It can be intimidating and difficult to choose your first bowling ball, but this article will simplify the process and get you on your way to bowling way more strikes.
Imagine getting strike after strike and having the ball do most of the work for you. Dial in your speed, swing, and release, and you will have no problems hitting that 200+ average that you dream about.
If you have been bowling with a regular house ball for some time now, it is probably time to upgrade. House balls work, but eventually, you will need to step up to a “real” bowling ball.
Go to a league night. Watch the good bowlers. What do they all have in common? None of them use house balls. They use proper, “real” bowling balls that have been custom drilled to their hand size and bowling style.
Choosing your first ball can be a hard decision because you don’t really know what you are looking for. After using your first bowling ball for a while, you will have a much better idea of what to look for, and what kind of reaction you want your ball to have. However, as a beginner, it’s hard to make a decision about these things without knowing exactly how they will affect your game.
To make the process of purchasing your first bowling ball as smooth as possible, I have put together the Ultimate Beginner Bowling Ball Buyers Guide! This guide will teach you everything you need to know about bowling balls to make an educated purchase. We’ll cover weight, coverstocks, cores and reaction types to make sure you have all the necessary knowledge to purchase a ball that will suit your needs and you won’t regret.
if you aren’t too worried about the technical details and just need some recommendations on good bowling balls for beginners, skip to the comparison table near the end of the article.
In order to have a productive discussion of bowling balls, this article assumes a very basic knowledge of oil patterns. If you have no idea what that means, check out this article to get a basic overview.
Things to consider for your first ball
In general, the heavier the ball, the better. Although heavier 14 or 15 pound balls may sound intimidating, they really aren’t. That’s one of the main benefits of getting your ball custom-drilled to fit your hand. If the thumb, span, and pitches are properly drilled, it will be easy to use a heavy ball.
When a properly drilled ball is thrown correctly, very little muscle should be used. You shouldn’t have to squeeze the ball to hold onto it. The swing is a loose, pendulum swing utilizing gravity rather than strength. Bowling relies much more on the bodies skeletal system rather than muscles. Holding the ball shouldn’t require much strength, and neither should your throw.
If you are a full-grown adult, you can probably handle bowling balls up to 14 or 15 pounds. The benefits of using a heavier ball are tremendous. Lighter balls tend to bounce off of the pins rather than punching through them. Watch the other bowlers the next time you are at the alley. When people use lighter balls, even a seemingly perfect shot will leave pins still standing. Lighter balls carry less energy through the pins and therefore are less likely to get you those lucky strikes.
Choose a ball that is a few pounds heavier than the “house ball” you usually use. Virtually all good bowlers use a 14-16 pound ball and you should take that fact very seriously.
For bowling a proper hook, you want to use a “reactive” coverstock. Reactive coverstocks are made of a porous material that grips the lane and sharply hooks into the pins. There are three common types of reactive coverstocks and each have their pros and cons. The types of coverstock are solids, pearls, and hybrids. The main difference between these is the “strength”. Stronger balls hook earlier, and weaker balls hook later. For now, let’s dive a bit deeper into each type of coverstock and learn how they react with the lanes.
Pearl coverstocks are smooth and usually shiny. Of the balls featured in this article, the Ebonite Turbo/R, and the Columbia 300 Nitrous both come equipped with a pearl coverstock.
These coverstocks tend to go further down the lane before hooking. This type of motion is often referred to as “angular”. This kind of motion is well suited for beginners. Pearl coverstocks tend to glide over the front part of the lane even if little oil is present. However, when it hits the dry boards near the pins, the smooth coverstock gets a ton of friction and hooks inwards. Missing to the outside is much less of an issue with pearls than solids or hybrids.
When it comes to the on-lane reaction of a coverstock, solids are at the opposite end of the spectrum from pearls. These coverstocks are much stronger and tend to hook earlier. An early hook is commonly referred to as having a “smooth” motion. The ball begins to hook earlier and has a less violent hook on the back-end of the lane.
Solids are less often recommended to beginners, but this is a generalization more than a rule. In general, solid coverstocks are too strong for beginners, but that really depends on other factors such as the core and the finish applied to the coverstock.
Hybrid cores are exactly what they sound like. They are a hybrid of solid and pearl coverstocks. This is one of the main reasons the Black/Cherry Storm Tropical Breeze is the number one ball on this list.
Hybrids have a good balance of smoothness and angularity. The ball will hook a bit later than a solid, but won’t have the (sometimes) unpredictably violent hook of a pearl. For all bowlers, but especially beginners, predictability is incredibly important.
