How to Choose a Bowling Ball – Your Complete Guide

Everyone starts bowling as a rookie—even the pros. 

When you’re first starting out, you’ll be happy to settle for the house balls. They’re nothing special, but you’re just a hobbyist so it doesn’t matter. 

However, you might start getting a little more invested and start thinking about getting your own ball, both to up your game and just because you fancy owning your experience on the lanes. 

Usually, a player will buy their bowling ball as the first piece of equipment because it is without question the most essential item and it 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 which you can put your name on. How cool is that?

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

It’s exciting and quite important, so take your time.

Choosing a Bowling Ball – 3 Important Things to Consider

Weight

We’ve already done an article on ball weight that you can take a look at, but it really is essential to choose the right weight for your own ball. Besides injury prevention and improving form, it can be a simple matter of comfort that ultimately leads you to choose a certain weight. 

When I bought my first ball, I’d been bowling for a little while and I chose one that was a little heavier than I felt most comfortable with. 

This is because I knew having my own ball would lead me to bowl more frequently, and therefore I’d build up the muscles in my 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), and somewhere around 14lbs is my preference. Some people swear by the rule that the ball should be 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 bowlers like to have a selection to hand. 

For example, their spare ball maybe a tad heavier than their striking ball, as a heavier ball is more likely to pick up enough straightforward momentum to nail those tricky spares, whereas a lighter ball is easier to pick up more spin.

Coverstock

Coverstock is the material on the outside of your ball. It’s a very important factor as it decides how your ball reacts on the lane. 

There are three options to choose from:

Polyester

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

Most house balls which you’d use in the alleys have this, simply because it’s so cheap and essentially an all-rounder. However, that isn’t because it’s equally amazing for each type of throw; it’s an all-rounder because it’s predictable, no hook potential, and easy enough to be used by anyone. 

This comes recommended for beginners and straight bowlers.

Urethane

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

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

They’re a great intermediate ball, as they are good for hook throws. If you’re at the stage where you’re buying your own 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. I’m 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 ball considerably better for hook shots, although they can be very hard to master. 

Beginners should practically not even consider these, and some intermediate bowlers may struggle, too. Leave this one to the pros. 

Because of the bumpy exterior, they are much more reactive to the lane conditions. If you’re playing on a poorly maintained lane, this ball will be quite difficult to get some good use out of. 

They are, however, extremely good for hook shots, and by far the better choice above their alternatives.

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

Drilling

There are different types of drilling and you should go for the one that suits your game. Getting your bowling ball custom-drilled is important if you want a ball that truly fits you.

Generally speaking: the shallower the drilling, the more amateur the bowler. If you’re looking to buy your own ball though, you’re probably intermediate level, so I would recommend the ‘conventional grip’ option. 

The vast majority of ball stockists will provide you with the option to drill the bowling ball too, as balls very rarely come pre-drilled.

Wrap Up

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

Bowling is incredibly fun, and the most joyous part for me was when I started introducing my own equipment into it. Customizing your gear is half the fun, so make sure to enjoy it!