Can You Adjust the Weight of a Bowling Ball?


The weight of your bowling ball is an important factor that can heavily influence your game. If you are considering trying to adjust the weight of your current bowling ball to make it lighter or heavier, read this article first. While it can be done, it may not be ideal for a number of reasons.  

You can technically adjust the weight of a bowling ball. However, adding or reducing weight from it is highly regulated by the USBC. Recently, they banned putting balance holes in balls, which was the main way to reduce static weight. Also, it’s hard to reduce or increase the weight significantly. 

This article will go over the USBC’s weight rules, why weight matters, and whether or not you can adjust the weight of a bowling ball. Then, we will look at some of the factors you should consider when trying to determine what bowling ball weight is right for you, along with other bowling ball characteristics you should take into consideration. 

What Are the USBC Weight Rules for Bowling Balls?

The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is a national bowling organization that creates the standardized rules and regulations of bowling. On their website, they go through the static weight regulations for bowling balls. Static weight is the total weight of a bowling ball and its imbalances when it’s at rest, meaning when it’s not in motion. 

A bowling ball’s static weight can be anywhere from 6 to 16 pounds (2.72 to 7.26 kg). This includes the top, bottom, finger, thumb, and side weights. Professional and league players who use balls over 10 pounds (4.54 kg) can have a max of 3 oz (85.05 g) of bottom or top weight and 3 oz (85.05 g) of finger, thumb, or side weight. This rule allows bowlers to correct any static weight imbalances that may arise depending on the ball’s layout. 

Why Does the Weight Matter? 

The weight of the bowling ball is important because it impacts how well you play. Heavier bowling balls are typically preferred over lighter ones because they have more force to knock over the pins. Ten pins weigh a whopping 32 pounds (14.51 kg), so you need quite a bit of force to knock them over! 

However, on the flip side, if you buy a ball that’s too heavy, you won’t be able to throw it with enough energy, so you won’t get the same outcome. Using a too heavy ball can also be dangerous if you aren’t able to throw it with proper form. This can lead to a host of injuries that can have a long-lasting impact on your body. 

Therefore, finding a ball that is the perfect weight for you is incredibly important. The exact weight you’ll need depends on your personal preferences, age, and strength. Additionally, if you can get a custom-made ball tailored to your hand, you may be able to go up in weight since perfectly fitting finger holes make the ball feel lighter than when you use a generic ball.  

Can You Make a Bowling Ball Lighter? 

There are two ways in which you can make a bowling ball lighter, including deepening the finger holes and creating balance holes, otherwise known as weight holes. However, these methods are generally not recommended since they typically only reduce the weight by a few ounces. Additionally, drilling too much can mess up the dynamics of the bowling ball. It is always better to downgrade and purchase a new ball at a lighter weight. 

Deepen the Finger Holes 

According to USBC rules, bowlers are allowed to have up to five finger holes on their bowling balls. The catch is that every finger hole has to be used during play. Drilling five deep finger holes into your ball can minimally reduce the weight, making your ball feel slightly lighter. 

Doing this typically will only reduce the ball’s weight by a few ounces, so if you are looking for a significant weight change, this won’t do much for you. However, if you are looking for a really tiny weight adjustment, this may do the trick. 

Create Balance Holes (AKA Weight Holes) 

Another option is to create more balance holes in your bowling ball. Balance holes are extra holes drilled into your ball that are not used for gripping (source.) Rather, these holes are used to affect the ball’s static weight and alter the ball’s dynamics, which impacts how it moves during play. To get balance holes added to your ball, you’ll need to visit a pro shop professional. 

However, if you play in tournaments or are in a pro league, adding balance holes to your bowling ball may not be such a great idea. As of August 1, 2020, balance holes were banned by the USBC. Anyone who previously competed with a bowling ball with balance holes had to plug them by this date to make them legal for tournaments.

As a side note, this rule only applies to those who bowl in USBC tournaments and leagues. If you play for fun and are solely a recreational bowler, then this rule may not apply to you. 

If you’d like to learn more about the USBC’s regulations regarding balance holes, check out this video by National Bowling Academy. In the video, bowling coaches Erik Vermilyea and Scott Pohl discuss how this rule will impact your bowling equipment and what you can expect from your pro shop now that this new rule has been implemented: 

Can You Make a Bowling Ball Heavier? 