The core AKA weight block has a huge impact on how the ball performs. The physics behind how the core impacts performance is very complex. Most experienced bowlers don’t have a true understanding of ball geometry and physics. Beginners don’t need to learn a whole lot about cores but there are a few things you should know.
Types of Cores
Pancake cores were incredibly popular many years ago, but are rarely seen in high-end balls these days. You can sometimes find pancake cores in plastic balls, but for the most part, they are outdated technology. They just don’t create enough motion.
Symmetric cores are cores that are symmetric around an axis. For example, the popular “light-bulb” core as seen in the Storm Tropical Breeze is symmetrical around the vertical axis containing the “pin” or top of the core. Although there are significant exceptions, symmetrical cores tend to have a smoother motion. Symmetrical cores are usually recommended for beginners because they are predictable. A simple, relatively low RG symmetric core paired with a smooth coverstock is your best bet for a beginner bowling ball.
Asymmetric cores can be very complex shapes and are found in high-end bowling balls. There are many exceptions, but asymmetric cores tend to have late, very angular motion on-lane. The reason they aren’t typically recommended to beginners, is they are much more finicky. You have to take things such as axis tilt, axis rotation, positive axis point, etc. more seriously when drilling/using a ball with an asymmetric core. If you are deadset on your first ball having an asymmetric core, then your best bet would be to choose one with a low intermediate differential. Put into simple terms, the intermediate differential is a numeric way of describing just how un-symmetric the core actually is.
Ball geometry is an incredibly complex subject. If you are interested in learning more, you can check out a great in-depth article here.
5 Best Bowling Balls For Beginners
These balls have been chosen based on their coverstock/core combinations and are well suited for beginners. They all have symmetric cores, and each ball has core specifications that align well with the coverstock type. They will have smooth, predictable motion and hook relatively late on the lanes. This gives the bowler a lot of leniency when it comes to accuracy and bowling style.
When people ask me what ball they should start with, I always recommend the Storm Tropical Breeze. For that reason, it has been placed at the #1 position. With the exception of the tropical breeze, the order of the list is irrelevant. Any of these balls would be a great first ball.
|Ranking||Name||Picture||Radius of Gyration||Differential||Coverstock Type||Core|
|1.||Storm Tropical Breeze||2.57||0.009||Hybrid||Symmetrical Camber|
|2.||Hammer Blue Vibe||2.51||0.042||Solid||Symmetric Vibe|
|3.||Roto-Grip Hustle Ink||2.53||0.03||Solid||Symmetric Hustle|
|4.||Columbia 300 Nitrous||2.55||0.033||Pearl||Symmetric Nitrous|
|5.||Ebonite Turbo/R||2.59||0.035||Pearl||Symmetric Turbo/R|
1. Storm Tropical Breeze Black/Cherry
The Storm Tropical Breeze comes equipped with the Camber core which has an RG of 2.57, and an extremely low differential of 0.009. This combination allows the ball to push through the front of the lane and retain energy for a predictable back-end hook. On a typical house oil pattern, you will probably want to throw this ball pretty straight down the lane over the second arrow and let the ball do its thing once it hits the dry boards. This is the ball I recommend to beginners because it feels very controllable while still having plenty of hook potential when thrown correctly.
Here’s what Storm has to say about the tropical breeze line:
With six exciting colors and innovative fragrances, the Tropical Storms are sure to appeal to bowlers of all skill levels. They all feature a proven Reactor Reactive coverstock material that glides easily through the heads yet reacts down-lane to provide optimum pin carry. The Camber Core’s inverted light bulb shape has real substance. It provides more predictability and control; it’s the perfect complement to the rest of Storm’s full line of products.
The coverstock used on this ball is the Reactor hybrid coverstock. Most of the balls in the Tropical Breeze line-up use a pearl coverstock, but the hybrid gives the ball a smoother motion that allows for a little bit more leniency.
The core used is a common inverted lightbulb core. It has a relatively low RG, that again adds to the smoothness and predictability of the motion. Lightbulb cores have been around for a long time, and for good reason. The cores are simple and work well. The incredibly low differential of 0.009 causes a very small amount of flare which again adds to the predictability and readability of the ball.
2. Hammer Blue Vibe
The Hammer Blue Vibe is the newest addition to the iconic Vibe line of balls from Hammer. The motion you will get from this ball is predictable, and easily allows you to adjust. As with all the balls on this list, it will glide over the front part of the lane and hook pretty hard once it hits the dry boards.
