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How to Choose the Right Bowling Ball


Still Life of Bowling Balls on a Shelf
Terry Vine/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Bowling with the right ball will dramatically improve your scores and consistency. For beginners, finding the right ball is often a daunting task, so you may want to consult your local pro shop or bowling-center operator for help.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Here's How:

  1. Find your ideal ball weight. Some say your ball should be approximately 10% of your body weight, up to the maximum 16 pounds. Most pro bowlers use 16-pound balls, although more than you think use 15-pounders. Another method is to add one or two pounds to the weight of the house ball you normally use. A heavier ball drilled specifically to your hand will seem to weigh about the same as a house ball two pounds lighter.

    Even with these guidelines, you should never use a ball too heavy just because you feel you should. The real ideal ball weight is the heaviest ball you can comfortably throw.

  2. Determine your ideal cover stock. The cover stock is the material on the outer surface of the ball, and is very important in determining how your ball will react to the lane conditions. There are four types of cover stocks: polyester (more commonly referred to as plastic), urethane, reactive resin, and particle. To figure out which is best for your game, see the tips below with detailed information on each cover stock.

  3. Choose your ball. Once you know the weight and cover stock you need, you can find a large number of balls online, or you can ask your local pro shop. There are differences in each category, but a conversation with a pro-shop operator or some online research should be enough to get you the right ball for your game.

    You can find a good plastic ball for $50 or even less. Reactive-resin balls start around $100 and go up from there, though some, as well as particle balls, may cost several hundred dollars.

  4. Get it drilled to fit your hand. You can find pre-drilled bowling balls, but if you’re going to use one of those, you might as well save your money and use a house ball. A ball drilled specifically to your hand gives you more control and also significantly decreases the risk of injury. Take your ball to a pro shop and have an expert measure your hand and drill your ball. Some stores will include free drilling with the purchase of a ball, but in other cases, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $30 for drilling—and it’s worth it.

  5. Be patient. When you first hold (and release) a ball drilled to your hand, you might be afraid it doesn’t fit. This is because the house balls you’re used to don’t fit. With a little practice, your new ball will prove to be infinitely more comfortable and controllable than a pre-drilled house ball.


  1. Plastic cover stocks are the way to go if you normally throw the ball straight and want to continue to do so. Almost every house ball has a plastic cover stock. This is the least expensive category, but also the least versatile.

  2. Urethane and reactive-resin cover stocks are perfect if you throw a hook or would like to start throwing a hook. These cover stocks will grip the lane better than a plastic ball, thus hooking into the pins. Urethane balls take a gradual path to the pins, hooking throughout the whole lane. Most bowlers prefer reactive resin to urethane, as the ball will cut through the oil without hooking too much, and will pick up friction at the end of the lane, hooking aggressively into the pins (this is called backend) and creating more strike potential.

  3. Particle cover stocks are essentially a hybrid of urethane and reactive resin. They have the consistent grip of urethane and the massive backend of reactive resin. Best used on oily lanes, particle balls are mainly used by experienced bowlers who know how to control the ball and react to different lane conditions.

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