Yes, you technically can make a bowling ball heavier by adding weight bearings to the ball. However, doing this is looked down upon by other bowlers and is highly regulated by the USBC. Altering the weight of the ball may make it illegal so that it is unable to be used in league or professional play. 

Additionally, many pro shops will not add weight to balls because of the strict rules against it and because it often results in the ball becoming imbalanced. Therefore, adding weight to your ball is probably not a great idea.  

Should I Adjust My Bowling Ball’s Weight? 

It’s not a good idea to adjust your bowling ball’s weight. Although there are ways to do it, pros generally advise against it because changing your ball’s weight can make it illegal for tournaments, or it may interfere with your ball’s dynamics. The only time adjusting your ball’s weight is feasible is if you only want to adjust it a few ounces. 

Instead of adding or subtracting weight from your bowling ball, you should buy a new one of the desired weight. While bowling balls can be expensive, it is worthwhile to buy a new one to avoid breaking USBC rules and unintendedly altering your ball’s properties when you are trying to adjust the weight. 

What Bowling Ball Weight Is Right for Me? 

When selecting a bowling ball, you should always try to use the heaviest ball that you’ll be able to throw for an extended period of time safely. Below we will give you a rough idea about what weights you should start looking at. You’ll then need to think about your overall health to determine if you should choose a lighter or heavier weight. 

Start Heavy Then Reduce the Weight 

Finding a ball with the ideal weight for you is incredibly important. 

For children and teenagers, a good starting point is to pick a bowling ball that matches the child’s age. For example, a child that is 6 years old could start out using a 6-pound ball. Then simply adjust the bowling ball weight up or down a pound depending on their strength. 

For adults, the general rule used to be that you should get a ball that is your body weight divided by 11. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68.04 kg), you want to get a ball that is 150 pounds divided by 11, or 13.6 pounds (6.17 kg). This formula isn’t always accurate, so you can use it as a starting point but shouldn’t consider it a hard rule. 

Instead, you should start with a heavy ball and see how it feels. You want a ball that is the heaviest weight you can comfortably maneuver without harming yourself. If it’s too heavy, reduce the weight until you can comfortably throw the ball several times in a row without feeling overly fatigued. Typically, men initially try out 15 or 16-pound balls and women try 14-pound balls. Continue to try out different weights until you’ve found one that is comfortable for you. 

Consider Your Overall Strength 

In the chart below, you’ll find the typical bowling ball weights children, females, males, and seniors use for bowling based on their average strength and stature. 

Group Bowling Ball Weight in Pounds (kg) 
Children (6-12)1 pound of weight for every year of child’s age (i.e., 6 pounds for 6 year old)
Adult Females10 to 14 pounds (4.54 to 6.35 kg)
Adult Males 14 to 16 pounds (6.35 to 7.26 kg)
Seniors 10 to 14 pounds (4.54 to 6.35 kg)

Most female bowlers use 10 to 14-pound (4.54 to 6.35 kg) balls during tournaments because these weights are more manageable than 15 or 16-pound balls, yet they still produce a lot of force and pin action. Remember, this is just an approximation. Many females also bowl with heavier 15 or even 16-pound balls depending on their size and strength. Always choose a weight that you can comfortably throw for an extended period of time. 

Male bowlers often use 14 to 16-pound (6.35 to 7.26 kg) balls, with 15-pound (6.80 kg) balls being the most popular. Don’t be afraid to reduce the weight if you find yourself struggling to get enough energy behind your stroke with a 15 or 16 pounder. Remember, throwing a slightly lighter ball with more speed will have a greater impact on the pins than throwing a heavier ball with less speed. 

Senior players typically choose balls that weigh between 10 to 14 pounds (4.54 to 6.35 kg) in order to prevent injury while still getting a decent amount of force. Older bowlers are prone to joint problems and muscle fatigue, so it’s wise to choose a lighter ball. Always choose the weight that feels best for your body. 

