The key instrument in the game of bowling is the bowling ball. It is the single most controllable tool a bowler has when playing the game. You can’t hold the pins, you don’t have control over where and how the pins are set, the lane is already oiled and that wasn’t done by you. But the bowling ball is in your hand, and you control where it is delivered, and with how much velocity, spin, and hook.
The core of each bowling ball is made of one or any combination of rubber, urethane, plastic, or reactive resin. The density of these materials directly affects the weight of the bowling ball. The standard regulation for the bowling ball requires that the ball be 8 1/2 inches in diameter with a weight between six and sixteen pounds. The only means of creating a ball that is sixteen pounds instead of six pounds at the same diameter is to pack the core with a higher density of material. The density of the materials will also have a direct impact on the spin of the ball and amount of friction the ball encounters when traveling down the lane towards the pins.
One of the most significant, and often overlooked, components of the bowling ball is the finger holes. A bowling ball is too large and heavy to be gripped in the palm of your hand. The finger holes allow the bowler to grip and control the ball. The bowling ball is drilled with three finger holes to accommodate the thumb, ring finger, and middle finger. Depending on the skill level of the player, there are three different grips to choose from – the conventional grip, the semi-finger tip grip, and the finger tip grip.
The most common grip for beginners is the conventional grip, which allows the fingers to sink to the second knuckle when inserted into the holes. This is also beneficial for players with less finger strength, as having more of your finger in the bowling ball makes for greater ease of handling. With the finger tip grip, the bowler’s ring and middle finger are inserted only to the first joint above the fingernail. This is the more advanced of the three grips. Using this grip, the bowler will sacrifice control for greater ball spin. Having more spin will enhance the hook of the ball for a more optimal point of contact with the pins when set. The semi-finger tip grip is the middle ground between the conventional grip and the finger tip grip. It allows a compromise for bowlers more advanced for the conventional grip, but not ready or possessing the strength for the finger tip grip.
The bowling alley comes fully stocked with numerous bowling balls of various weights. Most are pre-drilled for the conventional grip as a standard. More avid bowlers may choose to purchase their own bowling ball. When purchasing your own personal bowling ball, the most important step is working with a professional to have the finger holes drilled to your personal specifications that will match the weight and core of the ball you have selected. Bowling balls are customized in appearance for the bowler as well. They often have artwork, monograms, team mascots, or logos to personalize them.
A well selected bowling ball is the greatest asset a bowler can have when playing the game. Whether it is a house ball from the bowling alley or your own personal bowling ball, feeling comfortable and in control of the ball will add confidence as well as points to your game.