You are currently viewing How to Get a Turkey in Bowling: The Complete Guide in 2023

How to Get a Turkey in Bowling: The Complete Guide in 2023

  • Reading time:16 mins read

Striking out three times in a row. Leaving all 10 pins down for three consecutive frames. Bowl three strikes in succession.

However you phrase it, a turkey in bowling is a significant achievement that all passionate bowlers aspire to accomplish.

Getting a turkey requires skill, focused practice, and the right bowling techniques. When you can get those three cherished strikes in a row, it’s one of the best feelings in bowling.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to get a turkey in bowling consistently:

What Does Turkey Mean in Bowling?

Before we dive into how to get one, let’s make sure we have a shared understanding of what a turkey is in bowling.

A turkey refers to three consecutive strikes rolled by a bowler in succession. This means the bowler knocks down all 10 pins with their first roll in three frames in a row.

Knocking down all 10 pins on the first roll is known as a strike. So a turkey consists of three strikes rolled consecutively, without any pins being left standing during those frames.

The term “turkey” is used because getting three strikes in a row is similar to a turkey having three legs. When you get a turkey, it’s sometimes celebrated by yelling “gobble gobble gobble!”

Getting a turkey in bowling is a significant achievement. It results in the maximum number of pins knocked down over three straight frames.

Bowlers in leagues often get rewarded with prizes or bonuses for bowling turkeys during competition. It’s a coveted feat.

Now that you know what a turkey entails in bowling, let’s cover some tips and techniques for how you can bowl three strikes in a row consistently.

Use Proper Bowling Form and Technique

The foundation of being able to get a turkey begins with using proper bowling form and having sound overall technique.

Without the right form, you’ll struggle to consistently hit your target and maximize your pin count. Proper form gives you optimal leverage, power transfer, and accuracy.

Here are key elements of proper bowling form and technique:

Bowling Stance

Your starting stance sets the tone for your entire approach and delivery. Key elements of a proper bowling stance include:

  • Feet shoulder-width apart
  • Knees slightly bent
  • Shoulders square and parallel to the foul line
  • Ball held at chest level with arm relaxed

This balanced, athletic stance sets you up for an effective pushaway and approach.

Bowling Approach

An effective approach is critical for building momentum into your swing. Key aspects of a proper approach involve:

  • Starting slow and evenly accelerating
  • Keeping low with knees bent throughout
  • Taking 4-5 steps of increasing length
  • Pulling back the ball straight back from a chest
  • Keeping swing straight back and forward

Bowling Release

Releasing the ball correctly enables you to impart speed and rotation on the ball effectively. A proper release involves:

  • Uncapping wrist to get fingertips on top of ball at release
  • Letting gravity and swing momentum go through the swing
  • Keeping elbow close to the body throughout approach and release
  • Rolling over the ball and lifting fingers at the release point
  • Having the thumb exit first to impart proper rotation

Bowling Follow Through

Following through fully ensures you roll through your target with accuracy and power. Effective follow-through requires:

  • Taking a slide step toward the target at release
  • Letting the arm swing fully forward after the ball is released
  • Finishing in balanced upright posture facing pins

Practicing each step slowly and imprinting the ideal form will pay huge dividends. It builds muscle memory so sound technique becomes second nature.

Always watch out for common form mistakes like rushing steps, muscling the ball, twisting the arm, or poor footwork. If needed, work with a coach to correct any flaws in the form.

With proper form mastered, you’ll be able to maximize pin count, accuracy, and consistency.

Use High-Quality Bowling Equipment

Using properly fitted, high-performance bowling equipment can give you a big advantage in achieving turkeys consistently.

Two key pieces of equipment have a huge impact on your bowling success – your ball and your shoes.

Bowling Ball

Having a bowling ball that fits your hand, has the proper surface, and leaves the right reaction is imperative.

Key factors in selecting the right bowling ball include:

  • Fit – Your fingers should fit comfortably in the gripping holes. Proper fit leaves room for your fingers to swell a bit without gripping. Have your pro shop ensure a proper custom fit.
  • Weight – Heavier balls around 14-16 pounds have more hitting power. But opt for a weight you can swing comfortably and consistently without strain.
  • Drill pattern – The finger hole placement impacts grip and track. Optimal drill patterns enhance your release.
  • Core – Bowling ball cores impact how much a ball hooks. Different core types like pancake, symmetrical, or asymmetrical determine ball motion.
  • Coverstock – The exterior shell impacts the traction and friction a ball generates. Different coverstock types like plastic, urethane, and reactive resin provide varied reactions.

