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Mastering Spare Shooting pt. 1: The 3-6-9 System

The 3-6-9 Spare Shooting System

Spare shooting is crucial in bowling. Spares can greatly affect your scores, even if you don't get any strikes. Many bowlers, even the advanced ones, sometimes forget that just by picking up your spares, they could still maintain a decent average of 180.

Bowling can be complicated with different conditions, oil patterns, balls, and lane designs. However, spare shooting should be straightforward, regardless of these factors.

So, what makes someone great at spare shooting? Well, it's mainly practice, spending hours each day perfecting the spare shooting skill. But having a spare system in mind is also crucial.

In the article series "Mastering Spare Shooting" we will dive int the spare shooting systems that are easy to learn and can be adapted to all skill levels of bowlers - from the beginners to more advanced players.

In the first part of this series we will talk about the "3-6-9 system", exploring how it works and how to implement it to your game. From understanding the foundational principles to mastering advanced adjustments, we'll equip you with the knowledge and techniques necessary to elevate your spare shooting game to new heights.

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Understanding the 3-6-9 Spare System

The 3-6-9 system is a straightforward yet highly effective method for converting spares. It is highly effective when you use your strike ball to pick up spares.

The simplicity of the 3-6-9 system lies in adjusting your starting position on the approach while maintaining a consistent target. As the system's name indicates, all you have to do is to

adjust your standing possition by moving your feet three boards to the left or right for each pin left of or right of the headpin, respectively.

Implementing the 3-6-9 Spare System

To apply the 3-6-9 system effectively, follow these steps:

  1. First, find a line where you would hit the first pin dead center with your strike ball. HItting the first pin from the right or left can create margin of error enought to miss your spare in the next steps.

  2. Move your feet on the approach either three, six, or nine boards to the opposite side of the lane from the pin you are trying to convert. For example, if the standing pin is the 2-pin, move three boards to the right (right handers); for the 4-pin, move six boards to the right; for the 7-pin, move nine boards to the right.

  3. Aim at the same target on the lane as you would aim for a strike shot (see step No. 1), regardless of the spare configuration.

Use the following table as your targeting guide. While the table is designed for right-handed bowlers, for left-handed bowlers, the directions are reversed, with right becoming left and left becoming right.

3-6-9 Spare System Chart

Pins 1 or 5

Throw your regular strike shot

Pins 2 or 8

Move your feet 3 boards to the right

Pin 4

Move your feet 6 boards to the right

Pin 7

Move your feet 9 boards to the right

Pins 3 or 9

Move your feet 3 boards to the left

Pin 6

Move your feet 6 boards to the left

Pin 10

Move your feet 9 boards to the left

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Pros & Cons of the 3-6-9 Spare System

To fully implement the 3-6-9 spare shooting system into your bowling game, you must know the main advantages and disadvantages of this method.


  • Simplicity: With only a few adjustments to your starting position, you can adapt to various spare configurations quickly and effectively.

  • Consistency: By maintaining a consistent target and adjusting your starting position based on the key pin, you can achieve a high level of consistency in spare shooting.

  • Versatility: The 3-6-9 system can be applied to a wide range of bowling players. There's no need to change your bowling ball release, speed or revs.

  • One ball: Very important for beginners, as most of them tend to have only one bowling ball (most commonly low midrange bowling ball).


  • Inconsistency on different lanes: Variations in lane conditions can affect ball reaction and the system's efficacy, leading to inconsistent performance.

  • Limited flexibility: Fixed adjustments of three, six, or nine boards may not suit all spare configurations such as multiple pin leaves (e.g. buckets).

  • Consistent pocket: The system functions based on the premise that you consistently hit the pocket with your shots. However, if you fail to do so due to inconsistencies or alterations in lane conditions, the system may prove ineffective and result in failure.

Extra Tips to Master the 3-6-9 Spare System

To maximize your success with the 3-6-9 spare shooting system, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Practice Regularly: Familiarize yourself with the adjustments required for different spare configurations through consistent practice.

  2. Pre-shot routine: The same movements or rituals performed during each throw help to focus on the shot and increase the chances of achieving a better result.

  3. Focus on Alignment: Pay close attention to your alignment on the approach, ensuring that your starting position and targeting remain consistent.

  4. Moitor the lanes: lane conditions constantly change. Identify those changes to make corrections on time.

The 3-6-9 system is a valuable tool for bowlers seeking to improve their spare shooting skills and elevate their overall performance on the lanes. By mastering the principles of the 3-6-9 system and implementing them consistently, you can increase your spare conversion rates and achieve greater success in your bowling endeavors. Embrace the simplicity and effectiveness of the 3-6-9 system, and watch your spare shooting proficiency soar to new heights.

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