It’s Friday night, the lanes are hopping, the pins are aglow with cosmic colors, and all you want to do is grab a ball and get bowling. But if you’re gunning for the victory, you can’t just pick the first one you see. A lot of factors go into choosing a bowling ball, and using the wrong one won’t just sink your score—it could cause an injury too.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together this guide to how to choose a bowling ball. The next time you’re picking one out, just consider these three things: the weight, the thumb hole, and the finger holes.
When considering bowling ball weight, think like Goldilocks—look for the one that’s just right. Too heavy and it can restrict the motion of your swing and leave you with sore arms. Too light and it can make you overexert yourself, plus cost you precious force. House balls usually range from about 6 to 16 lbs., with 10 lbs. and under mostly for kids, 11 to 13 lbs. good for teens, and 14 lbs. and up best for adults.
How to test it: Find an open space and test-swing balls of different weights before your game (without letting go, of course). The right ball should be light enough to swing freely but heavy enough to increase the momentum of your swing, like a pendulum.
As you bring your arm forward on the downsing, your thumb controls exactly when you release the ball onto the lane, slipping out like a latch that allows a gate to open. If the hole is too loose, the ball may drop too soon or force you to squeeze harder and throw off your rhythm. If it’s too tight, the ball may not slide off in time, instead lofting itself into a neighbor's nachos.
How to test it: Stick your thumb into the center to check the size. If it’s a good fit, you should feel the ball surround all sides of your thumb, but you should still be able to rotate it without pinching your skin.
Once you’ve found a ball with the proper size thumb hole, it’s a good bet that the finger holes will fit well too. But it’s still worth double-checking, since oversized finger holes make it harder to add rotation to the ball and create the “hook” movement that results in the best angle of attack on the pins.
How to test it: Insert your middle and ring fingers into the holes up to about halfway to the second knuckle (this is known as a conventional grip). You’ll want a snugger fit for the fingers than the thumb, since that helps with controlling rotation. If the holes are too loose, you can use bowling tape to fill them in. Or, if you’re getting serious about the sport, you may want to buy your own ball and have it custom-drilled to fit your fingers perfectly.