Ball Selection Tips

How to Select the Right Bowling Ball
It’s a familiar dilemma. With literally hundreds of possibilities from dozens of ball manufacturers who all release new pieces every month or two, it can be extremely overwhelming when it comes to picking a ball for you. Whether you buy several new balls a year, or only one every few years, it has become an increasingly frustrating and worrisome process. Which ball is right for me? What if I spend $200+ only to find out I don’t like it? What things do I need to consider when selecting a new ball? Hopefully this will serve as a guide to help you get as close as possible to getting the ball you envision.

First of all, if you’re confused and maybe slightly embarrassed about it, don’t be. Even as familiar as I am with everything that’s out there and everything that is just a few weeks from being released, more often than not it’s a difficult decision that I can think about for months before actually putting holes in something. It can be hard just narrowing it down to what company you want to purchase from, let alone the specific ball. When you have a general idea of what you want, how do you nail down the specifics? How do you know if you’re even identifying the right criteria? Understanding ball reaction, your game, and the conditions you’re bowling on is more important than it ever has been.

Most importantly perhaps, is finding a good pro shop with a knowledgeable operator. Someone who knows what they’re doing will cut the guesswork and your nerves dramatically. Just like a plumber, electrician, or any kind of service technician, it’s their job to take the pressure off of you by being proficient in their field. Bowling can be a counter-intuitive sport, meaning that things aren’t always what they appear to be. A ball that looks like it’s just not hooking can actually be hooking too much and burning up. Hook is not strictly the movement you see the ball make on the backend. This is why sometimes a less aggressive ball will appear to cover more boards than a more aggressive ball. It’s the pro shop operator’s job to be able to interpret all this information correctly in order to get you what you’re truly after.

If your pro shop operator happens to be an hour or more away, or if you have just begun doing business with them, they will likely be unfamiliar with how you bowl and what conditions you bowl on. Most helpful to them would be a video of you bowling, with you playing your preferred line at the center you bowl at the most. This will give them tons of pertinent information, and leave only the specifics for them to determine. What you believe you want, and what the operator sees that you need may be two different things. Remember, what the ball looks like it’s doing to you may not be the case, and more often than not the operator has to go off the information you’re giving him. For instance, if you say you want a ball that hooks a lot, the operator will automatically start thinking Storm Vivid, Motiv Raptor Talon, DV8 Endless Nightmare, etc., when your idea of hooking a lot is the motion you can see on the backend, which would prompt the operator to select or consider balls like the Motiv Primal Rage, Hammer Absolut Curve, or Storm Byte.

Knowing your personal specs or having your operator find them is also very important for a few different reasons. One is to make sure that the layouts, or where they put your fingerholes on the ball, will give you the best possible reaction from whatever ball you choose. The other is to determine what kind of balls you should be looking at in the first place. Layouts are simply meant to fine tune ball reaction, because ball design and surface will dominate layout, though if you can get the two to complement each other, you will get very close to your ideal reaction. For instance, if you are a high speed, low rev player, your operator will most likely try to match you up with more aggressive equipment with earlier rolling layouts, and if you’re a high rev, low speed bowler, they will steer you towards less aggressive balls with weaker layouts. The information you will need to provide or that your operator will need to obtain are your positive axis point, or PAP, your ball speed, rev rate, angle of rotation, and axis tilt.

Just as important, however, are the conditions and surface you bowl on. Lane conditions play a huge part in ball selection and layout, because even if you are a high speed, low rev player, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need aggressive equipment like I indicated above. If you are on a very dry, short lane condition, even with your high speed, aggressive equipment may still burn up and roll out. It may even be as simple as a surface adjustment with a high grit, or even polishing a more aggressive ball to still get early roll without early hook or removing as much oil from the lane. However, if the lane condition is oily, the operator may need to go even more aggressive than they usually would.

If you aren’t able to take video to show your operator, or if they aren’t able to watch you bowl, how do you obtain all this information and correctly identify and interpret what you want out of a ball? It may be frustrating to hear people say to get out your video camera, or bowl at a center with a CATS system if you don’t have access to either of those. Sometimes the best you can do is get estimates as accurate as possible. Find a good bowler in your area or in your league and ask them how they would evaluate you in normal terms, such as high speed/revs, low speed/revs, etc., and ask them how they would describe the lane conditions you bowl on. You may even be able to ask your center for a printout of the lane condition, and ask what type of surface they have (wood, Brunswick Anvilane, AMF HPL, etc.). Let your operator know what kind of a ball reaction you prefer, whether early and smooth, or long and snappy. More exact numbers and information will always be preferred, but if you simply aren’t able to get the information or don’t know, your operator should be able to use their experience and knowledge to get you very close.

This information should get you a good start on being able to better select a bowling ball. There will also be a follow up article on reading ball reaction. It’s sometimes very difficult to interpret, but there are a few key things to look for and consider that will help you see what your ball is REALLY doing. Reading ball reaction correctly is very important in determining what kind of ball you need to purchase, especially depending on whether the ball purchase is to fill a void in your arsenal or replace an older ball.