Testing different bowling balls to see how they roll and react to your bowling style is key. Having balls in your arsenal to cover different lane conditions is a must.

Bowling Shoes

Wearing quality performance bowling shoes enhances your balance, slide, and traction. Don’t underestimate the impact bowling shoes can make.

Features to look for in top bowling shoes include:

  • Leather uppers provide support and durability
  • Interchangeable soles allow you to switch between slides and brakes as needed
  • Contoured footbeds offering customized cushioning and support
  • Microfiber slide soles or sock liners allow a smooth slide
  • Flexible construction and shock absorption for comfort

The right shoes provide the stability, slide, and traction needed to excel. Don’t skimp on getting a comfortable, high-quality pair.

Investing in properly fitted equipment tailored to your bowling style gives you a leg up on consistently achieving strikes and turkeys.

Focus on Accuracy Over Power

Many bowlers think sheer power is the key to knocking down more pins. But accuracy is far more important when it comes to leaving all 10 pins down.

Trying to muscle and whip the ball at maximum speed often reduces control and precision. Keeping the ball on target to consistently hit the pocket should be the priority.

Here are some tips for focusing more on accuracy in your bowling:

Visualize Your Target

As you line up, clearly visualize your ideal target and the path the ball needs to take. See the arrows and board you want to roll over on the approach. Imagine the exact pocket contact point you want to hit.

Use Aiming Marks

Use dots, arrows, and guides both on the lane and on the walls to align yourself and pick an exact breakpoint to aim for. These fixed aiming marks enhance accuracy.

Take Time and Align Properly

Don’t rush your shots. Take a few extra seconds to align your feet and shoulders properly and visualize your shot before pushing away. Proper alignment breeds accuracy.

Control Speed

Consistency comes from controlled speed and fluid timing. Don’t muscle or whip the ball violently. Let gravity and swing techniques impart smooth acceleration.

Minimize Hook

Limiting hook mechanics can boost accuracy for some bowlers. Keeping the ball straighter reduces exaggerated hooks that can miss wide if not controlled.

With sound technique, you can achieve powerful pin action without sacrificing precision. Focused accuracy leads to more strikes.

Perfect Your Strike Shot

Executing an effective strike shot requires getting many variables dialed in – swing, timing, release, rotation, angle of entry, pocket contact, and more.

Mastering your own customized strike shot is critical for bowling turkeys. Here are key elements to perfect:

Optimal Ball Position

Keep the ball out from your body at the set point and backswing midpoint. This inside-out positioning generates momentum and leverage.

Rev Rate

Generating ideal revs improves your hitting power. Your ball needs enough rotational speed to drive through the pins with force, but not too much to miss wide.

Entry Angle

Finding the right angle is key for pocket strikes. You want your ball entering the pocket at 5-10 degrees to have enough angle without swishing high.

Pocket Hit

Hitting the pocket – the 1-3 pin zone for righties or 1-2 zone for lefties – is imperative. Even slight misses left or right can leave single pins.

Ball Speed

Throwing around 16-18mph enables the ball to mix pin action and carry. Too slow won’t drive through the rack, too fast can bounce right through without pin explosion.

Test different release positions, hand positions, and swing mechanics to see what provides your most accurate and powerful strike ball. Strive to imprint key positions so repeating your strike shot becomes second nature.

Practice, Practice, Practice

They say practice makes perfect for a reason. Repetition ingrains muscle memory and consistency. The key to achieving turkey after turkey is focused, structured practice.

Here are some of the best drills and games to practice for improving your strikes and honing your skills:

Spare Shooting

Practice picking off individual pins you often leave like 10 pins, 7 pins, etc. Work on hitting the many different spare leaves. This elevates your accuracy and targeting.

3-6-9 Drill

Hitting the 3-6-9 is a great way to practice a flush pocket hit and your strike. Visualize carrying every time you hit it.

Low Ball Drill

Throw over and over aiming to go light in the pocket. This helps learn control and how to play different parts of the lane.

No Thumb Drill

Removing your thumb from the ball improves revs and rotation. This builds better roll and drive through the pins.

Target Practice

Draw targets and numbered boxes on the lane with tape. Roll games trying to hit precise target zones to sharpen your accuracy.

