Bowling Ball Speed Chart & the Ideal Ball Speed

Bowlers who are relatively new to the sport often view a fast shot with a strong hook as the most ideal shot. However, they fail to grasp that a delivery that works for an experienced bowler may not necessarily work for them. 

There are strategies involved in bowling and the ideal ball speed can vary according to tactics and lane conditions.

For instance, you get more pin-carry action when you bowl a fast shot but, in turn, you compromise on the ball’s hooking potential. Likewise, a slower shot will react more to the lane and give you a great hook, but it won’t possess significant pin-carry action. 

As for lane conditions, oily lanes are often challenging for a fast bowler. Fast shots tend to skid far too much on heavily-oiled lanes, increasing your chances of missing the pocket. 

Meanwhile, dry lane conditions will require you to put in more power behind your shots. 

To determine what works best for you, you need to fine-tune your game plan and tactics according to these mentioned factors.  

What is the Ideal Bowling Ball Speed?

According to reliable research conducted by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), a release speed of 20-21 mph is ideal for a bowler. The release speed, as what the name suggests, is the ball speed generated at the point of release. 

In most cases, the ball released at 20-21 mph corresponds to 16-17 mph as it travels down the lane and hits the pin deck. The deceleration can be attributed to friction and gravity. 

Reports indicate that the corresponding speed of 16-17 mph leads to ideal pin-carry action and is, therefore, the ideal bowling ball speed. To achieve that speed at pin impact, you’d need to have an average speed of 18 mph. 

How to Measure Bowling Ball Speed? 

There are a couple of ways you can measure your bowling ball speed. You can use the automatic bowling scoring machine at the arena to identify your ball speed or get your friend to time your throws from the point of release to pin impact. 

Here’s what you need to do.

Automatic Scoring Systems

Bowling arenas around the world have automatic scoring systems that come with numerous useful features. In fact, these systems are slowly making way for a more interactive entertainment system. 

In addition to displaying the scores attractively, these scoring systems can give bowlers access to fun games, selfie grids, LED lighting that reacts to the gameplay, and the ability to create avatars and share pictures on social media platforms. 

Of course, you can also use the automatic scoring system to measure your bowling ball speed. The system uses various sensors to identify your ball speed as it approaches the pin deck. 

However, it is not capable of providing you a complete picture of your ball speed as it can’t measure the ball speed at the point of impact. In a nutshell, the scoring system can only provide you a swift estimate of your bowling ball speed and it is not completely accurate. 

Using a Stopwatch

A stopwatch can be expertly used to measure your average bowling ball speed. 

Basically, this method requires you to measure the time it takes for your ball to hit the pins from the moment of release. Then, after working out the logistics, you can get a more accurate configuration of your average bowling ball speed. 

Needless to say, you will need a friend to help you with the stopwatch.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to measuring your ball speed with a stopwatch. 

Step1

Start the time as you release the ball and stop it as soon as the ball hits the first pin. You should typically aim for the head pin. 

Step 2

Consistently aim for the head pin and repeat the first step for 5-6 throws. Remember to note the time for each shot. 

Step 3

Find the average time it took for your ball to hit the pins from the moment of release.

Step 4

Refer to a bowling ball speed chart to find your bowling ball speed.  

Of course, this method is not as perfect as the computer-aided tracking systems they use in the Olympics but it is as accurate as it can get for us.  

Bowling Ball Speed Chart 

Once you’ve recorded your average time, you can refer to the bowling ball speed chart drawn below to figure out your ball speed.

Elapsed TimeAverage Ball Speed
3.0 sec13.9 mph
2.9 sec14.4 mph
2.8 sec14.9 mph
2.7 sec15.4 mph
2.6 sec16.0 mph
2.5 sec16.7 mph
2.4 sec17.4 mph
2.3 sec18.1 mph
2.2 sec19.0 mph
2.1 sec19.9 mph
2.0 sec20.8 mph

As you can see from the chart, your ball speed increases as your time decreases. Aim to get your ball to hit the pins at around (2.3 to 2.5 seconds) from the point of release to get the ideal ball speed as reported by the USBC. 

How to Increase Your Bowling Ball Speed – Some Tips!

Here are some tips to help you increase your bowling ball speed.

  1. Accelerating your approach can help you generate more power behind your shots. 
  2. Keep your arms and legs relaxed. Tight muscles can result in a slower-paced swing.
  3. Keep the ball up high in your bowling approach. When you transition to a backswing, you will create a greater swing arc, which results in more momentum and power as you release the ball. 
  4. Heavier balls generate more power. If you want to use them properly to your advantage, train your entire body and become physically stronger.
  5. Maintain proper balance, form, and follow-through at all times. 

Summary

As I mentioned earlier, it is not always ideal to rely on fast shots. Different lane conditions and varying tactics will require you to switch up your shots. 

However, there is an ideal bowling ball speed you can aim for to improve your bowling average. An average ball speed of 18 mph is most likely to help you produce favorable results.