Most beginners have a hard time deciding which ball they should pick from the rack. There are different colors, weights, finger hole sizes, etc., so which one should you pick? In short, you should pick the ball that fits your hand the best. Deciding which one actually fits the best can be quite a struggle, so I’m going to walk you through the process.
The size of the thumb hole is possibly the most important thing to get right. You want to find one that can slide in/out fairly easily, but it should be a bit snug. If it’s too loose, you won’t have as much control and you will have to use more grip strength, which isn’t ideal. If it’s too tight, well… it can get stuck to your thumb and nearly send you sliding down the lane behind your ball. Which, from personal experience, isn’t as fun as it sounds.
A good tip for this is that when you remove your thumb quickly there will be an audible “popping” or “wooshing” sound. The sound is a good sign, but sometimes it can also mean that it’s too tight, so be careful!
Walk around to the racks testing every ball you can, and take a mental note of which ones fit your thumb well. The next step is to find balls that also match your “span”, or the distance between the thumb hole and finger holes. Find the balls that fit your thumb, put your thumb, middle, and ring fingers into the ball, and pick it up. The one with the span that is right for you will feel lighter and/or require less grip strength than other balls of the same weight. It’s a weird thing, but sometimes a 14lb ball that fits you well will be easier to hold, and feel lighter than a 12lb ball with too big a thumb hole or the wrong span. Which brings us to my next point.
If you can find a few balls that fit you well but are different weights, which one should you choose? You should probably use the heaviest ball you can actually control. Using a ball that is too heavy will make your throw inconsistent. A well-controlled, slow throw is better than hucking a 20mph fast-ball down the lane with no control over where you throw it. A controlled, consistent throw is what bowling is all about.
Don’t go too heavy and risk injury, however, heavier balls impact the pins with more momentum causing more pin action. A piece of advice that I’ve heard is to not exceed ~10% of your bodyweight. If you weigh only 100lbs, it’s probably not the best idea to use a 14lb ball just to get a tad more pin action.
From what I see at the alley, most men use 13-15lb balls, and women tend to have a higher range from ~9-14lbs. If you think you can handle a heavy ball, it will most likely benefit your scores.
However, don’t forget, the fit of the ball is more important than the weight. If there is a lighter ball that fits you perfectly, and a heavier ball that fits you almost perfectly, you are usually better off going for the lighter ball.
None of the balls fit you correctly?
House balls offered at most alleys are designed to fit the widest range of people. Therefore, people with unusually sized hands, fingers, etc. are often left out of luck. However, you do have a couple options.
If you wish to start taking bowling seriously, I HIGHLY recommend getting a ball custom-drilled to fit your hand as soon as possible. Ask your local bowling alley or pro shop where you can get it done. Try to find someone with a lot of experience who people have had good experiences with. In my area, there are three ball drillers close by. Two know what they are doing, and one doesn’t. I’ve had balls drilled by all three, and I consistently score higher with the balls drilled by the first two. For your first ball, it isn’t as huge a deal, but it’s still worth it to go to the person with the best track record.
If you just wanna have fun at the bowling alley a couple times a year, I would say just drop the weight of the ball down a couple extra pounds, and try your best with what you have. It can be frustrating if you get stuck with a ball that doesn’t fit, but you should be able to get quite used to the ball after a game or two.
The thumb hole and span are the, most important parts of choosing a ball, and second to that is weight. Find all the balls that fit your hand well, then pick the one that is heavy, but still controllable. Pick it up, swing it around a bit, see if you can handle it. If you can, congratulations, you just picked the best ball in the house for yourself! If not, move down in weight slowly until you feel you can handle it. Now that you have a ball, go bowl some strikes!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me, comment below, or contact me through instagram, twitter, or facebook. Thanks for reading!