Slow Motion Drill

Perform your entire approach and release in slow motion. Feel each position and imprint the perfect form.

Pressure Frames

Practice must make pressure shots like needing to strike in the 10th to win. This elevates mental toughness.

Dedicated practice polishes bowling skills so ideal techniques become instinctual. You’ll knock down more pins and turkeys will happen frequently.

Remain Calm and Confident

Bowling is a very mental sport. Your state of mind impacts your performance. Nerves and tension can ruin your timing, accuracy, and fluidity.

Staying calm, focused, and confident in your shots is key to achieving turkeys consistently. Here are helpful tips:

Pre-Shot Routine

Establish a repeatable pre-shot routine of deep breaths, imagery, and cues. This distracts your mind from pressure.


Counter nerves by repeating positive self-talk like “smooth and easy” or “I’ve got this”. Believe in your skills.

One Frame at a Time

Don’t think about the turkey. Just focus on making your best shot for that frame. Stay in the moment.

Walk Away

If you feel too nervous, walk away from the approach to recenter mentally before stepping up again.

Trust Your Training

Have faith you’ve put in the practice and prep to succeed. Trust your instincts and your game.

A centered, confident mindset allows your subconscious technique to shine through. Staying poised and focusing on your process leads to more success.

Analyze and Adjust

You want to come into each game with an ideal game plan and lineup. But making small adjustments as needed is key for maximizing strikes and turkeys based on changing lane conditions.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Watch how your first shots react and leave indicators if you missed wide, light, etc.
  • Make mental notes of if the lane is hooking more or less as it transitions.
  • Observe other bowlers on your pair and see what moves they make.
  • Change angles, speed, and hand position slightly if you need to better hit the pocket.
  • Move in or out on the approach to find more friction or hold.
  • Communicate with your teammates or ask the front desk about the oiling pattern.
  • Switch balls if needed to create a better reaction.

Staying aware of transitions and fine-tuning aspects like movement, speed, axis rotation, or equipment quickly keeps you dialed in for more strikes.

Keep After It – Turkeys Will Come

Getting a turkey requires everything coming together – proper technique, dialed-in equipment, focused practice, and confident execution.

It may take some time before you master the skills to reel off three strikes consistently. But with dedicated work and continually honing your game, you’ll reach this coveted bowling achievement.

Trust your skills. Use strong visualizations. And keep after it. Before you know it, you’ll hear the sweet sound of pins crashing and pumping your fist shouting “Turkey!”

Your turn to share your excitement for the day you finally achieve a turkey! Let me know about your experience in getting a turkey in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is 3 strikes in bowling called a turkey?

A turkey in bowling refers to three consecutive strikes. It’s called a turkey because getting three strikes is similar to a turkey having three legs. The term turkey originated from old candlepin bowling when three strikes were often rewarded with a turkey as a prize.

Why is 4 strikes in a row called a hambone?

Four consecutive strikes in bowling is called a hambone. This bowling term likely originated because the word “hambone” rhymes with the number four. So four straight strikes became known as a hambone.

How to do turkey bowling?

To bowl a turkey, you need to knock down all 10 pins with your first roll in three consecutive frames. Having proper form, using your best strike ball, visualizing your target, and maintaining focus will help achieve three strikes in a row.

What do you call five strikes in a row?

In bowling, five consecutive strikes are called a fiver or five-bagger. Other nicknames for Five Strikes in a Row are High Five, buzzard, whale, or New York (because five boroughs in New York City).

What is 8 strikes in a row called?

Eight consecutive strikes in bowling is called an octopus. This is because an octopus has eight tentacles or legs. Other nicknames for eight strikes in a row are crazy eights or Boris (after bowler Boris Belenky’s eight straight strikes).

What is 12 strikes in a row called in bowling?

Twelve strikes in a row are called a dozen turkeys or a dirty dozen. Other names are Gazillion, gross, El Grande, Super Dozen, or Ryu (after pro bowler Ryuji Kato rolled 12 straight strikes).

What is a dinosaur in bowling?

In bowling, a dinosaur refers to four strikes followed by a split that is not converted. The splits leave “fossilized bones” which are compared to a dinosaur’s bones.

What is 9 strikes called?

Nine consecutive strikes in bowling are referred to as a golden turkey or row of tents. Nine strikes in a row is a very rare and impressive achievement in bowling.

What is a badger in bowling?

A badger in bowling is three open frames in a row (no strikes or spares). This is sometimes called a triple open.