What is the Pocket in Bowling?

In bowling, as many bowlers know, there is a strike pocket – the target you are aiming for. But what is the pocket, exactly?

If you hit this spot, your bowling ball will likely knock down most or all of the pins. To aim for the pocket, you need to know where it is and use that information to guide your throw.

A pocket hit occurs when the bowling ball strikes the head pin on the right side first, then impacting the 3 pin set close. The angle of entry the bowling ball reaches at the pocket is ideal, when it travels from the bowlers right to the bowlers left at 30 degrees. That’s about the 17.5 board on a 39-board-wide bowling lane. (for right handed bowlers)

Knowing how to aim for and hit the pocket can help improve your game significantly. So what are you waiting for? Start practicing!

A Bowling Strike Pocket Experiment

According to USBC Bowling Academy’s experiment with automatic bowling throwers, a ball delivery impacting on the 17.5 board for a right-hander bowling shot leads to an 85% proportion of strikes, and an about 15% of 9-ball spares.

This area is called – the pocket. The more pocket hits you throw, the more strikes you’ll get.

There are 39 boards on the bowling lane, so that’s a little bit right from the middle of the pin set and the head pin (for right-handers). For left-handers, it’s about the same width, but from the other side.

What is the Pocket for a Left-Handed Bowler?

The strike pocket is located between the 1st and 2nd pins for left-handers and between the 1st and the 3rd pins for right-handers.

Key Adjustments to Throw a Pocket Consistently

There are a few key adjustments you should try to make in your throw when your bowling ball contacts the pins the next time.


Assume a Good Starting Position

Standing in the exact center of the lane may not be the best idea, taking a few step to the left side, or stepping back a little, may help you to make that small adjustment you need for finding the right power and angle of entry to hit that pin spot and the strike pocket.

Increase Bowling Ball Speed

Another thing to look into is your ball speed; a modest increase may assist you overcome an early hooking ball.

A slow ball also may experience more deflection upon impact which can result in leaving pins standing. Try to throw the bowling ball with the right speed to hit the pocket.

Try to Avoid Divided Spares

A divided spare leaves the bowler with a split instead of converting all strikes in a frame. A split works like two spares – you shoot on one side and miss on the other – meaning less higher scores.

It’s very difficult to convert these kinds of spares because there is no easy way to pick up the open side (unless you get lucky).

Try to Avoid High or Light Pocket Hits

When a light pocket hit happens, the 3rd pin propels the 10 pin (for right handed bowlers) and the ball leaves the pin rack on the right side of the 9th pin.

When a high pocket hit happens, the center pin hits the 5th pin with the bowling ball leaving the pin rack hitting the 8th pin.

Both of these hits may leave a pin standing – the ideal result is a solid pocket hit, however.


Achieve a Solid Pocket Hit

This kind of hit is the best that you can perform. To achieve the best pocket hit, the ball should strike just outside the left-hand or right-hand pin from the center pin on the first try.

One way to ensure this outcome is to line up using the arrows on the lanes. Also try to avoid a light or high pocket hits, and provide just enough power to achieve appropriate pin deflection. Good practice helps!

Closing Thoughts About Hitting the Pocket

A well-aimed ball can knock down all of the pins by hitting this spot. If you’re struggling to find your groove when playing, or if you want an edge on your competition, try aiming for the pocket!

Experiment, and be patient. In order to get there, it’s important not only to understand how much force should be applied but also which direction and at what pace one should throw their ball.

Also, hitting a pocket is not a magical button, but it helps to increase your maximum score if done right, and the number of strikes and spares.

We hope we’ve helped you learn more about this skillful game!

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