Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tips for Bad (Beginning) Bowlers: Stop using house balls

Disclaimer: The bowling advice that follows is very likely not good advice. Readers read at their own risk. The Bowl Movement Corporation assumes no liability for bowlers attempting to implement said advice.

Now, I am going to get all high and mighty and act like I actually know something about bowling. Why should a guy who is pleased when he rolls 140 provide actual bowling advice? Well, it's pretty simple really. There is a lot of bowling advice out there, but it usually geared for folks who are at a more advanced level. This is segment is intended for folks who are in their first few seasons of league and are interested in advancing quickly. I am in my 4th season of league bowling now. In my first season, I averaged 135. In my second, 128. Now, I am bowling in the mid-160's. I have gone through many phases from complete loser to sort of looking like I know what I am doing. At this point, I feel like I have a soap box to stand on, even if it is a short one. I struggled through three years on my own, so I figured I'd share a few things I've learned along the way.

So, if you decide you might want to bowl regularly, it's time to stop using house balls. There are many ways in which expensive custom bowling balls differ from house balls, but for the beginning bowler, most of that stuff does not matter. It does not matter if you have a ball with an asymmetrical core. It does not matter if it has some fancy cover material. So, don't go out and buy some really expensive ball. Just get your basic cheap ball. If you are interested in developing a hook, go one step beyond really cheap.

House balls are drilled with huge holes, so they can accommodate pretty much anybody who walks in from Skinny Fingers McGillicuddy to Stump Hands Johnson. Also, the heavier the ball, the greater the spacing on those fingers. The rule of thumb for choosing a ball weight is that the ball should be about 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150, you need a 15 lbs ball. Well, if you grab a 15 lbs ball off the rack at the bowling alley, you may find that it fits you well, but more likely, you'll find that either the fingers are spaced too far apart, or that you are having trouble just holding onto it. When you bowl with a house ball, you do a ton of work with your hand just making sure that you don't lose it on the back swing. That hand and finger strain is just plain annoying and makes the game a lot more difficult than it should be. So, many people naturally gravitate toward balls that are too light.

When you buy your own ball, make sure you have it drilled at your local alley. If a ball is custom fit to your hand (a surprisingly sophisticated process), it will feel more comfortable than you can imagine. The best thing about it is that the weight just disappears. If you used a 12 lbs house ball, you will find that a 14 lbs custom ball will be no problem. You will not have to work hard to hold onto it. So, the best reason to get your own ball is that you can get one of the proper weight that is not difficult to throw.

Now for the downside. I was pretty excited when I got my first ball, and it fit really well. When they drilled it, they asked me if I was going to throw a hook. I told them that I wanted to develop one. At the time, I was bowling straight on. Well, if you want to throw a hook, it's tough to do with a house ball because most people sink their fingers deep into the finger holes, typically up the second knuckle. If you want to throw a hook, you are going to want to develop a finger tip grip, in which the fingers are only inserted to the first knuckle. The torque on a hook shot comes from the rotation of the fingers after the thumb has been removed.

This is how I had my first ball drilled. It was a huge change in grip, and my average dropped seven pins just trying to figure out how to throw the ball straight with that grip. It is a very different animal. I struggled this way for quite some time, but eventually it paid off. So, when you get that shiny new ball, don't expect it to pay immediate dividends. You might struggle with it initially, but trust me, once you have used your own ball for a month or two, you will never want to use a house ball again.

1 comment:

  1. If any of you are interested in straight-ball bowling, how not to bowl in general, and high fashion:

    I will be hosting a clinic tonight in L-town, while the rest of the Movements will be displaying the style and skill that has made them famous.


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