Choosing the Right Bowling Ball

Get the proper equipment to increase your scores

House bowling balls on racks

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Bowling with the right ball will dramatically improve your scores and consistency, but there are so many types and sizes of balls. For beginners, finding the right ball is often a daunting and overwhelming task, so you may want to consult your local pro shop or bowling-center operator for help.

Find Your Ideal Ball Weight

Some say your ball should be approximately 10 percent of your body weight, up to the maximum 16 pounds. Most pro bowlers use 16-pound balls, although more than you think use 15-pounders. Another method is to add one or two pounds to the weight of the house ball you normally use. A heavier ball drilled specifically to your hand will seem to weigh about the same as a house ball but two pounds lighter.

Even with these guidelines, you should never use a ball too heavy just because you feel you should. The real optimum ball weight is the heaviest ball you can comfortably throw.

Determine Your Ideal Cover Stock

The cover stock is the material on the outer surface of the ball and is very important in determining how your ball will react to the lane conditions. There are three main types of cover stocks: polyester (more commonly referred to as plastic), urethane, and reactive resin. 

Most likely, especially if it's your first ball, you're going to want a reactive-resin cover stock, which will give your shots greater hook potential.

Choose Your Ball

Once you know the weight and cover stock you need, you can find a large number of balls online, or you can ask your local pro shop. There are differences in each category, but a conversation with a pro-shop operator or some online research should be enough to get you the right type of ball for your game.

Reactive-resin balls start at around $100 and go up from there, though some may cost several hundred dollars. Good plastic bowling balls tend to be less expensive.

Get It Drilled to Fit Your Hand

You can find pre-drilled bowling balls, but if you’re going to use one of those, you might as well save your money and use a house ball. A ball drilled specifically to your hand gives you more control and also significantly decreases the risk of injury. Take your ball to a pro shop and have an expert measure your hand and drill your ball. Some stores will include free drilling with the purchase of a ball, but paying for a custom drilling is usually inexpensive and worth it.

Be Patient

When you first hold (and release) a ball drilled to your hand, you might be afraid it doesn’t fit. This is because the house balls you’re used to using really don’t fit. With a little practice, your new ball will prove to be infinitely more comfortable and controllable than a pre-drilled house ball.

Types of Cover Stocks

Plastic cover stocks are the way to go if you normally throw the ball straight and want to continue to do so. Almost every house ball has a plastic cover stock. This is the least expensive category, but also the least versatile.

Urethane and reactive-resin cover stocks are perfect if you throw a hook or would like to start throwing a hook. These cover stocks will grip the lane better than a plastic ball, thus hooking into the pins. Urethane balls take a gradual path to the pins, hooking throughout the whole lane. Most bowlers prefer reactive resin to urethane, as the ball will cut through the oil without hooking too much and will pick up friction at the end of the lane, hooking aggressively into the pins (this is called backend). This creates more strike potential.