Do You “Drift” on the Approach?

Have you ever been told from a teammate or coach that it’s impossible for you to repeat shots because you are drifting on the approach? For years, drifting was defined as not walking straight on the approach from the dots to the foul line. Knowing where you start on the approach and where you slide at the foul line is crucial in determining if you are indeed are drifting.

Bowling Drift

Drifting vs. Lateral Movement

If you start on the big dot (board 20) on the approach, take your four or five steps and slide at the foul line ending up at board 24, are you drifting? The answer at this point could be yes, or it could be no. There’s a difference between lateral movement and drifting.

Lateral Movement

If you take ten shots and you start on board 20 and slide on board 24 eight out of ten times, this is not drifting in today’s game. This is your lateral movement. Think of it like your footwork DNA.


The other two shots you took starting on board 20 and ended up sliding somewhere other than board 24, is considered drifting. So, you’re at league night, you think the lanes are transitioning because you aren’t getting to the pocket the way you were earlier in the night. Likely you’re thinking about a ball change or a move on the approach and where you are targeting. Is it possible you made an errant shot? Considering none of us are robots, don’t rule this possibility out. But ask yourself this question, if you are not keeping track of where you are sliding, how can you fairly asses if the problem lies with you, the lane or your equipment? Knowing your starting and finishing board will tell you a lot about what’s going on down lane. If you’re being honest with yourself, you know when you miss your target. One of the reasons we miss our target is because of drifting. Think about the earlier example with a starting position of board 20 and the sliding position of board 24. If you don’t know how many boards you typically move on the approach from your starting position to your sliding position (lateral movement), you might get some bad advice on the drift or not drifting conclusion, which could create more problems for you because now you could be working with bad information.

Tape Line Drill

How to Fix Drifting

If you want to learn more about how to define drift vs. lateral movement from our coaches, check out this video on drifting. They’ll also demonstrate what happens when you drift to the left and when you drift to the right and show you how to correct it. Then, if you think this is a problem area in your game, you’ll want to check out the Tape Line Drill Demonstration. Our coaches will demonstrate the drill for you to work into your practice time. With the multitude of areas to work on in the sport of bowling, footwork is often overlooked. Developing fundamentally strong footwork will help eliminate one of the reasons things are going wrong. Eliminating drift off the list of problem areas will have you repeating shots and increasing scores.

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10 Responses to “Do You “Drift” on the Approach?”

  1. Robert Hobdy

    I use 4 step approach starting with rt foot. I do not slide but rather bend knees a little and release (out, down, back, forward to release). I start on front set of dots with rt foot outside edge on dot 1. I approach directly in direction of 2nd arrow and release ball to travel over 2nd arrow. Any adjustments are made by moving start point left or right a board or two using outside rt shoe edge for start. I am a stroker with hand position behind ball, thumb at 1 oclock at release with fingers lifting ball over arrow. I select ball to match lane conditions, oily or dry, and seldom have to move more than 1 or 2 boards on starting point and always using same arrow. What I describe is not drift but using the arrow as a fulcrum to adjust for pocket. Other bowlers approach straight ahead and throw to arrow, which means they are not consistent as their delivery changes by throwing out or pulling left as their slide can change depending on style.

  2. James Ward

    Old dog trying to learn new tricks: As a 65-y.o. southpaw, I've always had a very consistent lateral movement, proportionate with the line being played (usually around 5-12 board). Now I find that with more aggressive equipment, it is apparent it's time to learn a straight line approach in order to take advantage of the heavier oil in the center portion of the lane. Two videos found here should put me on the right track: Bowling Release Tips to Provide Consistency and Increase Your Average ( and Footwork Direction Drill ( Going to be a challenge to 'unlearn' much of what is so ingrained in my approach! Training the body to get used to walking a straight line while the shoulders and hips are 'opened up' is really going to be very strange. So much for 'being square to the foul line' at delivery... WOOF!

  3. Jim Carlsen

    <strong> If you are throwing across the lane, to accommodate for your hook, then why wouldn't you want to move laterally on your approach, towards the arrow that you are aiming for? Otherwise, wouldn't you be required to swing to the side, instead of straight ahead, in order to hit your arrow?

  4. okfoz

    I have found myself to literally wander to the line, I noticed this post and thought to myself, I wonder if I concentrate on walking straight to my target, if I would improve... I bowled the best series of the season..

  5. Easter Warren

    drifting cause me to bowl a low game missing my mark

  6. Thomas Ingram

    Drifting right

  7. Trudie Logan

    I bowl right handed but am left eye dominant. I line up with my right eye and end up “drifting” 6-8 boards. I have learned to compensate for that. My average has gone down since aging and back problems have taken a toll. Should I try to correct this drift?

  8. James Beckner

    I used to drift from left to right about 10 boards, I have corrected it and I drift at most two to three boards right, but able to adjust and correct my shot. Great article thanks

  9. encalade72

    drifting left

  10. Wayne

    Drifting left