4 Types Of Bowling Tapes And How To Use Them To Increase Your Average

Using bowling tape can make your release more consistent, and make your thumb fit properly. Choose the right ball, and use bowling tape to dial in the perfect fit, and you will be unstoppable.

There are two types of bowling tape and both are incredibly useful. There is tape that goes inside your thumb hole, and tape that goes directly on your thumb. Both types of tape are useful, but they are used quite differently. This article will discuss the different types of tape, the benefits of each kind, and how to apply/use bowling tape.

What are the different types of thumb tape?

In-hole tape

In-hole tape is exactly what it sounds like. It goes in the thumb hole of your ball. If your ball has been properly drilled for your hand, the thumb hole will have a snug fit necessary for proper release.

However, due to a variety of reasons, the size of the hole and the size of your thumb can change quite drastically. This is where in-hole tape comes in. It helps you fine-tune the size of the hole to more perfectly fit your thumb.

When it comes to competitive or pro-level bowling, you will often see people adjusting the size of the hole using tape, sometimes even in the middle of a game! The fit of the thumb hole is one of the most important aspects of having a reliable, consistent release.

Now, with regards to in-hole tape, there are a couple of different types of tape. One is smooth, typically black tape, and the other is a textured, typically white tape. Which you can find here.

The textured tape is much thicker than the smooth tape and is typically placed on the “palm-side” of the thumb hole.

The rough-textured surface can cause damage to your skin in the form of blisters or calluses if used in the wrong part of the hole, so it’s important to apply it in the correct part of the hole.

Put your fingers and thumb into the ball and make a mental note of where the inside crease of your thumb contacts the hole. This is the only place where the rough, thick tape should be applied.

Since it is much thicker, it is usually used if the hole is significantly over-sized. Usually only one piece of this tape is used. To be honest, if the hole is big enough that it requires the use of this tape, the ball was probably improperly drilled. Even so, the thicker tape has its uses, and a re-drill isn’t always necessary.

Smooth tape can be used anywhere in the thumb hole, including the “palm side”. This tape is very thin and is used to fine-tune the size of the hole to an incredibly accurate degree.

As you bowl, your thumb will swell and become thicker.  It can be useful to have your thumb hole drilled slightly – and I do mean slightly – too large so that one or more pieces of thin tape are necessary for the perfect fit. Due to your thumb swelling, it may be necessary to remove a piece or two of the tape to retain a proper fit.

On-thumb tape

There are a variety of different types of on-thumb tape, but they are all usually used for the same purpose. The tape is applied directly on your thumb. Depending on the bowler’s preferences, more or less tape may be used, and the exact location on the thumb can vary Most commonly, it is applied to the back of the thumb or the side of the thumb furthest away from your index finger. During a proper release, this is the part of the thumb that should have the most contact/pressure with the thumb hole.

The skin on your thumb can have a significant amount of inconsistency throughout your night of bowling depending on sweat, humidity, dryness, rosin/other grip aids etc. Using tape on your thumb removes the uncertainty and allows you to focus on other aspects of your game.

There are tons of different tapes on the market, but they all do essentially the same thing. Some of them are pre-cut into oval-shaped strips, and others are sold as continuous strips of tape that you cut/shape yourself. They all serve the same purpose, but bowlers tend to have their preferences. My favorite is simply the Vise #1 blue tape patch.

How to apply bowling tape?

In-hole tape

The first step is to decide where in the hole you want to place the tape. If the fit is close but not quite snug enough but there is no tape in the hole yet, start with the part of the hole that contacts the side of the thumb closest to my index finger. If the hole still requires more tape, I like to place the strip 180 degrees away from the first. From there I like to go by feel and put the tape wherever the hole feels the “loosest”.

Once you know where you want to put the tape, get some sort of fine-tipped tool. There are tools made specifically for this such as the Ebonite multi-tool, which also has many other uses. However, if you just want to apply tape, you already have an adequate tool in your home. Find some sort of small screwdriver, scissors, crochet hook, or anything else with similar dimensions.

Prep the strip of tape by slightly bending it so the convex side has the adhesive on it.

Stick the rounded end of the tape to the end of your tool.

Carefully slip the strip into the hole and lower it so that the rounded end of the tape is just below the edge of the hole. If you apply the tape too far out of the ball, the tape will begin to peel up and is not only annoying but can actually mess with your release.

As you smooth down the tape, carefully remove the tool, leaving the tape.

This process is the same for any type of in-hole tape including smooth, textured, thin, or thick tapes.

On-Thumb Tape

Most bowlers have their preferences of which tape to use, where to place it, how much to use (if using a roll of tape), how many pieces of tape, etc. I’m going to describe a great starting point from which you can begin to find your own preferences.

Pre-cut tape

Pre-cut tape such as the Vise Hada Patch Tape should be placed on the back of the thumb.

Line up the rounded end of the tape with the contour of your thumbnail as best you can.

Starting at your thumb, apply the tape as smoothly as possible, trying to avoid any bubbles, wrinkles, or any other deformities. If the tape is wrinkled or applied sloppily, it may begin to peel up or fall off.

Some people like to put one strip of tape on the back of their thumb and another overlapping piece on the side of their thumb.

Mess around with the location, number of strips you apply, and anything else you want to change until you find a set-up that works for you.

Uncut tape

Cut a piece of tape from the roll that is approximately the length from the tip of your thumbnail to the base of your thumb. Probably around 2″ or so.

Cut one of the ends to be curved similar to the curve of your thumbnail.

Just as with pre-cut tape, starting at your thumbnail apply and smooth the tape down as well as possible. Line it up with your thumb and avoid wrinkles/deformities to extend the life of that piece of tape. That being said, some bowlers replace their thumb tape multiple times in a night of bowling.

The Turbo brand rolls of tape come in a variety of different colors that indicate how quickly or slowly they release. Here’s a simple diagram from Turbo’s website to help you out:


Use bowling tape!

I recommend that every bowler use both types of tape, in-hole, and on-thumb tape. Mastering the ability to fine-tune your release is an incredible skill to have. Your release will be more consistent, and your scores will, in turn, increase. Most bowling centers, pro shops, or sporting goods stores will have tape for sale, but they don’t usually have very many options. Amazon has a ton of different bowling tape products you can check out here. Get yourself some bowling tape and see your consistency increase dramatically.

Thanks for reading and make sure you leave a comment or email me if you have any questions/comments/concerns.

2 thoughts on “4 Types Of Bowling Tapes And How To Use Them To Increase Your Average”

    • The colors don’t have universal meanings, however, if you are talking about the rolls of tape by Turbo, in order from quickest to slowest release, it goes: Black, Blue, Brown, Purple, Green.


Leave a Comment