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Choose the right bowling ball

By Michelle Mullen

One difference between golf and bowling is that in golf one is taught how to hold a club. In bowling, a grip is provided in the drilling of the holes into the ball. If the grip is poor, the bowler has to squeeze the ball with excessive pressure. A quality fit enables a bowler to relax the hand during the swing.

When the fingers and the thumb are all the way in the ball, the palm should lie across the ball with neither too much nor too little tension in the web of the thumb (figure 1.6). The holes should be the size of the fingers and thumb. You should be able to put the hand into the ball easily. The holes should not be so tight as to inhibit putting them in all the way, nor should they be so loose you have to squeeze the ball to hold on to it. With a proper fit, maintaining gentle grip pressure, without excessive squeezing, will be much easier.

Choose the heaviest ball you can throw without compromising your ability to have a full, relaxed arm swing, good speed, and a firm wrist at the release. A general rule is to throw 1 pound of ball per 10 pounds body weight, then add 1 pound. For example, a typical 120-pound bowler would consider throwing a 12- or 13-pound ball. There are exceptions, because physical strength and skill also need to be taken into consideration.

Once identifying the ball weight this formula suggests, you can further choose a ball of the proper weight by extending your arms in front of you and having another person place the ball into your hands (figure 1.7). The weight should not pull you off balance or make you lose your posture. Then try a heavier ball. Use the heaviest weight that does not compromise your body position.

Although a heavier ball can have more power on impact at the pins, more weight is not always better. Using a weight that causes you to labor over a good pushaway or letting the ball swing will compromise the power, speed, and consistency of the swing itself. Maintaining good ball speed is important. Your ability to handle the ball’s weight is critical at the beginning of the swing, or the pushaway (see chapter 2). Allowing the weight to swing over the full arc of the swing also requires strength. A full back swing is integral to power and ball speed.

Finally, it takes strength to maintain a firm wrist position at the release. Frequently, bowlers who begin to throw the ball with more speed decide immediately to increase ball weight without realizing the effects that ball weight has on the wrist position and release.

Professional bowlers have both good speed and a strong wrist action to create revolutions. And many professionals do not even throw 16-pound balls because of the effect ball weight has on the wrist position and release, proving that more is not always better!

Purchase Your Own Bowling Ball At your local bowling center, the “house” balls come in various weights and sizes and are generically produced to accommodate the masses of recreational bowlers. If you bowl on a regular basis, owning a ball is an advisable option because the ball is personalized to suit your hand. You’re more likely to have a ball with the appropriate fit and weight if you purchase one. The right weight and fit facilitate proper grip pressure, leading to a better swing and better overall performance.

When you go to a reputable pro shop for a personalized fit, not only will the span and hole size be tailored to your hand, but so will the angles of the holes as they are drilled into the ball. The angle of each hole, called pitch, is contoured to compliment both the length and flexibility of the hand. Correct pitches not only provide better comfort but also aid in your attempt to apply only sufficient, not excessive, grip pressure.

If you purchase your own ball, you can make sure the cover of the ball is of good quality. For a ball to be able to hook, it must create friction with the lane. The cover of the ball determines the amount of friction the ball will create on the lane. The lane is covered with oil, which makes the ball slide. The more oil there is on the lane, the stronger the cover of the ball needs to be to create friction with the lane. When throwing a hook—imparting spin on the ball at the release—you want to throw a ball that is able to create enough friction to hook. Different bowling balls have different hook potentials.

To understand hook potential, think of bowling balls as tires on a vehicle. Some tires have more tread than others to create friction with the road. Plastic balls (figure 1.8a) are like bald tires; that is, they have very little tread on them, so they create little friction with the lane. Performance balls (figure 1.8b) have urethane covers that contain reactive resin, an additive that makes the ball grab the lane better and hit the pins harder. Reactive resin balls are like tires with good tread on them; these balls create more friction on the lane the way good tires create better traction on the road. Thus, they are considered more aggressive than plastic bowling balls. Reactive resin balls come with various “treads” on them, depending on the amount of friction a bowler wants to create on the lane.

Having a ball with the right amount of hook for the way you throw the ball is important. There is a trade-off point when it comes to control, so more friction is not always better. Think about how comfortable you feel when you see the ball hook and how much hook you like to see. Consulting a reputable pro shop to purchase the right ball with a good fit is a great option if you have the budget for it.

If you bowl regularly, a plastic ball that fits you is better than just any house ball. An entry-level performance ball is an even better option for creating enough friction on the lane to see the ball roll more while creating better pin action on impact. Reactive resin balls hit the pins better than plastic balls do. This helps you relax the swing because you don’t feel that you have to try to make the ball hook. Eventually, a fingertip grip will be the preferred grip so that you can create more roll on the ball for better pin action.

This is an excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals.

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