The most common objective for my students is, “I want to raise my average by 10 to 20 pins.” This makes my task really simple because the great majority of them do not have a sparing system. It only takes two to three more spares per game to achieve that kind of rise in average. Once they are taught a sparing system, their averages invariably go up by a minimum of 15 to 20 pins.
I tell them, however, that if they should keep practicing and master the system, their averages will go up by a lot more than just 15 or 20 pins because each spare adds a MINIMUM of ten pins to your score; but more than likely, each spare will be adding fifteen or more pins to their game. Therefore, by making two more spares a game, a bowler’s average will go up by the ‘low-level’ goal of 15 to 20 pins.
There are many systems available and I’m going to go over four of them in this article. The key, as always, is for you to try them out and then master the one you choose. By “mastering,” I mean that you would work with it, practice it, and then, adjust it to fit your style of bowling. Believe me when I tell you that there are, literally, thousands of variations for each particular sparing system.
The “Choc-List” for spare systems is as follows: (I will be explaining only the “KEY PIN” here. For multiple pin spares, the KEY is the pin closest to you; for splits, the KEY is the pin that is missing or outside of where you must hit the pin to have it slide over to get the other pin.)
1) The 3-6-9 Spare System. This is the one that is seen on the majority of automatic scoring systems installed in bowling centers today. This system is more for a straighter or less hooking ball so you will have to adjust your feet according to how much your ball is hooking. Using your pocket shot as the baseline, you would adjust yourself left or right by three, six, or nine boards while focusing on one of two targets. For a starting reference, I will use the 2nd arrow for right-side spares and the third arrow for left side spares – your target stays the same but you move your body. For the 3 pin, move yourself left three boards and shoot the 2nd arrow; for the 6 pin, move yourself 6 boards left, and for the 10 pin, move yourself 9 boards left. For left-side spares, the 2 pin has you move three boards to your right; for the 4 pin, move 6 boards right; and for the 7 pin, move 9 boards to your right all targeting the third arrow. The 1 pin and 5 pin are your regular strike line; the 8 pin is behind the 2 pin; and the 9 pin is behind the 3 pin.
2) The 2-4-6 sparing system. This is little more difficult because it entails moving your target rather than you body. The base references are the 1 pin for left side spares and the 10 pin for right side spares. For the 2 and 8 pins, move your target 2 boards left of your strike line; for the 4 pin, move your target 4 boards left; and for the 7 pin, move your target 6 board left. For the right-side spares, establish a straight line to the ten pin keying off the 10 pin. Most people using this system stand far left on the approach and use either the 3rd or 4th arrow as their base. Let’s use the 4th arrow as an example. For the 3 and 9 pins, move your target 4 boards left; for the 6 pins, move your target 2 boards left; and for the 10 pin, use the established base reference board.
3) The Plastic Ball Sparing System. Your plastic ball will hook far less than any other ball you have. You could use a “house ball,” but, it is recommended to get one drilled specially for you in order that you have the same “feel” as the other bowling balls in your arsenal. Basically, you would mark out reference targets based on the arrows/boards on the lanes and experiment with each one so that you devise your own targets to make your spares. I suggest using the 3-6-9 or the 2-4-6 methodologies as starting references. You may end up adapting some minor modification of one or the other, or a combination of both, to establish your spare system.
4) My own modified spare system. As I mentioned earlier in this article, you may end up developing your own spare system; naturally, I worked with several different systems (I began with the 3-6-9 spare system) and now use my modified one exclusively. It is based on me using my plastic ball, drilled the same as my other balls, and using the same release as my first ball. My two targets are the 17 board for the right side spares and the 10 board for the left side spares. Using my left foot to set myself in line, I stand 11 and aim 10 for the 7 pin; stand 14 for the 4 pin; stand 17 for the 2 pin; and 20 for the headpin. For the right side, I stand 35 and aim 17 for the 10 pin; stand 32 for the 6 pin; and stand 29 for the 3 pin. For other spare combinations, I have devised my own targets based on how I know my ball will go down the lane. For example, for the 2-4-5, I stand 22 and aim 10; for the washout 1-2-4-10, I stand 32 and aim 21.
(Note: When I say, “stand 11 board,” I place the inside of my left foot covering the 11 board – the center of your body is the insides of your feet.)
Use these as references and practice to refine them to your style. If you want, do some research for other systems, especially one called the “TRIAX Spare System” which was developed by the late, great, Rolf Gauger.