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Understanding Bowling styles

First off, no…I’m not talking about our buddy here with the aviators and that kind of style.  Today, I’m taking about digging into your particular bowling style.  Like every other aspect of your game, your individual and personal style of bowling should be unique, as long as your are generating results and noticing continual improvement…and still having fun, of course.

No matter what flare or lack thereof, each individual’s overall bowling style can generally be categorized into one or more of three specific bowling styles.  Don’t confuse ‘style’ in this context as how entertaining, normal or different you may appear while you are actually preparing to and releasing the bowling ball, rather, let’s focus on how you actually manipulate the bowling ball before you let it rip down the lanes.

We all have a different bowling style that controls the end product of our delivery, whether than be by throwing a straight ball, or the almighty curve/hook ball.  Most ‘serious’ bowlers have incorporated a hook ball into their arsenal and in order to obtain that hook, there is another level of bowling style management that this post will focus on.

With Differing Bowling Styles, Which One are You?

The main bowling styles that I’ve touched on include – Stroker, Tweener and Cranker. Each style represents a type of delivery of the bowling ball between the last point of contact with the ball from your hand and the lane itself.

stroker is a type of player who releases his or her bowling ball in a smooth manner.  Strokers often keep their shoulders square to the foul line and their backswing generally does not go much above parallel to the ground.  This type of release reduces the ball’s rate of revolution, thus decreasing its hook potential and hitting power.  Strokers rely on finesse and accuracy, as opposed to crankers, who use speed and power.  However, today’s modern reactive resin bowling balls now allow strokers to hit the “pocket” at a relatively high angle.  Stroking is considered the most classic of all the bowling forms and is still the most popular style of bowling in the PBA.

Although crankers are often considered to be more impressive to watch, strokers are often considered to have more repeatable and accurate shots.  Strokers rely on smooth ball placement more than kinetic energy to drop the pins.  The all-time leader in titles and bowling earnings in the United States, Walter Ray Williams, Jr., is a stroker (though some consider his style unique and not easily classifiable).  Other famous strokers include Norm Duke, David Ozio, and Dick Weber.

Several high-profile left-handed bowlers, such as Earl Anthony, Mike Aulby, Parker Bohn III and Mike Scroggins, are or were strokers, which has led to a stereotype in the bowling community that most left-handers are strokers who can only play the outside part of the lane.

cranker is a bowler who strives to generate revolutions using a cupped wrist or excessive wrist action. Crankers who rely on wrist action may have a high backswing and open their shoulders to generate ball speed. These bowlers often cup the wrist, but open the wrist at the top of the swing. Crankers may also muscle the ball with a bent elbow because their wrist is not strong enough to be cupped at the release.

Crankers often use “late” timing, where the foot gets to the foul line before the ball; a technique known as plant and pull, hardly using any slide on their final step and pulling the ball upwards for leverage.  The timing between the feet and the ball being delivered is only a fraction of a second.

Even though the plant and pull bowler is sometimes used as another name for a cranker, it is rather misleading because some crankers slide more, while bowlers with other styles can also use this technique. The term “cranking” is used to describe the style of release and heavy wrist action that typifies crankers.

Because of the high rev rate and power crankers have, they can throw powerful strikes even on less-than-perfect hits, but are more prone to splits rarely left by strokers or otherwise.  Because many bowlers have a style that can be described as a cranker or a power stroker, the term power player is used for any bowler who can generate high revolutions or ball speed.

The myth that crankers are not good spare shooters is not always supported.  Roth, for example, was one of the best spare shooters on tour in his day, and was the first person to convert the nearly-impossible 7-10 split on national television (see below). Robert Smith and Jason Couch both post very high spare-conversion percentages.

Finally, a tweener (a term derived from “in-between”) is a bowler that delivers the ball in a manner that falls somewhere in between stroking and cranking.  This modified delivery could use a higher backswing than is normally employed by a pure stroker or a less powerful wrist position than a pure cranker.  Some use the term to refer to a bowler who is simply not a “picture perfect” example of either a stroker or a cranker.

Notable tweeners include Brian Voss (primarily a stroker, but not “picture perfect”) and Doug Kent (considered by some to be a power stroker).

What Say You?

What bowling style have you adopted and are you gaining progress in your particular style?  Have you ever considered trying a different style just to see “what fits”?