One day a few weeks ago, I was watching a couple of league bowlers practicing before league. One of the bowlers bowled one game with a plastic Taboo Spare Ball. He bowled a 240 game. This indicated to me that the lanes were pretty dry, allowing enough friction for the plastic ball with its dynamic core to deliver plenty of energy to the pins.

The next game I watched as the bowler switched to a Storm Sync, a very powerful ball, and tried to play the same line he had used with the plastic ball. There was so much friction in that part of the lane that the Sync, despite its power, hooked very little. It was losing too much energy. Seeing this, the bowler pulled out an Abralon pad and added more surface to the Sync in an effort to get the ball to hook more. He thought the ball was not hooking because there was too much oil so he added surface to increase friction.

Each of us is made up of a series of beliefs. Our beliefs affect the way we choose to live our lives. Every bowler also has a series of beliefs and those beliefs affect the way we bowl. Following are some common beliefs that contain significant flaws. They have come to be based on the rapid rise of technological changes in bowling over the past 20 years or so. Hopefully, you will consider and, perhaps, reconsider these beliefs with the result being an overall improvement in your bowling.

1) The ball doesn’t hook because there’s too much oil on that part of the lane

In the past, prior to the introduction of bowling balls made using reactive resins and containing dynamic cores, it was primarily the ability of the bowler and the efficiency of his release that determined how much the ball would hook – if at all. Adjusting in the old days was a simple thing: you just played along the oil line, looking for friction to the outside and oil to the inside to give you access to the pocket and a chance to strike.

In those olden golden days, if your ball didn’t hook enough it was one of two things: either you didn’t release it correctly or there was too much oil on that part of the lane to provide the necessary friction to allow your ball to hook. When you didn’t have adequate friction for the ball to hook, you moved to the outside to find more.

When modern balls were first introduced, your options were pretty much the same, though as time passed you also had the added option of changing balls to one with more surface. Then, as balls became stronger and stronger in terms of both cover materials and core dynamics, things began to change.

Balls today soak up more oil than ever and, as testing has shown, carrydown has virtually become a thing of the past. Today when a ball ceases to hook, it is usually a case of too little oil causing too much friction and a loss of energy that causes the ball to straighten out. This lack of hook is often misperceived as a signal that a more aggressive ball is needed or a move to the outside is called for when, in fact, just the opposite is true.

2) The cover of the ball accounts for 75 percent of ball reaction

Before the introduction of reactive resin balls with dynamic cores in the 90s, this was a true statement. Consider that all there was in balls without cores was the cover and the static weights. The cover material and surface texture accounted for at least 75 percent of ball reaction.

Today, with dynamic cores within the ball to create huge imbalances, the cover takes on a different role. Don’t get me wrong. It is still very important. It is important because the surface of the ball is the only thing you can easily change to adapt a particular ball to a particular lane condition.

If you still believe that the cover accounts for 75 percent of ball reaction, your ability to change balls as the lanes change will be severely compromised. I often see bowlers make ball changes based solely on cover and surface. The changes simply don’t work because the core dynamics of the ball makes it do the opposite of what’s intended. If, for instance, a bowler sees his ball begin to hook too early and changes to a ball with less surface that happens to have a lower RG, the change will not have the desired effect of creating more length, but will still hook early as the lower RG cancels out the surface change.

3) Static weights are important in determining a layout

Finger weight, thumb weight, positive side weight, and negative side weight are all expressions used to describe static weights. They are called static weights because they are the weight imbalances measured when the ball is not moving using a Dodo scale.

Before balls were made with dynamic cores like they have today, bowling balls were made using three pieces: a cover, filler material, and a small pancake-shaped weight block used to offset the weight that would be removed when drilling the holes. Ball drillers would use these surface imbalances to manipulate ball reaction as much as they could within the American Bowling Congress rules. Those rules, still in effect today, allow one ounce of static weight imbalance between the finger and thumb, one ounce of imbalance between the positive and negative sides, and three ounces of imbalance between top and bottom. The effect to ball reaction was minimal.

When dynamic cores began to appear in bowling balls in the 90s, new imbalances, huge in comparison to static imbalances, began to appear. These imbalances cannot be measured when the ball is in a static state and have a huge effect on ball reaction.

