Close up of finger hole in bowling ball

Are Plugged Bowling Balls Good? (Everything You Need To Know)

Bowling balls are purchased brand new without finger holes, and then drilled to a pattern that fits your specific hand and grip. But sometimes things change, or maybe you want to sell or give away your bowling ball.

A bowling ball can be plugged or drilled to fit a different grip, change the ball’s balance and behavior. Creating the right size and depth of finger holes can improve a bowler’s performance when plugging. This involves filling existing finger holes with epoxy and then drilling new finger holes. 

Before you plug or re-drill your bowling balls, everything you need to know is here. 

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​​Should You Get Your Balling Balls Plugged?

Plugged or Redrilled?

  • Re-drilling and plugging balls are common.
  • Many pros use re-drilling techniques to improve their grip. 
  • Consider the cost before filling or re-drilling. 
  • Know the stages in plugging and re-drilling.
  • Understand the pros and cons. 

Why Redrilling and Plugging Are Common?

Re-drilling and plugging balls are common at bowling centers. Re-drilling or filling a bowling ball can be done for various reasons. Some think it would improve the ball’s performance if the finger holes were relocated.

Although bowling balls have holes, they can be filled. You can either do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. If you prefer to do it yourself, you can overfill the gaps in the balls by slightly overloading them.

Professionals Use Redrilling To Improve Grip

Consider The Cost

There is no easy way to find cheap balls that work well enough to replace the ones you already have. However, before making a decision, it is essential to consider the financial implications of the purchase. 

For instance, if you are buying new bowling balls at a low price but also paying the Pro Shops for the drilling and grips, then this might not be worth it.

The pro-shop owner still has to pay for things like thumb slugs, grips, the layout and balancing of the ball, and other costs that come with drilling.

If these fees were included, the cost of re-plugging and re-drilling a ball would be around $100 or more. Check the price if you’re considering buying a used ball from another player. Keep in mind that the ball’s condition should be considered.

If the ball is in excellent shape, it will not be rounded out, and the design will be close to what it was when it was first made. Having it resurfaced can be a great way to improve its appearance.

For some people, customers would be better served if they bought a new ball with a new cover and cutting-edge technology instead of having their old ones plugged in. Or you can drill balls that are relatively close to the original pattern. 

Stages In Plugging And Re-drilling

To give you a sense of what to expect, below are some of the more general stages involved in plugging and mind for re-drilling a ball:

  • Before re-drilling a ball, the finger holes must be filled with hard or resin epoxy. It can be done at home or by a professional.
  • New finger holes are drilled using a specialized drill after the epoxy has dried. 
  • After drilling holes, sand them to ensure they are smooth. The process of filling the plugs with epoxy will take some time.

Since the ball you’re planning on throwing will be hurled at high speeds, you’ll need to ensure that it can withstand the effects of the powerful force. You can get the epoxy resin at hobby shops or online stores like Amazon.

Before filling the holes, you’ll need to seal off the edges with masking tape. Overfilling the holes will allow you to avoid having flat patches on the ball. 

You’ll also need to stock up on various tools, such as a large file, sandpaper, and a grinder. I’m not suggesting that anyone do this, so please only proceed if you’re confident.

If you’re planning on plugging your ball at home, you should also restore the coverstock. Doing so will allow you to save money on purchasing new ones. Unfortunately, the ball’s performance can decrease if the coverstock is not in good condition. It’s essential to keep this in mind as long as possible.

If you’re not confident in maintaining the coverstock properly, don’t try plugging your ball. Instead, go to a pro shop.

Pros and Cons of Plugging and Re-drilling 

Resued bowling balls cannot be used in the same way. Before you decide whether to hire a professional or yourself to re-drill it, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros

  • Cost saving
  • Improves game performance

It’s cheaper than buying new ones, and if the coverstock is in good condition, it shouldn’t affect the ball’s performance. If the ball’s core constantly gets damaged, it can hurt how well it works.

Purchasing a used ball instead of a custom-fit one can save you money. Many prefer to buy a pre-owned ball online, refitted and plugged into their desired grip size and specifications.

Modifying a bowling ball can significantly improve your game. It can be done in various ways, such as by altering its hole angle, depth, and placement. These adjustments allow you to play with various grips, which can improve your game.

Cons

  • Can’t use once damaged
  • Plugging needs expertise
  • It can cost more sometimes

If the coverstocks of bowling balls break or get damaged when they are drilled and filled repeatedly, the balls will no longer work.

While it’s fun to fix a bowling ball’s plug and holes, it’s essential to remember that doing so can be dangerous. It could break its balance and be unusable if you don’t know how to put the ball together correctly.

After you have re-drilled and plugged your ball, it will be unusable for a long time. The balls exposed to epoxy will need to cure for a while to survive the play’s wear and tear.

Also, a new set of drill bits and a new plug for a bowling ball might cost more than buying a new one. Doing so could also lead to a considerable price increase.

