When school’s out in Saint Louis, bowling centers fill with the sounds of families sending pins clattering to the ground. An afternoon in the cool environs of the local bowling alley makes for a nice escape from the high heat and humidity of summer days that feel like you could drink the air through a straw. While most amateur bowlers enjoy the game, most don’t know how to bowl well, beyond keeping their arm straight and refraining from licking the ball for good luck. In reality, the secret to a better game is right in front of them, every time they step up to the lane. Lane Markings: The Map to a StrikeThe dots and arrows on a bowling lane aren’t just there for decoration; they’re there to help bowlers aim consistently, given that they know how to decipher these mysterious markings. First, take the area behind the foul line, also known as the approach. That series of dots printed on the approach divides the lane’s inch-wide boards into intervals of five, with the center dot lining up exactly with the center of the lane. Use these dots, watch how your ball rolls, and with some trial and error, you’ll discover an ideal starting position for every shot, which should lead to a consistent delivery. If you’re facing a spare, use the dots can to help make any adjustments—move just six boards and you could hit the center pin, rather than the four pin to the left of it, nearly 2 feet away. Next, printed 15 feet from the foul line are arrows, printed in a V formation that lines up perfectly with the first row of pins. Ideally, if your ball rolls straight as an arrow, aim for that center arrow, and you’ll hit the center pin. More advanced bowlers, who can put some spin on the ball, know a strike’s more likely if they hit what’s known as the “pocket,” just to the right or left of the center pin. And since it’s unlikely your ball will go perfectly straight, know that the most common target arrow for right-handed bowlers is the second arrow from the right. Start there, and you’ll discover the angle that works best for you. So next time it’s one of those sweltering summer days, remember that bowling in St. Louis is a great alternative to an afternoon at the community pool. Just don’t wear your flippers—those lanes are slippery.
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