of that technology out there into better scores?

The first way has very little to do with technology except with respect to how to neutralize it and that is to learn how to throw the ball dead straight to make your spares. One of the reasons the pros are so good at getting the most out of their score is that they rarely miss spares. Not only do pros not miss spares very often, but they tend to convert difficult combinations such as splits, washouts and other multi-pin leaves that most bowlers usually write off as an open frame. The main reason this is important is not just because it saves you extra pins but, from a mental standpoint, it allows you to keep your momentum going and focus on getting back to the task of stringing strikes, which is the best way to throw big scores.

Now, speaking of stringing strikes, how do the pros do this so easily? Obviously the ability to find mistake area on the lane and then execute consistently shot after shot helps, but here's a little trick I use to stay on top of the ever-changing lane condition. When I'm lined up and stringing strikes, I actually move a fraction of a board left between every shot. My reason for this is to anticipate the breakdown of oil and stay ahead of it so that when it does change more significantly I will be in a better position to both strike on that particular shot and then, once I recognize a major shift, to move where I need to in order to get right back on the striking train. Getting in the habit of moving left in tiny increments will not only get you ahead of the micro changes, it will also get you into the mindset of making constant adjustments as the lanes break down, which they inevitably will. The other benefit to this approach is that it will keep your mind on making shots, rather than wandering to the scoreboard and seeing all of these pretty X's lined up next to your name and what a shame it would be to ruin it by chunking up an ugly 6 - split up at the end of it. Stay focused on the battle that is going on between yourself and the lanes and you'll find yourself stringing a lot more strikes and improving your scores.

Next time, I'll talk about even more ways for you to improve your scores, so until then, make sure to throw straight at your spares and keep your mind out of the gutter - or should I say, off the scoreboard and on the lanes!

Brian Voss


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