A bowling lane is composed of wooden boards with markings to indicate different areas. However, it is also surrounded by two trough-shaped structures on either side. These structures, known as gutters, serve to catch balls that fail to go straight and hit the pins.
So, what is a gutter ball?
If you roll a throw and it ends up in one of the gutters on the side, it is termed a gutter ball, and there are no points recorded for such a delivery. Therefore, to keep the ball rolling down the lane, you must practice perfect form and choose the right ball.
To avoid throwing a gutter ball, a bowler must practice his stance and keep his eyes focused on the target. Moreover, picking the correct weight is important to find it easy to carry and swing the ball.
In this article, we will explore why some deliveries always end up in the gutter and a few proven tips to keep your ball out of the channel.
Why Do Some Deliveries End Up in the Gutter?
A bowling lane is 42-inch wide with two 9.25-inch gutters running on both sides to catch errant deliveries. But why do errant deliveries happen in the first place?
You need to remember that even if a ball just hits the gutter and then jumps back out onto the lane and hits some pins, it will still be considered a gutter ball, and no points should be scored. However, in automatic scoring, it is only observed how many pins fell without taking into consideration how they fell. So, this type of gutter ball more often favors the player.
If your balls often end up in the gutter, there can be a few explanations for such performance. Let’s look at some of these reasons.
Not choosing the right ball
Depending on your style and skill level, choosing the right ball for bowling is crucial to your success. Since beginners are unaware of the specifications of different bowling balls, they pick the wrong one. As a general rule, light balls tend to lose speed quickly, so they are meant for slow deliveries.
On the other hand, heavy balls offer good hook potential, and they don’t lose speed early. At the same time, such a ball is also challenging to control because of its weight. For a beginner, this might not be ideal, and they may see it in the gutter before even realizing what happened.
Read on choosing the right ball here: How to Choose a Bowling Ball.
Not focusing on the target arrows
Usually, when a player is new to bowling, he focuses his vision on the pins. However, that’s not the correct way to start your game. Since the pins are located far away, it’s difficult to tell if your aim is accurate.
A better and more proven way to bowl is to focus on the target arrows that are located close to you. Then, when you know which arrow you’re targeting and where you want the ball to turn down the lane, it may or may not hit a strike, but it won’t end up in the gutter either.
Read more on aiming here: How to Aim in Bowling.
Not holding the ball correctly
Many people new to bowling are not aware of how to hold a bowling ball correctly. As a result, they experience an erroneous throw and hence a gutter ball. To hold the traditional three-hole bowling ball, you need to insert your middle and ring fingers in the top holes and your thumb in the third hole.
This is called the basic grip. However, there is another type of grip known as conventional grip, which is recommended if you’re a beginner. In this grip, you are supposed to insert both fingers all the way down in the hole, but keep your thumb inserted only up to the first knuckle.
A conventional grip will help avoid gutter balls to a great extent because it gives you more control. However, pro bowlers don’t use this grip because it doesn’t allow hooking the ball.
The third type of grip, known as fingertip grip, is more common among pro bowlers. If you want to practice it, insert your thumb all the way inside the hole and insert the fingers only up to the first knuckle. This grip is the best for hooking the ball but requires more strength.
Your aim will be compromised if you don’t hold the ball correctly. It is also important not to hold the ball too lightly. If you hold it too lightly, there is a chance that it will slide off your fingers and miss the aim.
Read more on holding the ball here: How to Hold a Bowling Ball!
How to Avoid Throwing Gutter Balls?
As a bowler, you should pay attention to your stance and position before throwing a ball in order to avoid gutter balls. For example, you should be relaxed and upright before releasing the ball onto the lane, and your shoulders are supposed to be parallel to the ground.
Slightly bend your knees and keep looking at your target until the ball is released from your hand. Imagine your forearm as an arrow that points towards your target. Also, make sure you are standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
For beginners, the best way to avoid throwing a gutter ball is to aim for the middle. However, their delivery will definitely hit the gutter since they are not experienced in making a ball hook.
It is also recommended to choose a lighter ball because it’s easier to control. Expert bowlers suggest selecting a ball that is 10% of your body weight. Moreover, modern, high-tech bowling balls made of reactive resin coverstocks are designed to hook and curve easily. They are not meant for beginners. So, choosing a plastic ball will allow you to control it easily and avoid gutter balls.
Another way to avoid a gutter ball is to use a ball ramp to roll the ball onto the lane instead of throwing it. Finally, children and senior citizens may also try bumper bowling to avoid gutter balls and keep their morale high while playing this sport.