Do you prep the surface of your bowling ball? Do you use abrasive pads to change ball motion? Do you try to manipulate the most important factor in ball motion? I certainly do. All of the information I have read and that I have been taught states that bowling ball surface management is critical to keeping my game at the highest level possible. In fact, in 2008, the USBC investigated eighteen variables in a study of ball motion and found that the top three most important variables were related to surface roughness or texture.
In this article, I will share what I have learned from exploring surface management using a scientific approach with a laser surface profiling instrument. What I learned in this study opened my eyes and mind to re-examine my prior assumptions. I hope you will begin to look at surface management in a different light after reading what I have learned.
The device used in this article’s studies was the Ball Surface Scanner produced for Jayhawk Bowling Supply & Equipment, Inc. by Precision Analytical Instruments, Inc. It is a device that uses a laser to scan the surface of the bowling ball and calculate its roughness. Bowling ball surface analysis is its only function.
The device’s laser takes about 40,000 measurements around the circumference of the bowling ball. The ball can be placed in any configuration on the rotating cup: holes up, down, side, etc. During this study, I used one placement for consistency: my choice was thumbhole to the left, holes up.
I will not bore you with too much unnecessary technology discussion, but understanding the characteristics of a ball’s surface requires knowledge of what the analyzer measures. Two measurements are made by the device: groove depth (Ra) and groove spacing (RS). Ra represents the average peak-to-valley depth of the grooves and RS represents the average peak-to-peak spacing. This is illustrated below.