Bowling Ball Motion Breakdown

Have you ever watched different bowlers and wondered why some bowling balls roll differently down the lane than others?  Some may plunk along the lane, seeming to bounce and rattle as they head towards the pins, while others go smoothly without making hardly a sound until they strike the pins, and then still others look like they’re going straight for the gutter, only to hook back and neatly hit the pocket.  Some of the reason for these different bowling ball motions are results of the types of bowling balls used and how they are drilled.  However, another reason is scientific and how a person throws their bowling ball. As a bowling ball rolls down the lane, it goes through different phases and transitions:

Phase 1: The skid phase
This is the first phase your bowling ball takes as it begins its travel down the lane.  This is the point where you release the ball and it first touches the alley.  The speed and/or strength with which you throw the ball will have an impact on the ball’s overall motion and accuracy. The ball may seem like it automatically begins to roll, but in actuality, it is momentarily in a ‘skid’ phase where it isn’t rolling, but instead skidding down the lane.  This is a very short part of the bowling ball motion.

Phase 2: The hook
Even if you don’t throw a wicked hook, almost everyone throws a least a slight hook (whether intentional or not).  After the bowling ball leaves the skid phase, the bowling ball motion will then go into the hook phase.  While in this phase, the initial speed of the bowling ball will slow somewhat while the hooking portion itself will pick up speed, or revs. During this phase, the ball is working more on building the hook revs than the overall speed of the bowling ball.

Phase 3: Rolling bowling ball motion
The next and final phase in this bowling ball motion is the roll.  The roll happens when the ball has stopped hooking and now is in the roll motion.  This is when the ball also happens to have the most power and usually when it connects with the bowling pins.

Overview of bowling ball motion
The two fastest phases of the bowling ball motion are the skid and the roll phases.  The skid phase is when you release the ball and set it in motion and on its way to take out the pins. As the ball skids through the oil and down the lane, it enters the hook phase.

While it may seem to the naked eye that the bowling ball is picking up speed, it is instead picking up revs while slightly slowing the speed in the hook phase. During this phase, the revs of the hook are determining where the ball will end up; which boards it will travel on so that it will hit its intended target.

After the skid and hook phase have aligned the ball, the bowling ball motion again picks up speed for the roll.  This is also the strongest point of the motion, when the ball has the most power and punch to hit the pins and take them out.

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