Buying Your First Bowling Ball: A Guide for Beginners

Buying Your First Bowling Ball: A Guide for Beginners

Beginners, bowling ball, bowling tips, guide -

Choosing your first bowling ball can be confusing and overwhelming. There are tons of choices: Which brand should I choose? Which type of material should I pick? What type of core is best? What is hook potential and how should I choose the right one? What weight do I need? and more.    

Since this is your first ball we can eliminate of some of these questions right away. Let’s not worry about brands because most entry level balls are very similar. Also, don’t worry about hook potential, or the ball core. All of these will come later with your second or third ball. Let’s focus instead on ball type, ball weight, and grip.

Choosing the ball type

The first question you’ll want to ask yourself is, “What type of ball am I looking for?” We can answer that easily by asking a second question: “Are you learning to hook the ball or throwing it straight?”

If you’re throwing it straight you can choose a polyester ball, also referred to as a spare ball or a plastic ball. Polyester balls usually range from $50-$99 and are great if you’re just bowling with friends and want to have your own custom ball.

If you are learning to hook the ball or want to learn, you can go with an entry level performance bowling ball. Entry level balls are a step up from the polyester balls.

These balls usually range from $79-$130. A bit of advice: if you’re at this level, don’t get talked into buying the newest “best hooking ball” for $190 or more. You don’t need it yet. 

Choosing the weight

Once you’ve found the perfect ball, you’ll need to find the perfect weight. This is probably the most common concern when selecting a first ball. One thing to consider before choosing the weight is that you’ve never used a ball drilled specifically for your hand/fingers and for this reason most people assume they need a lighter ball than they actually do. The reason for this is that most house balls have very large finger holes and very short spans which causes the user to tightly grip the ball. A ball drilled to your hand and fingers will feel about two pounds lighter than your average house ball.

An easy way to help you choose is to go to the alley pick up a few balls at various weights that you can comfortably throw. Test them out by bowling a game. Whichever weight is the most comfortable and the easiest for you to swing, take that weight, and add one or two pounds and buy that weight.  


Choosing the grip

Now that you have the perfect ball and weight, you’ll need to decide if you want to use a conventional grip or fingertip grip. Most house balls are drilled for a conventional grip. Conventional grip means you’ll put your thumb all the way into the ball and your middle and ring finger in to about the second knuckle.  A fingertip grip means the thumb goes all the way into the ball and your middle and ring finger go into about the first knuckle.

If you decided to go the the fingertip grip route, you’ll need to decide if you want to use inserts.  Inserts are “plugs” that go into the finger holes of the ball and come in variety of colors and shapes to fit an individual.

Why would you want Inserts? It helps create more friction/drag with your thumb out of the ball which makes it easier to apply extra rotation or in other words, it helps create more revolutions which can create more power.  

Why wouldn’t you  want Inserts? If you bowl often you may have to replace them regularly or maybe it gives you too much lift. Either way you go, it’s a preference thing, one is not better than the other.

Quick tip for the choosing the grip type. If you’re  going with polyester/plastic for your first ball, I would recommend the conventional grip. If you’re leaning to hook, I would recommend the fingertip grip with or without inserts.  

Getting the ball drilled.

The best course of action here is to consult your local pro shop. You can probably find a pro shop inside the nearest bowling alley. The pro shop owner will usually watch you throw a few balls to scope your style. This is because every everyone is different and watching you bowl will help determine the drilling layout that is right for you. Next, you’ll need to get your fingers and span measured. This is done by simply using a measuring ball which they’ll have at the pro shop. Now that you’re all measured up, it should take a day or so for your ball to be ready if the pro shop owner isn’t backed up. 


Using the new ball for the first time.

Now that your ball is drilled and ready for use, you’re probably very excited to use it. Since you’ve never had a custom bowling ball that is drilled specially for you, the finger holes will feel  tighter than you’re used to. This is normal, it just takes some getting use to. For your first few shots, go slow to get accustomed to the finger holes and weight.

Now, go enjoy your new custom bowling ball!

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  • David Dobson

    I love to bowl and i bowl about 9 game a week at a local AMF and they use Smart balls which i think is similar to House balls. I am 6’0” 180 and use a 10 pound ball and have lots of hook. I average 130-175 with a high score of 197. As you can tell it’s just not consistent. The alley has medium oily lanes i think. Please help me out, I’m looking for a good ball! Thanks

  • Dennis

    I ‘m looking to joint a balling league. I haven’t bowled in over 30 years, I used to have 165 average, I looking to buy new bowling ball, I don’t what yrp of ball to buy.

  • Mort

    What if, while using the standard balls at the alley, you already have a hook (came fairly natural due to body mechanics) that took a while to get a handle on. What ball combination would be recommended? I am a beginner but enjoy bowling and our town just got a new alley and planning more visits and am looking to get a ball but definitely don’t know what to get since with the plastic balls at the alley, I already hook. It breaks late and hard. I keep trying to tame it down some but my arm and mechanics don’t really want to allow it. Weight of the ball I know is very important and I bowl with a 12lb ball, mostly due to a shoulder injury.

  • Matthew

    I’m looking for a new ball I average around 190-200 I’m looking for a ball that is an upgrade from Columbia 300 throttle up ball that has a more of a reaction and hooks any help would be grateful

  • Bing Gutzi

    I’ve been using a brunswick slingshot ball for threw years and I am very comfortable using it. It weighs 12 pounds but now I am considering ti get 13lbs. I wanted ti buy anither slingshot but I also want to know which balls have the same potentials. Please help

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