For most bowlers, practicing means simply going to the nearest bowling alley with their bowling ball and shoes, shooting 3 games and trying to get the highest score possible. While this is great practice for throwing strikes, it’s not very good or efficient practice for improving your spare shooting. 

The reason it’s good practice for throwing strikes is that at least half of your throws will be aimed at throwing a strike, i.e. 10 pins up and you’re trying to knock them all down. You might argue, but yeah, the other half of your throws are trying to knock down the rest of the pins, trying to pick up a spare. The difference is, there is only one type of strike – the one where you knock down 10 pins on the first shot. There are 1022 types of spares, not including the spare you can get by knocking all 10 pins down on the second throw in a frame. This means with every attempt at a strike (and possibly a spare if you gutter the first throw), you are trying to hit the same pocket between the 1 and the 3 pin for righties and the 1 and the 2 pin for lefties.

How to Practice When You Go Bowling

You might ask, “So how do you practice then?” Short of running back and forth to manually set up different pin configurations, the answer is stop trying to get strikes. This is going to be hard for many of you to stomach. This means when you go to the bowling alley with your ball and shoes and it’s not league night, a tournament or any other type of match, stop trying to throw strikes. Instead, practice hitting the 3 pin without hitting the 1 pin, or the 7 pin without hitting the 3 pin, or the 4 pin without hitting the 2 pin, and so on. 

You also should practice trying to hit just the 7 pin (more difficult for right handed bowlers) and just hitting the 10 pin (more difficult for left handed bowlers. If you have a spare ball, this will really help you master the different throws and angles and engrain the behavior into your muscle memory. Practicing these shots with your strike ball is still very valuable because it will help you learn to manipulate the ball in many different ways, which ultimately will help you to more easily adjust to different lane conditions. You can check out different balls for spares and strikes at

Bowl with the Lowest Score In Mind

One great way to practice spare shooting is to play lowest score. Just like it sounds, the object is to knock down as few pins as possible throughout the 10 frame game. Now, before you start plotting how you will just throw a gutter ball on every throw to win the game, there’s more to it. If you throw a gutter ball on your first throw, that counts as a strike. If you gutter on your second throw, that counts as a spare. Of course, either of these will add a minimum of 10 pins to your score, which in a game of lowest score is not good at all.

Playing lowest score when bowling is actually a lot of fun and gets just as competitive as regular old high score bowling. And you’ll find you actually get just as amped up when you are able to hit just the 7 and the 10 in a single frame than when you hit a strike in the same setting. 

Bowlers Can Improve a Lot Very Quickly

When you spend your time at the bowling alley doing dedicated practice as discussed in this article, every single throw is spare practice. And when you play a lot of lowest score, you get a ton of practice picking up the lone 7 and lone 10 spares. You’ll find it requires greater concentration to focus on just the pin you are trying to hit while blocking the other pins out. This concentration will benefit you in the more intense league and tournament settings. You’ll also find that picking up the 7 or the 10 is much easier when none of the other pins are there.

Smart and effective practice is a crucial component to mastering or improving in any sport or skill. High score bowling is just not a particularly effective or smart way to practice. It’s simply not useful in creating the muscle memory that will allow you to pick up many different spares habitually. Improve your bowling practice, improve your average. It’s as simple as that!