Understanding Bowling Ball Motion

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Have you ever watched different bowlers and wondered why some bowling balls roll differently down the lane than others? Some may plunk along the lane, seeming to bounce and rattle as they head towards the pins, while others go smoothly without making hardly a sound until they strike the pins, and then still others look like they’re going straight for the gutter, only to hook back and neatly hit the pocket. Some of the reasons for these different bowling ball motions are the results of the types of bowling balls used and how they are drilled. However, another reason is scientific and how a person throws their bowling ball.

Bowling Ball Motion

As a bowling ball rolls down the lane, it goes through different phases and transitions:

Phase 1: The skid phase

This is the first phase your bowling ball takes as it begins its travel down the lane. This is the point where you release the ball and it first touches the alley. The speed and/or strength with which you throw the ball will have an impact on the ball’s overall motion and accuracy. The ball may seem like it automatically begins to roll, but in actuality, it is momentarily in a ‘skid’ phase where it isn’t rolling, but instead skidding down the lane. This is a very short part of the bowling ball motion.

Phase 2: The hook

Even if you don’t throw a wicked hook, almost everyone throws a least a slight hook (whether intentional or not). After the bowling ball leaves the skid phase, the bowling ball motion will then go into the hook phase. While in this phase, the initial speed of the bowling ball will slow somewhat while the hooking portion itself will pick up speed, or revs. During this phase, the ball is working more on building the hook revs than the overall speed of the bowling ball.

Phase 3: Rolling bowling ball motion

The next and final phase in this bowling ball motion is the roll. The roll happens when the ball has stopped hooking and now is in the roll motion. This is when the ball also happens to have the most power and usually when it connects with the bowling pins.

Overview of bowling ball motion

The two fastest phases of the bowling ball motion are the skid and the roll phases. The skid phase is when you release the ball and set it in motion and on its way to take out the pins. As the ball skids through the oil and down the lane, it enters the hook phase.

While it may seem to the naked eye that the bowling ball is picking up speed, it is instead picking up revs while slightly slowing the speed in the hook phase. During this phase, the revs of the hook are determining where the ball will end up; which boards it will travel on so that it will hit its intended target.

After the skid and hook phase have aligned the ball, the bowling ball motion again picks up speed for the roll. This is also the strongest point of the motion when the ball has the most power and punch to hit the pins and take them out.

Common mistakes for new and intermediate bowlers

Beginning bowlers usually decide to start with a regular house ball and practice from there, even including a house ball during their games under the misconception that it will help them get the practice and grasp of the sport before they decide to purchase a bowling ball of their own. But if you plan to bowl regularly or join a league, then having the right bowling ball is worth the initial investment. Here are some basic reasons demonstrating the importance of having your bowling ball.

  • House balls are generic and you usually will not be able to find the same ball every time you practice or play a game.
  • House balls are not drilled so that the fingertips and/or grips will fit your fingers perfectly or have the correct hand span.
  • The house bowling balls are used by many different people who all throw a different way. There are usually a lot of wear and tear on the balls, including chips and worn areas that make it very difficult to bowl accurately.
  • Finding the perfect weight for your bowling ball on the house ball rack can be very difficult, especially when you need to find the right weight that includes properly fitting finger holes and palm span.

Benefits of purchasing your own bowling ball from the beginning

While some beginners or even intermediate bowlers may not feel it important enough to purchase a new bowling ball, those that are serious about the game will want to. Not only are you getting a bowling ball designed specifically for you, but you will also be able to maintain it properly and ensure consistency at least from your bowling ball.

A lot of Pro Shops provide help to those looking for a bowling ball; watching them practice and helping them to find just the right weight, balance, finger grips and so on that meets their needs and comfort zones. As a new bowler, you may not even realize that a lighter or heavier ball would be better for you, but the Pro Shop’s specialist will be able to see this and help you pick the correct ball.

All new bowling balls are measured to fit your unique finger width and depth, the palm span needed and the weight most appropriate. When you purchase your bowling ball, you will also be able to get regular maintenance performed to keep it in the best conditions, and most importantly, you will be using the same, custom bowling ball, for games and practices which will improve your game, average, and enjoyment.

Buying your first bowling ball

So you decided it is time to get your own brand new customized bowling ball. Buying your first bowling ball is something that you will always remember. It is also an experience not to take lightly. But not everyone needs to go out and buy the latest and greatest technologically advanced bowling ball out there. The bowling ball you select will be based on several factors but none of them should be based on what the hottest ball technology currently is.

Weight is everything

The weight of the ball you choose will have a great impact on your game and depend on what you are comfortable for you to handle. Men will generally have a bowling ball from 14 to 16 pounds. Women will use weights starting from 10 pounds and up. But don’t let egos dictate what ball weight you get. It’s better to go with a lighter ball if you maintain better control than to have a heavier ball without control or that will wear down your arm quickly. It’s all about control and consistency.

What’s your style?

If you have a strong forearm then you probably would be well suited to a wide hooking ball. Wide hooks require a lot of power and a high backswing. But if you are more inclined to lower back swings or less forearm strength, like me, then you want a ball with not as much hooking power. While a wide hooking ball makes for an awesome looking strike, it is harder to control. And that is the most important thing to consider. If you watch professional PBA bowler Walter Ray Williams Jr, you will see that he doesn’t have a wide hook but he is extremely consistent in the pocket.

What bowling ball has the highest hook potential?

Ball manufacturers use something called ‘differential of RG’ or just ‘differential’ to give a numeric measurement to represent the hooking potential of a bowling ball. The higher the number the higher the hooking potential or ‘flare’ as it is technically known. So, for example, let’s look at a plastic ball used for spare shots. Since plastic balls are generally the same material through and through and don’t have a core necessarily, it has a differential of 0.00. But a bowling ball with a specialized core could have a differential of 0.060 and would be considered to have a high flare rating.

Control over the ball is key

If you have no control over a specific type of ball then it isn’t the right ball for you. Control and precision are what is necessary to score high marks in bowling and not power exclusively. You still need power but it isn’t the first and foremost thing. You can’t rely on power to make that strike if you miss the pocket.

Does it fit your budget?

Now you may have no restriction on how much you want to spend on a ball. But that shouldn’t mean that you get the most expensive bowling ball on the market nor should you get the cheapest. You still want to find the right ball for you and that maybe the second most expensive ball (just kidding). But seriously, the price tag should be factored in for not only not going overboard on your ball purchase but to also not be disappointed in the bowling ball’s performance if it isn’t suited to your style.

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I’m Maryam, the girl behind Your Amazing Gift. Our guides are fully researched by our team of writers to deliver you the best information available, enabling you to make informed buying decisions.

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