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 Amazon.com
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!
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 complete beginners and children, most balls you will find for sale are made of different materials with important added advantages.
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 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 most professionals.
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 nice 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 might be a 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 Amazon.com. 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!
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.