What To Consider In Plugging Bowling Balls

  • Price matters
  • Core location
  • Balls’ good condition
  • Expert opinion 
  • Types of resin
  • Performance
  • Preferred spin axis (PSA) and gravity
  • Weight

Price

As mentioned, the price is one of the essential factors you should consider when choosing a professional to fix or re-drill your bowling ball. The cost of doing this can range from $40 to $60, depending on the pro shop. If you’re not regularly visiting the same place, you should ask if they offer similar services.

Even though drilling and plugging the same holes over and over again can weaken the coverstock, it’s cheaper to do that than to buy new ones. Doing so can lead to core damage and cracking on the ball. After modifying the core, the structure of the ball will never be the same.

Core Location

If you plan on re-drilling or plugging your bowling ball at home, ensure you know where the core is located. Doing so can damage the ball if you don’t know where it is.

If you don’t think you can keep the coverstock in good shape, you shouldn’t try to plug your bowling ball. Re-drilling the holes in it is also perfectly acceptable. However, since your hands are different, you might want to try this if you have an old one as a present.

Good Condition

Unfortunately, not all bowling balls can be refilled and drilled successfully. If you’re planning on buying a used ball that you can plug and re-drill, make sure it’s in excellent condition.

The first step in getting the coverstock back to its original condition is to plug it in. Although it might look like a new ball, it’s important to remember that not all used bowling balls are made the same. If it has minor damage, such as a crack, or nick, it’s not worth the money to have it refilled and drilled.

Expert Opinion

Make sure to get your bowling ball examined by a professional shop, as this will require a lot of work and equipment. Before you get your bowling ball re-drill, make sure to speak with an employee or owner of the shop that will be handling it. Explain to them why you want to have it re-drill and how you’re hoping to get the most out of it.

Although it’s possible to re-fill and re-do your bowling ball, it’s not recommended unless you have the necessary equipment and experience. Doing so could potentially ruin the ball and hurt you.

Types Of Resin

Re-filling and plugging a bowling ball depends on the resin used and how long it takes to cure. It depends on the kind of material that you’re using and how long it takes to get the resin to cure.

Performance

If you have an old bowling ball that you’re not happy with and has a weight hole that needs to be filled, you might wonder if plugging it will affect its performance. It shouldn’t be a concern if you maintain your ball’s coverstock.

The size of the weight hole and the depth of the hole can affect the way the ball reacts to specific forces. If the ball is drilled deep enough, it can remove a portion of the core, which would affect the shape of the weight block used to make up the ball’s core.

If you can inspect the weight block of your bowling ball, you should be able to determine if it has been compromised. However, if it has already been plugged in, you’ll be unable to decide how deep the hole is. If you’re planning on using it as a competitive sport, then avoid using balls that have been plugged.

Preferred Spin Axis (PSA) And Gravity 

If you’re planning on using a plugged ball, use a determinator to locate the PSA and the current center of gravity. Doing so will allow you to ensure that the ball is legal under United States Bowling Congress (USBC) standards. After locating the PSA, you can use the hanger pin to lay the ball out.

Since professional shops are known for their work on bowling balls, you must hire them to inspect and plug yours. They’ll be able to provide you with the necessary information to determine if it’s worth investing in.

If you’re not happy with the ball’s quality, contact a local retailer to see if they have a replacement. They’ll be able to help you get the ball back to its original condition.

Weight,

In addition, a bowling ball’s balance or weight hole allows a heavier ball to be brought to a more static legal weight. Many players also use it to make their balls hook.

Also, depending on the depth and width of the hole you’re drilling, the ball can remove up to 2 ounces of top weight. After you’ve drilled the hole, make sure that the ball is still the legal weight by having the pro shop weigh it.

Can You Use Plugged Bowling Balls On PBA?

The PBA has made some changes to the rulebook. One of these is the ban on wrist supports. However, another rule that hasn’t been mentioned is that, from next year, plug balls will not be allowed in the competition. If you have a plugged ball, you will have to fill the balance hole or change its span.

There are both good and bad sides to this setup. One of the main things they’re trying to avoid is that they’re unable to plug a ball in the same way they would typically do. It means that they’re trying to make it react differently. In theory, someone could just drill a hole in the ball and then plug it with a metal or something light.

Suddenly, the core has a completely different ball composition and symmetry. It is what you’re trying to avoid doing to get around the balls that will be used. 

Maybe they’re trying to get rid of the old walls so they can get rid of the balls that will be used in the future. There are also a couple of old balls that will be plugged in so you can still use them, even without the balance hole.

Other professionals also think that they’re trying to get rid of some of the old urethane balls, as a lot of them have bubbles that you won’t be able to use due to their balance. Also, part of the reason why they’re making these changes as they will coincide with the hardness tests that will be conducted on the new urethane balls.

The hardness test has revealed that some of the balls that older European players use are not the same ones used in the 1980s and 1990s. They are the ones that are being tested that are being used for three, five, or seven years. These are the ones that are being tested that are being considered too soft. 

They will try to get them out of play by either testing them with the hardness test or not making them legal. It will allow them to avoid getting disqualified. Another issue with this is that many of these balls have balance holes.

​​Does Plugging or Re-drilling Affect Performance?

  • No plugging or re-drilling will affect the ball’s performance.
  • You can improve the balls’ surface.