To illustrate the magnitude of these dynamic imbalances, I took an actual core I had obtained from a pro shop several years ago and weighed it. It weighed 3.4 pounds. By calculating the difference in area of the top half of the core and the bottom half of the core, I was able to determine that the difference in weight between the top half and the bottom half of the core was 7.6 ounces: nearly half a pound! (See figure 1)

To give you a visual demonstration of the static imbalance and the dynamic imbalance, I have placed U.S. quarters that weigh one ounce next to a can of water chestnuts that weighs eight ounces (the label has been changed to protect the innocent – namely me!) (See figure 2). You can see that one ounce of static weight (the quarters) would have much less of an effect on ball motion compared to the half a pound of dynamic weight imbalance.

4) Strong ball/weak drill – weak ball/strong drill

This old adage is still true for the professional bowlers who originated it. The high speed, high rev players bowl on lane conditions that often necessitate the use of very strong, high end bowling balls with very strong cover materials. Bowlers with these very powerful releases can take full advantage of the dynamic weight imbalances created by the cores. These dynamic weight imbalances are often too much in the hands of these powerful bowlers, hence their tendency to downplay them by using weaker layouts in stronger balls.

figure 1

Figure 1. The difference in the weight of the top half of this actual weight and the bottom half is approximately 7.6 ounces, nearly half a pound.

Let’s take a look at this in relation to the typical high average house bowler. The single most common mistake I see these bowlers make is in using a ball that is too strong for the typical house condition. What’s wrong with that? Consider. Taking a strong ball with a strong cover and drilling it weak results is a ball that quickly loses energy when thrown in the track area, resulting in loss of carry.

Another result that is not so quickly apparent is that these balls with stronger covers absorb oil at a much faster rate than weaker balls with lower absorption rates. This dries the lanes out much faster, which necessitates more frequent and larger moves to stay in the oil.

As a radical suggestion for house bowlers, how about trying a weak ball with a strong layout that will allow you to play in the track area longer and, as an added benefit, will save you lots of money on equipment?


Figure 2. The five quarters on the left weigh one ounce. The can of water chestnuts weighs eight ounces, approximately the weight difference between the top and bottom halves of the core pictured.

5) Better bowlers adjust rather than changing balls

Translated this means, “I’m afraid I can’t learn all this technical stuff about modern bowling balls, so I’m going to stick to my old, safe ways.” I have said it before and I will, undoubtedly, say it again. In modern bowling, changing balls is an adjustment and for many, many house bowlers it is the easiest and most effective adjustment. The only caveat is that you have to understand your bowling balls. If you change balls to see what the new ball will do, you are not adjusting, you are fishing.

6) You can’t out bowl a bad ball reaction

This statement is absolutely true; in fact, it is the mantra of modern bowling. Unfortunately, many bowlers don’t really understand what it means. When the ball in your hand is not the “right” ball, it doesn’t mean that you can’t strike with it; it means you have to throw it perfectly to strike. When the ball in your hand is the right ball, you don’t have to be perfect, particularly on a house shot. So, how do you determine what is the right ball on any given day?

The first thing you need to do is utilize the warm-up/practice time to observe your ball reaction. By ball reaction, I don’t mean how many strikes you throw. We can all throw lots of strikes in practice. What I mean is that you watch the way your ball goes through the pins in practice. The right ball is the one that enters the pocket and goes straight back through the pins. The wrong ball enters the pocket and exits the pins right or left of center. Obviously, these observations require that you try two or three balls from your arsenal during practice. So much for deciding what ball you’re going to start with before ever entering the bowling center!

7) Real bowlers don’t need a separate spare ball

I really can’t figure this one out. Simply consider the fact that a great, great majority of PBA Touring Professionals use a plastic spare ball despite the fact that they can adjust their hand positions and releases to a degree most of us can’t even imagine. There must be a reason for this! If you insist on using a reactive ball and “flattening out” the shot to shoot 10 pins, then you must consider yourself on a par with Norm Duke in terms of ball control. I don’t think so!

If there is one theme that is prevalent throughout most of the seven misconceptions discussed above, it is the fact that many bowlers are not utilizing modern equipment to its fullest advantage. If you understand bowling balls, ball reaction, and lane conditions, I believe that many high average house bowlers can be more successful using lower end equipment, drilled strong to utilize what’s inside the ball as well as what’s on the surface. In other words, ball down to raise your average and save some money while you’re at it.

Rob Mautner

About Rob Mautner

Rob Mautner is a USBC Silver Level Certified Coach. Rob can be found on the lanes coaching and bowling in Las Vegas, Nevada.