Which grip should I use? Is there a best grip for bowling strikes?
This is a controversial topic, to say the least. Every grip has its own pros and cons. While each person may have a grip that suits their style, there honestly isn’t a clear “best” grip. Before Belmo came around, one-handed, thumb-in, grip was standard and was definitely considered the best. Since then we’ve seen a proliferation of other grip types. From these, the standard thumb-in grip, the one-handed/thumb-out grip, and the two-handed/thumb-out grip seem to be the most popular grips today. The standard, or conventional grip is a very technical grip that allows for intricate modification to your stroke, while the other two grips are the opposite in many ways. When I try the latter grips and talk to people who use them, it is much more of just going by feel. Each of these grips have their own pros/cons, so let’s discuss them.
Even with today’s innovative, progressive grips and styles, the standard middle, ring, and thumb grip is the most common. This may be due to its simplicity, familiarity, or possibly quality, but all we know for sure is that it is by far the most common.
The standard grip seems to allow a more technical approach to bowling. Each intricacy of the throw can be analyzed and modified. The angle of the wrist on release, how the ball fits your fingers/span/thumb, how straight your back-swing is, etc.
People who use this grip tend to be the most “mental” bowlers. Always pondering the oil patterns, their throw, what’s going right/wrong, how to adapt. While bowlers of the other styles seem to adapt through “feel”.
I always recommend this grip to people who aren’t especially coordinated or athletic. This grip seems to have the shortest learning curve from absolute beginner to intermediate bowler.
But, breaking into that next level of 200+ averages, or tournament patterns, this grip has some downfalls. The first is that getting the proper amount of revs is very difficult. Getting revs with this grip is definitely possible, however, it is quite a hard skill to learn. Getting high amounts of revs is much easier with the next two grips I am going to discuss.
The thumb-out, one-handed style is one that I’ve seen gain a lot of traction in today’s recreational bowling. There are tons of fantastic bowlers out there, but in my opinion, this is the worst grip to use.
This is one of the grips that goes off “feel” rather than technicality, meaning that most bowlers I have heard from aren’t able to articulate every step of their stroke, while most thumb-in bowlers are.
The approach is much less calculated but is similarly effective. This type of “just-go-for-it” mentality is perfect for people who are reasonably coordinated/athletic. It’s usually a much looser, casual throw. However, given that the thumb isn’t in, it is much easier to get huge amounts of revs. Which, depending on the oil, your equipment, etc. is almost always a good thing.
The downside is that the motion for getting revs with this grip involves the ball falling off the hand in a less-than-ideal way. So the speed is there, the revs are there, but the consistency of the throw isn’t quite there.
This grip is a great way to get solid, thunderous strikes, but not quite as consistently. The ball is held with two fingers, and the friction of your palm on the ball. This is much less stable than either the thumb-in or even the two-handed, Belmo style. For this reason, if someone doesn’t want to use the conventional grip, I always recommend they try Belmo style and see how they like it.
Two-handed (Belmo style)
Belmo’s iconic bowling style is definitely attractive. The amount of revs, speed, and accuracy you can achieve with this style is absolutely phenomenal.
It’s a style I see a lot of younger, typically naturally athletic people having a lot of success with. When it comes to the technicality of the first grip, and the “flowiness” of the second grip, this one falls right in the middle.
Obviously, with Jason Belmonte doing as well as he does, there have to be some strategic, underlying technicalities. This grip allows you to get an equal, if not higher amount of revs than the previous grip, while also adding the stability of the second hand.
In my opinion, the second hand makes the release much more controlled and consistent. However, the insane amount of revs and speed you can get with this grip can also hurt your game. It can make it harder to accurately hit your mark.
“Easy” house oil patterns can save your shot a lot of the time, but being accurate is still hugely important. At the pro-level, we are seeing that when people are able to hone in their aim, this grip is almost unbeatable. Kyle Troup, Jesper Svensson, and of course Jason Belmonte are absolutely dominating in recent years.
Many people, typically older people, think of conventional as the only “correct” grip, but it seems that as time goes on, that mentality is going to get squeezed out of bowling. At the end of the day, hucking balls down the lane with both hands can be a TON of fun.
Make a choice and stick with it
The grip you choose isn’t going to greatly affect your scores over a lifetime of bowling. All bowling techniques, styles, grips, etc. have their own pros and cons, and nothing is the outright best.
Do whatever you have to do to get a consistent, adaptable style. If you are a beginner bowler with plenty of athletic/coordination experience, I would probably recommend the two-handed style. If not, I would recommend the conventional grip.
Anyone can figure out a style of using the conventional grip that they can be successful with.
Non-speed-dominant bowling styles are much easier to master with the conventional grip.
At the end of the day, use whatever style you enjoy using the most. Whatever style gets you bowling the most games will be the best style for getting the most strikes, and therefore the highest scores.