It’s a good question, as it increases the likelihood of getting a crack, although most of the time, no plugging or re-drilling will affect the ball’s motion or performance.

Let’s assume that the first drill was in a common area on the ball and had an average depth. They’re not going to take out enough mass from the core to affect it when you fill it in. If the first drill had a unique layout and took a lot of mass out of the core, 

The pro shop operator will want to ensure that they don’t take a lot of mass out of the core after you plug and return.

If you want to change the span, you should always use a plug or a finger. However, if you can use a different type of material, such as a slug, then go with that option. 

Also, if you’re within the first year of your warranty, then plugging could void it. For your concern about cracking, use the new materials used for plug applications. They don’t weaken the ball very much.

Improve The Ball’s Surface

Before you plug a ball, there are a lot of things that you can do to improve the ball’s surface. These include taking it to a lower grid, moving it to a higher grade, or polishing it right.

Also, if you’re planning on using a different set of balls, you might want to go to the extreme and try to hook the ball earlier and get it to hook more accurately. Doing so will allow you to sand it right and bring it to a higher setting. However, if you’re unsure if the layout will work for you, your pro shop operator might need to check it out.

Effects Of Ball Plug

Once the balance ball is used, the initial drilled state will return to around 80 percent. The size of the hole, the weight of the bowling ball, and the depth of the location are all things that will change how the plug affects the ball. Out of all of the tests we did, the average was that the plug could get up to 100% back.

The variables involved in making a ball work will vary depending on the type of ball you’re trying to make and the balance hole you’re using. For instance, if you’re trying to decrease the ball’s motion, the balance hole might positively affect the ball’s reaction.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to enhance the ball’s motion, the balance hole might have a negative effect. So, when trying to make a ball work, consider that the pro shops and consumers might see a slight increase in the ball motion after you’ve plugged the balance hole back up.

How Long Does It Take To Re-drill or Plug?

​​Depending on the skill level and the type of epoxy used, it can take up to a couple of hours to re-drill a bowling ball.

The ball plug epoxy usually hardens in around 15 to 20 minutes. After that, it will take about half an hour for you to sand and drill the holes.

A professional can quickly fill and re-drill bowling ball holes in an hour. However, before you start working on the ball, it’s essential to take your time to ensure that it’s not damaged.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Pro?

The price of re-plugging and re-drilling a bowling ball depends on whether you do it yourself or hire a pro. Bowling ball drill bits may be purchased for $56, and plugging kits can be purchased for $100–200.

For those who already have a drill, the total cost to re-drill a bowling ball at home is between $150 and $250. Though there may be additional expenses, most bowling pro shops offer re-drilling services for $50–$70.

When To Redrill or Plug The Bowling Ball

When deciding whether or not to re-drill a bowling ball, there are two main things to think about.

When maintaining your ball, you should ask yourself if it’s been re-drilled. The intended function of the ball is what you’re planning on using it for. Whether you’re hoping it will roll straight or have more significant potential for hook-up, you may have both options.

Also, check the coverstock to make sure it’s holding up. Doing so could lead to irreparable damage if the ball is in poor condition. Changing its configuration is probably not a good idea if you’re planning on using a used bowling ball. Doing so could affect its center of gravity.

If the ball you’re planning on using is in good condition, re-drilling it could be more cost-effective than buying a new one.

Causes Of Chip Or Crack

There are primarily two causes of chipping and cracking in plugs, and they are: if the ambient temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit or if the plug mass is too great, then the curing process will be overheated. 

To ensure that the plug cures properly, the room, the ball, and the chemicals must stay between 72 and 78 degrees. When patching a large hole, do so in two parts, giving the first half of the plug time to cure before moving on to the second.

How To Keep A Finished Plug From Getting Smaller?

Unfinished plug components will eventually contract after being molded or cut. It occurs when the curing process is incomplete, and the uncured epoxy experiences a secondary swell and reaction due to the frictional heat.

Sometimes, this happens while trying to seal off a small opening. To prevent this, keep a light source away from the plug material for a couple of hours after pouring it. 

It will help avoid any shrinking. Another way to seal smaller holes is to warm the plug in a cup and pour it into the opening.

What Causes The Seam Of The Plug To Separate 

If the hole’s inside is not clean, or the plugs aren’t mixed properly, the plugs will break. Before sealing the hole, use a fast-drying solvent to clean it thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and ensure a strong bond. A little sanding at the top of the hole helps seal it.

What To Do To Lessen The Bubbles

When air bubbles appear in a plug, it usually means that the mixture is overworked. To avoid this, mix the plug slowly in a figure-eight pattern. It could be better to pour it into the hole at the center.

When using this method, air bubbles can often be found at the plug’s base. To remove the air, carefully pour the plug down the side of the hole using the stir stick. If the air has been trapped during the mixing process, let it sit in the cup for around 10 minutes to allow the trapped air to escape.

Conclusion

One of the most effective ways to improve your performance is by filling and re-drilling your ball. This technique can help you bowl better and faster. You can re-do a bowling ball at home by plugging it and drilling it. 

However, it’s usually better to hire a professional to do it so that it will save you money and avoid causing damage. We hope this information will help you improve and make the most of your new ball.

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