What Size of Bowling Ball Should I Use?

It’s true what they say—size matters. Size AND weight. These factors play an integral role in the quality of your game. 

To understand the significance of bowling ball weight, you’ll need to know a few key figures for other areas of the game.

Bowling Industry Weights

Pins

The United States Bowling Congress sets the rules on what’s acceptable in the ten-pin bowling world and they rule that pins weighing 3lbs 6 oz (1.5kg) are industry standard, although they allow pins that weigh up to 3lbs 10oz (1.6kg). 

However, different pins for different games weigh different amounts. These include duckpins (shorter and wider than tenpins), five pins (middle height but with a rubber band around the middle to increase pin action), and candlepins, which are the tallest, thinnest, and heaviest of all, with their weight almost matching that of an industry-standard ball.

Balls

Bowling ball weight differs between men and women, as per the standards of the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). 

Women’s bowling balls tend to be lighter, and have to weigh between 10 to 14lbs each—that’s 4.5kg to 6.35kg. This is only due to the general assumption that women are smaller; there’s no maliciousness behind it.

The men’s bowling balls weigh a fair bit more. They have to range between 14 and 16lbs, which is 6.35 to 7.25lbs.

How Bowling Ball Weight Affects Your Game

Bowling ball weight makes a huge difference, as this affects how hard the ball hits the pins, the speed it’s launched at, the type of throws one can do—you name it, weight probably affects it. Now you have an understanding of this, the size of the ball comes into play, too.

People of all sizes enjoy bowling, and it isn’t a case of one size fits all—or one size fits ball—when it comes to choosing your equipment.

If you were to borrow from the alley, it’s quite slim pickings. 

Usually, they have four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large. Occasionally, there will be an Extra-Small or even an Extra-Extra-Large, but these are few and far between. 

Also, the human hand doesn’t usually need a ball outside of the standard range on offer here, so you’ll probably be fine.

3 Things to Remember When Buying Your First Ball

1. Weight

As mentioned above, the ball’s weight is the most important factor. Some prefer to stick to the light balls for more control, while others like the heavier options. 

Heavier gives you an advantage when you get better as this is what the intermediate players tend to use, but it’s entirely your choice.

2. Diameter

Every ball in a game of ten-pin bowling is created to the exact same measurement as the others. They all have a diameter of 8.5 inches with a very, very small amount of diameter difference. 

The USBC recognizes this measurement, and anything outside it would be a production error. 

You may be thinking that alley balls are often different sizes, but fear not as this is only due to them being played at an amateur level. The sizing, Extra-Small to Extra-Large, is in relation to both the diameter of the ball and the sizing between the ball holes.

3. Consistency

Getting the right weight is essential for a good game, as it ensures consistency. You’ll get used to the size and weight so you can alter your throw for the next frame. 

If your throw was too heavy-handed, you know that you simply need to be a bit gentler next time. However, if you change the ball weight, that’s a lot more to factor in, too.

How to Know if Your Ball’s Too Heavy

This is very simply answered. If your body is aching or sore after spending time on the lanes, then something’s wrong, and you should probably go down a size. 

This may seem trivial, but there can be some serious injuries, such as pulled muscles, tennis elbow, a sprained wrist or back pain. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to sport elbow braces because of injuries resulting from wrong ball weight.

You’ll also notice your throws getting a lot slower, as the heavier weight will take its toll on your body. All of these are very easily avoidable, and the benefits of using a bowling ball with the right size and weight are endless. 

It’s not all about sheer power, the technique is essential, too.

You can always work your way up to the heavier weights if you still want to use them. 

It’s like going to the gym. You wouldn’t fill out the weights on the bench press on your first time; you build up to them. It’s the same principle.

Wrap Up

There’s a lot more to the size of the bowling ball than you’d think. Weight, throwing technique, injury prevention—an awful lot of things go into making the right decision. 

Although it isn’t in everyone’s budget, I recommend getting your own ball rather than using the ones at the alley. As I mentioned in another article, they are heavily used, and probably don’t differ between lanes. 

For more information, it’s worth looking into the different types of pins for other USBC regulations and variations on the game.