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A Guide to Your First Bowling Ball: Why to Buy One and How to Choose the Right One

Although beginners often get by using the house balls provided by the bowling alley, there are many reasons why getting your own ball is an excellent idea.

Simply put, a ball of your own is a must if you want to significantly improve your game. This article will outline what your own fitted bowling ball will do for you, and how to choose the right one. Browse popular balls on

The Advantages of Having Your Own Bowling Ball

Finger Holes Drilled Precisely to Your Hand = Consistency

The most significant advantage is that your own custom bowling ball will be drilled to fit your hand perfectly. If you’re relying on house balls, the finger holes will never be quite the same from ball to ball, and this variance makes it much harder to develop any consistency in your stroke.

If you use the bowling balls at the alley, the holes will be a bit too loose or tight for your fingers, or spaced too far apart for your hand size. This will lead to an improper release of your thumb and fingers and bad shots. This is a mistake that’s really your ball’s fault, not yours!

A custom bowling ball, on the other hand, is drilled so that the holes fit your hand specifically, and no one else’s. It’s a radically different feel to grip a custom-drilled ball, and once you experience it for the first time, you’ll feel much more comfortable with your swing and release. It’s much easier to make adjustments when inconsistent equipment is no longer an issue, and you’ll never want to go back to house balls!

Next we’ll outline some of the key characteristics you’ll need to know when choosing a bowling ball.

Ball Material

The house balls you will find at the alley are made of plastic, which is the cheapest material used in bowling balls. While this is often appropriate for beginners and children, especially those who bowl a straight shot with no hook, many other bowling balls you will find for sale are made of different materials with important added advantages.

Urethane Balls

Bowling balls that are made of urethane have a softer coverstock, or outer shell, which creates more friction on the lane, giving them better potential for hooking. (A hook is key to hitting strikes more consistently.) Also, the urethane ball will roll more evenly than plastic, and it will have greater pin carry at the point of impact, meaning they will knock down more pins and deflect less.

Reactive Resin Balls

Reactive resin balls are a relatively new innovation, and they feature the addition of resin particles to the coverstock on a urethane ball. This further increases the friction produced, which leads to even greater potential for hooking action. Reactive resin balls are typically more versatile; they have a strong hook on dry lanes and can also be used in oily conditions, where they will have more skid (generating significant speed).

Particle Balls

Particle bowling balls, a more recent innovation, are really just reactive resin balls with a twist: tiny pieces of glass or ceramics are also included in the coverstock, which serve to increase the friction even further. This results in even more grip on oily lane conditions, increased power and even greater hook potential. Particle bowling balls are usually reserved for more experienced bowlers, and they are the ball of choice for many professionals.

Choose from the best bowling balls on Amazon.

How Heavy Should It Be?

The right ball weight is crucial. In general, an average adult male usually bowls with a 15 or 16 lb. ball, while a female bowls with a 10-12 lb. ball. Go up in weight if you are larger or heavier, and down if you happen to be smaller in stature. A heavier ball will have the power to knock down pins, but too heavy of a ball can cause injury or negatively affect your stroke due to the excessive weight. Assuming you’ve bowled with house balls before, you should hopefully have a decent idea of what type of weight is best for you. (If not, pay close attention the next time you’re at the lanes.)

For kids, a general rule of thumb is to use one pound for each year of age. (Ex. an 8-pound ball for an 8-year-old child.)

What’s Best for a First Bowling Ball?

When you’re looking to make the move and get your first bowling ball, you’ll probably want to start with a plastic (a plastic coverstock is usually called polyester) or urethane model.

If you only have aspirations of throwing a straight ball and are on a very tight budget, then plastic/polyester is a very good choice. It will be the least expensive. Even though the cover material is similar to the house balls, you’ll have the crucial advantage of a ball that is perfectly fitted to your hand. Also, polyester/plastic balls are the most durable, due to their hard, low friction cover. Here are a couple of our picks for plastic/polyester bowling balls (click to view details):


On the other hand, if you dream of improving your bowling game and getting consistently higher scores, then a urethane or reactive resin ball is the best investment you can make. A polyester/plastic ball will not be able to produce enough friction for a strong hook, which creates the entry angle for the pocket that is required for consistent strikes. Balls with urethane and resin coverstocks, on the other hand, are specifically made with this in mind!

