Lesson in Bowling Spares by Legend Mark Roth: A Tip You Can’t Ignore


Mark Roth will forever be remembered for his cranking style that produced a hooking ball like nobody had seen on tour. From what I’ve heard all those that grew up watching Roth on television tried to emulate his style. We see that times still haven’t changed much as all bowlers, youth and adult alike all want to learn to make the ball hook. Once they learn to hook the ball, the next thing they want to learn is how to hook the ball more and more. Though my cries will assuredly fall on deaf ears, I contend that learning to throw the ball straight can often exceed the benefits of learning to hook the ball.  Hopefully you’ll be one of the few that heeds my advice.


Roth was the pioneer of having a different release for his spares than his strikes. The players on tour typically had one release they used for both their spares and their strikes. Roth realized early on that his cranking style made converting easy spares more difficult, so he’d throw the ball hard and straight to convert his spares. I bet if more people tried emulating his spare game rather than his strike game their averages would have improved more dramatically.

Keep in mind that Roth bowled in an era where the friction wasn’t nearly at the level of today’s game, and he realized the value of shooting straight at a spare. With the advent of hook in a box bowling balls that generate high friction it’s just inconceivable how many people rely on the dated 3-6-9 spare system or something similar.  For those that are unaware the 3-6-9 spare system has you adjust for spares off of your strike line by simply moving your feet 3, 6, and you guessed it 9 boards and keeping the target on the lane the same.


Are You Really Still Hooking the Ball at Spares?

On a typical house shot we’ll see a giant puddle in the middle of the lane.  Do you know exactly where that puddle begins and ends?  If not are you still going to have that surprised look on your face when your ball jumps or hangs because you decided to hook at it. The straight spare shot rule holds true on a sport condition, but for a different reason.  On a less favorable sport condition it becomes difficult to predict the breakpoint of the bowling ball, so it will in turn be difficult to have any idea where your ball will end up sixty feet down the lane.  Unfortunatley I still see tons of sport bowlers hooking at their spares (and some flustered faces when they don’t understand how they could have missed).

*Warning:  Extremely Long Rant Below*

One stand out moment that I recall was while watching the 2008 Denny’s All American High School Challenge where the final match was a doubles format that featured a male duo of Reyes/Moyer taking on the female duo of Kulick/Cortiz.  Now I’m going to apologize in advance for picking on a high school player, but there is just no good reason for what happened.  Moyer’s first shot would leave the 7 pin and low and behold he hooks at it.  The ball dove left and went right into the channel before having any chance at taking out the 7 pin.  He would then leave a 3 pin on his next shot and break out the straight shot and pick it up (okay he learned his lesson lets move on I said).  But no, on his third shot he leaves the 4 pin and then grabs his strike ball.  I immediately started standing up and shouting, it was a sight to see.  So he hooks at it and he barely nudges the pin over.  At least at this point announcer Randy Pedersen jumped on to my side by saying “You don’t look directly at the sun, and you don’t hook it at single pin spares.” He read my mind.  Later in the match Moyer would also miss a 9 pin.  I’m not sure if he was intending on hooking at it, but it ended up in the ditch on the right side.  I have to say it was refreshing to see Cortiz going hard and straight at all of her spares, and coincidentally enough the Cortiz/Kulick combo won easily.

*End Rant*

I cannot write an article on Mark Roth without talking about the recent tragedy he suffered. For those who may not be aware terrible news struck the bowling community just a short time ago. The bowling legend Mark Roth suffered a severe stroke causing exorbitant medical costs. The bowling foundation has set up a fund to help the family offset some of these costs. All donations can be sent to the address below:

Mark Roth Support Fund
c/o The Bowling Foundation
621 Six Flags Drive
Arlington, TX 76011

Donations can be made via check, Visa and Mastercard, and by contacting The Bowling Foundation at
bowlingfoundation.org, info@bowlingfoundation.org or (888) 302-8122.

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  1. I think part of the reason bowlers don’t throw straight at those pins is because they feel more comfortable with and rely too much with a hook shot and do not know how to properly throw a straight ball. And for the high school-er, there is no excuse for that. He is old enough, and apparently good enough to make that show, so he should be able to make spares. I bet he’s been told to throw straight. It is always suggested! Also I find that hooking the ball for spares on sport patterns are more difficult, which is why it IS STRESSED to throw a straight ball. SPEND WHOLE GAMES OF PRACTICE SHOOTING NOTHING BUT SPARES IF YOU HAVE TO. Sure the pros are phenomenal, but most of their success is due to making spares during qualifying. So why not emulate the successful ones? Another note … Mark Roth made the 7-10 split on TV throwing the ball straight. Just saying.

    Again, a lesson I learned… I hooked at a 7-pin. I missed left of course. That cost me a sanctioned 800. I was livid! Went out and bought a spare ball and I’m 90%+ and my averaged jumped over 20 pins.

    Listen to Coach 3G and invest in a spare ball! It will do wonders.

  2. Coach 3G says:

    Andrew, Awesome insights and great advice. Thanks for posting!

  3. Cougar says:


    I have a “spare” ball which is plastic so i throw the same shot ie my hook release but straight at the spare as the plastic ball doesn’t hook. I found personally that I couldn’t get used to the different hand postion to throw a straight shot without hooking the ball. Hope this helps

  4. Coach 3G says:

    Hi Cougar. I’d agree that using a plastic spare ball definitely helps the cause, but using the same release can cause issues if you encounter dry lanes or a shorter oil pattern. Just look at the plastic ball challenge they had on the PBA in which bowlers were still hooking their plastic ball a good number of boards using a hook ball release. Sometimes the cut line is a single spare so these things need to be practiced and perfected to perform at the high level.

  5. Luis Diaz says:

    let me start of by saying i am a left handed bowler. i have trouble getting the ball to go to the right. i have tried angling my body that way but nothing works. how to i get the ball to go the the rihgt. my left handed spares are not the problem it is my right handed spares

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