From Hammer’s website:
That’s right Hammer fans, you’re reading correctly. The iconic Vibe line is back and with it comes the crowd favorites. Blue Vibe will bring length, predictability and versatility to your arsenal at an unbeatable price.
This ball comes with the CT Reactive Plus solid coverstock. It is a solid coverstock, but the finish on it is extremely smooth and should react similarly to a pearl. It is sanded with a 500 grit abralon pad, then a 2000 grit pad, and finally is polished with Powerhouse Factory Finish Polish. It is infused with carbon fiber to increase overall durability and comes with Hammer’s incredible 3-year warranty.
This ball comes with the symmetric Vibe core. The RG is 2.51, similar to the Tropical Breeze, but the differential is much higher, at 0.042. This will give the ball much more flare, and allows the core to do some of the work rather than just the coverstock. It’s a great time-tested core that was so popular that they brought it out of retirement.
3. Roto-Grip Hustle Ink
The Roto-Grip Hustle Ink is a very popular ball for beginners and experts alike. It gives smooth controllable motion, but still hooks pretty hard when it hits the back-end of the lanes. It’s another solid reactive coverstock matched with a relatively low differential that will help beginners have predictable ball motion.
The coverstock used is the Thrilled Solid Reactive. It comes out of the box with a 1500 grit polished surface, that again, should react quite similarly to a pearl. From Hammer’s website:
Because variety is the spice of life it was time to formulate yet another cover for this line. So we created the brand new Thrilled Solid Reactive coverstock that will create earlier movement than all the others and help give you some calmness on friction.
This ball is a great option if you want a motion that’s a bit smoother, earlier, and hooks a bit less violently on the backend.
The Core is the Hustle symmetric core used in all of the balls from the Hustle line. Its shape is similar to a lightbulb core and has similar properties. It has an RG of 2.53, and a differential of 0.03. It will have a small amount of flare potential, increasing the readability and predictability of the motion. From Hammer’s website:
Inside you will find the exact same Hustle Core we have used in all the previous Hustle balls. This dynamic core has quickly become a fan favorite in its short existence.
4. Columbia 300 Nitrous
This ball is a pretty typical pearl, low differential ball. As with most of the balls on this list, it has what you would call a skid/flip motion. It has a predictable roll that hooks late but doesn’t sacrifice pin carry. You should be able to use this ball on dry conditions such as a house shot or burned up patterns.
The Columbia 300 Nitrous features brand new technology in both the core and coverstock. The two-piece Nitrous core design offers predictability without sacrificing hitting power while the new Boost/R cover provides the gripping power needed on medium to light oil patterns. This means that no matter your bowling style or skill level, the Nitrous line is sure to give your game the boost it needs!
The coverstock is the new Boost/R pearl. It comes out of the box with the same exact finish as the Hammer Blue Vibe. Pearl coverstocks are always a good option for beginners due to the energy retention and late hook that they provide.
The core is a two-piece lightbulb-ish symmetric Nitrous core. It brings a smooth predictable motion to the backend with a relatively small amount of flare potential. The core compliments the coverstock well because the core actually has a higher differential than the Tropical Breeze, but the pearl coverstock keeps things under control.
5. Ebonite Turbo/R
The Ebonite Turbo/R is another skid/flip type ball that cuts through the oil and hooks on the backend. The backend hook is quite smooth compared to other balls on this list and has less overall hook potential.
The coverstock is the GB 10.7 pearl. It isn’t the grippiest coverstock which can actually help your game if you are a beginner. It’s better to have a ball that you can control than something that over-hooks unpredictably. It has the same exact finish as both the hammer Blue Vibe and the Columbia 300 Nitrous.
This ball comes with the Turbo/R core that is shaped like a modified light-bulb core. The differential is also quite low and adds to the predictability by not having a huge flare potential.
Hopefully, this article has not only helped you decide which ball you want to buy but also taught you a bit about why that ball would be a good choice. At the very least, you should have a ball that has a relatively smooth finish such as a pearl coverstock, and a low differential to have a controllable motion throughout the lane. Asymmetric cores and strong coverstocks are often too much to handle for a beginner. It’s tempting to buy a ball with a ton of hook potential, but that isn’t actually as beneficial as it sounds. Consistently hitting the pocket is way more important than having a ton of hook.
If you’ve read this far, you not only have 5 great recommendations for beginner bowling balls but hopefully you also have the knowledge to go out there are pick your own ball if you find something else that catches your eye.
If you are still in need of a bowling bag to lug your ball(s) to and from the alley, check out our article featuring the best single-ball and double-ball bowling bags.
In any case, thanks for reading and be sure to leave a comment below!