How to Hold a Bowling Ball

Holding a bowling ball may not seem like the kind of thing you’d need to put too much thought into, but there is actually a lot to consider here. 

It’s similar to golf—if you need to hit the ball to the end of the 15th hole, you won’t use a putter. You have to consider external factors like wind or rain, and factor in distance and aim, etc.

With bowling, you need to consider the type of throw you’re doing. 

If you intend to get a strike, you’ll want to aim for the center pin at an angle, but if you’re aspiring for a spare, there are numerous approaches you can take. 

I’m here to break down the different things to consider to hold a bowling ball properly.

Finger Depth

The three standard types of drilling—standard, conventional, and finger-tip—all affect how one holds their bowling ball due to the varying levels of finger depth that are attainable. 

The more experienced the bowler, the shallower their hold will be.

It’s learning to run before you can walk, or more fittingly, learning to bowl before you can throw.

Grip

Regarding grip, the ball shouldn’t be held too loosely or too tightly, as this can affect the throw.  

Too loose will mean you release it too soon, and it will be slower and not where you intend for it to go. 

Too tight, and the ball will be released too high. This will make it hit the lane a lot harder and possibly damage it. 

Both ways are very hard to aim with, too.

There are three holes in each ball, and you want to use your thumb in the top hole, and your middle and ring fingers for the other two. This gives you a secure grip, whereas the little finger and the index finger are both too weak and could result in injury. 

Additionally, using your two middle fingers helps you to have a more balanced hand on the ball, assisting your aim.

Your two remaining fingers should be spread out straight, with the fingertips pressing against the ball. There’s no real reason for this as it doesn’t improve on grip or aim, but it keeps them out of the way and is the most comfortable position for them.

If you are prone to squeezing before release, there are many tips and tricks on how to stop yourself from squeezing the bowling ball. Remember, squeezing or gripping the ball too tight won’t do you much good.

Different Bowling Throws

As mentioned above, there is a wide range of bowling throws. Which one you want is going to affect how you throw the ball, and you bet there’s a technique for each.

Normal Throw

This one is self-explanatory. You want to hit a pin in a straight line, whether it’s the final one standing or you have the full line-up of 10 in front of you. 

Simply hold it with the instructions stated above and throw it. Good luck!

Power Stroker

A power stroker consists of a smooth release at a high speed. Pete Weber has used this technique since the very beginning, and it’s one of the main reasons he’s stayed at the top of the game for all this time.

Stroker

Stroker is a smooth, accurate throw, essentially like a sniper. 

This is the one to master if you want precision. It’s especially useful if you’re gunning for a spare or only have one pin left on the outside near the gutter.

Cranker

This is the term used to describe a throw that curves. 

A cranker is a good one to get used to if you want strikes—hitting the front and central pin on its side will push it outwards, ricocheting into the ones around it at a high speed.

Spinner

This is by far the hardest throw to master and is used very rarely. PBA Hall of Famer Tom Baker is arguably the best at it, and even he doesn’t use it frequently.

Speed Control

If you want to control your speed, you need to ensure you have a good grip to give yourself the right amount of power in the throwing arc. 

A study concluded by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) concluded that the optimal speed for best results is 17mph at the point of contact between the ball and the pins. 

Usually, one throws the ball at around 20mph. The oil on the lane becomes thinner as the ball gets closer to the pin, so there is less friction which means less speed.

Final Note

Clearly, there’s a lot more to holding a bowling ball than merely putting your fingertips in the appropriate holes. Even at this most basic level, some prefer to not use all three holes, while others use a variation on the fingers, etc. 

It’s not as simple as just picking up the ball and launching it. 

However, if you are a beginner, a lot of these techniques will be impossible until a bit further down the line when you’ve started to get used to bowling and have put in many hours at the lane. 

But, if you are serious about getting some of these specialist throws in, there’s no harm in trying. 

I recommend putting the bumpers up and giving it a go. That way, you won’t lose the ball and waste your shot—this happens often, especially with the curling shots like spinner and cranker.