More than 50 million Americans participated in the sport of bowling at least once last year. About 4 million participate in a weekly league each year. While these figures are not as high as they were in the bowling peak of the 1960's and 70's it is easy to see that bowling is still a wildly popular sport.
For many people their first exposure to bowling is a recreational outing of some sort, a birthday party, a school function, a family outing, a date, etc. For many it ends there, they have decided they either had a bad experience, or just have no desire to explore the sport further. Others, maybe got lucky, threw a few strikes and are now hooked, they would like to learn to play the game better, and maybe even bowl in a league, or competitively.
Getting from the raw beginner stage to an intermediate level, does involve some education, just getting on the approach and throwing the ball as hard as you can in the general direction of the pins is not going to allow consistent high scores.
Lets begin with an overview of where the game is played. A bowling center usually consists of an even number of lanes anything from 2 and up; some centers have 80 plus lanes. A bowling lane is 60 feet long, 41 to 42 inches wide, with a 9 and 1/4 inch gutter on each side for errant balls, there is a foul line at the start of the bowling surface that you must stay behind, and an approach area of about 15 feet. At one time all lanes were constructed of 39 maple boards placed on edge and laminated together, however over time wood wears down and needs an expensive refinishing job. Many lanes are now constructed with an approved plastic surface that does not wear as easily; these surfaces are stamped the still look like the original wood boards. When you hear someone refer to the 5 board or really any other board number, start counting at 1 from the right.
Originally, there were no markings allowed on the lane surface, accomplished bowlers would identify a wood grain feature in the area they wanted their ball to cross and use that as a target. Now there are consistent targets in the form of locater dots, arrows, and others embedded or stamped into the surface of the lane, these targets are a great help in controls how your ball gets to your target. The locater dots are allowed at specific distances from the foul line both on the lane and on the approach, the seven arrows are placed from 12 to 16 feet from the foul line starting with the 5 board, then the 10 board and so on and are usually arranged in a pattern with the center arrow farther away, however they could also be in a line across the lane. The other 4 equally placed targets, if used are at about 33 feet down the lane, and are a visual clue as to where your ball should start hooking into the pins.
The approach and basic delivery will be described for a right handed bowler, if you are left handed, you will just reverse most of the instructions.
Let's begin with the stance and approach, you stand on the approach facing the foul line in a relaxed stance, the bowling ball is held in your right hand, with your hand roughly under and supporting the ball, your arm is positioned to the right side so as to allow your arm to swing back and forward, your feet should be together with your left foot a little ahead of your right. To determine the correct starting point on the approach takes a little experimentation. The correct approach begins with a step forward with your right foot, usually consists of 3,5,or 7 steps ending with a controlled slide to the foul line on your left foot. Now stand on the approach with your heels at the foul line and your back to the pins, walk away from the foul line the number of steps you think you will take in your approach, this will be the approximate distance from the foul line you will start at. Most bowlers will throw a ball that has some amount of natural hook or curve into the pins, this can and should be used to your advantage, your aiming point on the lane should be to the right of a line to the 1-3 pocket of the pins. Throw a few balls to get an idea of where on the lane your ball needs to cross to allow the ball to finish at the 1-3 pocket. Now check the position of your feet in relation to the locater dots on the approach. This should be roughly where you will stand to start your approach and delivery.
The swing is next in the sequence of events, make a normal natural swing back with your hand still under the ball to about waist high, this position should be reached at about the last step before you start your slide step, you immediately begin swinging your arm forward, as you slide to the line the ball is lofted slightly over the foul line and directed at your target, the normal hand position at release would feel as if you are raising your hand to shake hands. Some bowlers try to aim at the pins, however the arrow targets are only 12-16 feet from the foul line while the pins are 60 feet away, accurately hitting the arrows is easier. The normal natural target for a right handed bowler, bowling on a typical league lane condition will be somewhere near the second arrow, or 10 board, from the right. If your ball crosses over to the left, in front of the headpin, then you will want to move your feet father left on the approach, and still use the same target on the lane. If your ball stays out to the right and hits about the 3 pin, you will want to move your feet to the right on the approach, still using the same target on the lane.
I realize that this sounds complicated, however with a little practice, you will find that it gives you a solid foundation to work from, and you will soon begin scoring higher and more consistently.