How to Choose a Bowling Ball – Your Complete Guide

Everyone starts bowling as a rookie — even those who are now the pros. 

When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably be happy to settle for the house balls. Using a house ball is nothing special, but if you’re just a hobbyist it doesn’t matter too much. 

However, as you start getting a little more invested you may begin thinking about purchasing and getting your own ball drilled, either to up your game and or maybe just because you fancy owning your experience on the lanes. 

Usually, a player will buy a bowling ball as their first piece of equipment because it is, without question, the most essential item. It also has plenty of room for customization, unlike a wrist support or a pair of bowling shoes. 

Plus, you get to choose the bag as well and you can even put your name on it! How cool is that?

There are a few things you need to consider when choosing the right bowling ball. The ball weight, coverstock, and drilling are all factors that you should think about when looking to purchase your own bowling ball. 

It’s an exciting step to move from using a house ball to purchasing your own and getting a ball drilled specifically for you, so take your time browsing in your local pro shop to find the right ball for you. 

Choosing a Bowling Ball – 3 Important Things to Consider

Weight

We’ve already done an article on ball weight that we suggest you take a look at because weight really is an essential part of choosing the right bowling ball. Besides injury prevention and improving form, it can be just the simple matter of comfort that ultimately leads you to choose a certain weight. 

For example, when purchasing their first ball many people have already been bowling for a little while and decide to choose a bowling ball that is a little heavier than they feel most comfortable with. That being said, it is not recommended that you choose the heaviest ball you can possibly lift!

Many realize that having their own ball will lead them to bowl more frequently, and therefore they will build up the muscles in their arm. Plus, extra weight means more speed, and speed is one of the most important factors in hitting multiple pins. 

The USBC-approved weight range for balls is 10-16lbs (4.5-7.5kg). Some people swear by the rule that the ideal ball weight is 10% of your body weight, but that obviously can’t apply to everyone. 

It’s important to note that different weights offer varying benefits. Some professional bowlers like to have a selection to choose from during each game. 

For example, their spare ball may be a tad heavier than their striking ball. This is because a heavier ball is more likely to pick up enough momentum to nail those tricky spares with a straight shot, whereas lighter balls tend to pick up more spin.

Cover Stock

Cover stock is the material on the outside of your ball. Cover stocks are a very important factor because they decide how your ball reacts on the lane. 

There are three types of cover stocks to choose from:

Polyester

This is the cheapest and least versatile cover stock you can get. 

You’ll find these cover stocks on your average alley house ball, simply because they’re cheap all-rounders that are easy to comfortably throw. However, that doesn’t mean they’re equally amazing for each type of throw; they’re considered all-rounders because they’re predictable, have no hook potential, and are easy enough to be used by anyone. 

This plastic ball cover is recommended for beginners and straight line bowlers — which, again, is why you’ll find it on most house balls. 

Urethane

Bowling alley lanes are coated with oil to create more friction between the ball and the ground before it reaches the pin, encouraging bowlers to throw with more power. Urethane outer surface coating is designed to prevent oil absorption, ensuring a faster, more smooth bowl than the previous ball cover mentioned. 

This is quite an effective coating, yet it is slightly outdated as more experienced bowlers have preferred reactive resin coverstock since the late 80s. However, urethane balls certainly have their advantages. 

They’re a great intermediate ball, as they offer a bit more control than polyester balls and are good for hook throws. If you’re at the stage where you’re buying your own new ball, it’s likely you’re starting to attempt shots with technique and flair, so they’re definitely worth considering. 

They’re pretty durable as they’re not very porous, so they are quite resistant to oil damage. We’re a big fan of urethane balls, as their cost/use ratio is very good and you could certainly find worse at the same price point.

Reactive Resin

Reactive resin balls are essentially urethane balls that have had resin particles added to the coating, giving it a bumpy texture. This makes the balls considerably better for hook shots, although they can be very hard to master. 

Beginners should practically not even consider a reactive resin bowling ball, and some intermediate bowlers may struggle, too. We recommend leaving this one to the pros. 

Because of the bumpy exterior of the reactive resin cover stock, it will be much more reactive to the lane conditions. If you’re playing on a poorly maintained lane, this ball will be quite difficult to use correctly. 

The reactive resin does, however, give your shots greater hook potential and is by far the most sophisticated and best ball choice among the alternatives — once you’ve mastered the art of controlling it.

There are a few versions available with different amounts of particles — the more particles, the more reactive (and more expensive) the ball will be. 

Drilling

There are different types of drilling and you should go for the type that suits your game. Getting your bowling ball custom-drilled may seem like a daunting and overwhelming task, but it is important if you want a ball that truly fits you.

Generally speaking: the shallower the drilling, the more amateur the bowler. For example, most bowling balls, like your average pre-drilled house ball, will just be drilled with a conventional grip. 

If you’re looking to buy your own bowling ball and have it drilled specifically, you’re probably playing at about an intermediate level, so we recommend the ‘conventional grip’ option. Still, it’s important to take into consideration the ball’s weight.

It will be helpful to have a heavier ball drilled specifically at the depth you need to control it properly. On the other hand, a lighter ball may not need to have a deep thumb hole and deep finger holes. 

This highlights the danger of buying your bowling balls online — even a weight difference of one or two pounds can greatly affect your game. To determine your real optimum ball weight, the best course of action is to try out a variety of balls at your local pro shop. 

Often, your local pro shop will provide you with the option to have them drill the bowling ball for you, as pre-drilled bowling balls are quite rare. Sometimes a pro shop may even offer free drilling on new bowling balls. 

Wrap Up

If you follow the above-mentioned guidelines and criteria — weight, coverstock, and drilling — you should be able to create the right ball that is customized to suit your game almost perfectly.

Bowling is incredibly fun, and the most joyous part for many begins when they start introducing their own equipment into it. Customizing your gear is half the fun, so make sure to enjoy it!