Urethane balls are recommended when a bowler is first learning to bowl a hook, and experienced bowlers tend to prefer them when bowling on lanes with little oil. Here a couple of our suggestions for a beginner urethane ball, at great prices (click to view details):


Where to Buy Bowling Balls

If you’re looking to get a bowling ball, there are a few places you can go. Most large department stores will have a few, but we don’t recommend going there, as they will usually be low quality. You can also go to the pro shop at your local bowling alley which which will have better balls. But overall, you’ll find the biggest selection and much better prices by shopping online.

Our recommendation is They’re the most trusted name in online retail, and they allow several different bowling retailers to use their marketplace, which drives prices way down. Using the menus on the left column of the page, you can narrow balls down by price or even the percentage of discount. You’ll find several hundred bowling balls at 50% or more off retail price!

Find your perfect bowling ball on

After you buy your ball, you will want to take it in to a local pro shop to get it drilled to your hand. All shops will offer this service for a reasonable fee, and you can talk to the pro about whether you want a fingertip or conventional grip. Most times, you will still save a significant amount of money by doing your purchasing online.

14 Responses to A Guide to Your First Bowling Ball: Why to Buy One and How to Choose the Right One
  1. […] you’ll want to have your own bowling ball. Read this article explaining why you need your own bowling ball to learn […]

  2. Harold
    October 3, 2013 | 9:59 am

    I am highly impressed with the information available to me. I purchased a bowling ball without being informed. I don’t know what it is made of but it cost a lot. It is called a Hammer. I am going to find out if it is made out of Urethane or Risn coverstock. I have yet to learn how to hook the ball but I see everyone else doing it and getting more stikes.

    I can’t wait to read more and practice more having found this site.

    Thank you
    Harold furture Pro bowler

    • Joseph (BBT Writing Staff)
      October 3, 2013 | 7:34 pm

      Thanks Harold! We’re glad you are finding our bowling information useful.

      And best of luck as you learn how to hook the ball. We have a couple of articles in our “Bowling Articles” section that should help you out.

      Definitely let us know if you have any questions.

      • Harold bush
        January 23, 2017 | 12:05 am

        My father was a professional bowler he left me his bowling ball I need it fitted for me he taught me a lot I am a good bowler to I think I would like to start bowling again that I’m retired

  3. rachely
    March 9, 2015 | 12:12 pm

    is a trusted website

    • Eric
      January 9, 2016 | 3:14 pm

      I’ve ordered from several times, they’re pretty good.

      • Recerationdaily
        November 13, 2016 | 2:07 pm

        I’ve also ordered from yups, they’re pretty good.

  4. Jess
    August 21, 2016 | 8:20 pm

    Very helpful but I need a bit more info to be better informed. I am a middle aged lady. Bowl Sunday rec league. Carry about a 130 average. I throw a 12 lb ball straight. Everyone says I should try fingertip. What ball would u recommend. Medium price range

  5. Shad Morris
    October 13, 2016 | 9:44 am

    A friend of mine really likes to bowl, and we thought it would be nice to get him a ball for his birthday. It’s interesting that an adult male usually bowls with a 15 or 16lb ball. I will have to ask him what weight he uses.

  6. Harold bush
    January 23, 2017 | 12:07 am

    He owned the Pro Shop in South Sacramento he owned a pro shop and South Sacramento he both all over the United States is name is in the newspaper

  7. Ju Ju
    February 22, 2017 | 4:31 pm

    As the author articulates here…Perfectly drilled holes awesome…optimal weight priceless

  8. Denise Miller
    April 29, 2017 | 1:18 am

    Very informative and much needed post about Choosing the best bowling balls. This article will not only help to choose the best bowling balls but also to help the beginners to identify the strength and weaknesses of their current ones

    • peter morphett
      July 6, 2017 | 11:25 am

      july 2017are you still want a16lib ball / bag / shoes / hammock ball cleaner bowling towel as a all in one all in price I HAVE GIVEN UP BOWLING UP DUE TO HEALTH I HAVE WORN DISC WITH BORN RUBBING ON BONE RING 07974252324 OR EMAIL i have 2 sets i liive in sutton surrey

  9. Bill Wimbley
    July 23, 2017 | 10:40 am

    Thanks for the tips really good info here. I do not have any bowling equipment. How do I know what to purchase? I don’t know “How” I throw the ball but my buddy says I throw a “back up a ball.” I want to learn to throw a hook ball. I am going to join a league and want a ball that I can learn and grow into quickly rather than buy a ball that I will progress past in a short amount of time.

    How do I know what ball is best for me and what should I do to determine that? Also worried about the pro shop guy selling me the top of the line stuff and I have no clue on how to use it, if that makes sense. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

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