Regardless of your age, if you are struggling to throw your ball or if your ball is causing you to experience any pain, it’s time to purchase a lighter ball. On the other hand, if your ball is really easy to throw and isn’t providing you with the power you need to take down the pins, you may want to invest in a heavier ball. Everyone is different, so don’t be afraid to go lighter or heavier depending on your individual preferences and abilities! 

What Factors Other Than Weight Should I Consider? 

Other than your bowling ball’s weight, you also need to take into consideration whether the ball is custom made or house, what the ball is made of, and the type of core it has. Along with your ball’s weight, these factors are very important.

Whether or Not Your Ball Is Custom Made 

It’s best to buy a custom bowling ball that is tailored to you instead of a house ball made to fit the masses. House balls gripping holes may be too tight or loose for your fingers or too spaced out or close together for your hands. This will make the ball more difficult to release, which will negatively impact your game. 

Custom balls are specially drilled to fit your hand, which has a ton of advantages, including allowing you to throw heavier balls since the custom holes are designed to perfectly fit your gripping fingers, which makes the balls feel up to two pounds lighter than they actually are. Therefore, you may be able to use a heavier weight with a custom ball than you’d be able to use with a house ball. 

To learn more about the advantages of purchasing a custom fit ball, check out this clip by bowlingball.com’s Rich Carrubba. In the video, he goes over why custom balls provide you with more accuracy and a more comfortable fit. He also recommends talking with your local pro shop professional to help you get your custom ball properly weighed: 

Think About the Composition 

Bowling balls are made from different materials that each have their own unique advantages. Some of the materials are better for beginners, while others are recommended for more serious bowlers. We will go over the different composition options below. 

Plastic and Polyester Balls

Plastic bowling balls are best for entry-level players who are just starting out. These balls roll in a straight line with very little hook, so if you want a predictable ball that’ll roll the same way every time, plastic is a great option. These balls are also ideal for spare shooting because of their ability to roll so linearly. 

Plastic balls are more affordable than the other options on this list, so if you’re on a budget, these are a great choice! 

Urethane Balls 

These balls are recommended for intermediate players who are working on building up their skills. This material is also great for young or senior players who want to add some hook to their shots but aren’t able to get their ball speed up. 

Urethane bowling balls have more friction than plastic balls. This is important because it makes them deflect less than plastic bowling balls, so you’ll get better pin action

Reactive Resin Balls 

Reactive resin balls are the best of the best, so they are often used by more serious bowlers, including professionals. These balls have even more friction with the lane than urethane balls, so they are more sensitive to lane conditions. 

This material allows the ball to have a sharper hook and entry angle. They also have the greatest strike potential of any bowling ball. These balls require a bit of a learning curve to use, so it takes some time to learn how to bowl with reactive resin effectively. 

Choose the Correct Core 

Pancake Core

Pancake cores are shaped like hockey pucks or discs. They sit on one side of the ball to counteract the mass that is lost when you drill holes into the ball. This type of core is great for beginners since they make the ball easy to control and provide consistent motion as they roll down the lane. 

Symmetrical Core 

Symmetrical cores are symmetric, meaning if you cut them in half, they’d be the same shape on either side, like the letters “V” or “T.” One of the most popular shapes for a symmetrical core is a lightbulb formation. 

Symmetrical cores distribute their weight equally throughout the bowling ball. This results in the ball having a stable motion. The core shape also allows you to have more finger hole configuration options since you’ll be able to drill in more places. 

Asymmetrical Core

Asymmetrical cores are often used by upper-level players. These balls have imbalanced cores that allow them to hook a lot more than symmetrical balls. However, balls with asymmetrical cores are more difficult to control.  

Conclusion 

While you technically can adjust your bowling ball’s weight, it is generally not recommended for you to do this. Changing the weight of your bowling ball can make it illegal for tournaments, or it could potentially disrupt your ball’s dynamics, which may negatively impact your game.

Instead, you should buy a new ball that is the appropriate weight. To determine the best weight for you, start heavy and reduce the weight depending on your strength and overall health. 

Other than weight, you should also consider whether the ball is custom, the material the ball is made from, and the type of core the ball has. All of these factors will have a significant impact on your game. 

Sources

T Conner

My grandfather and my mother both taught me bowling in the early 1970’s. I spent the next few decades working my way up to the top tiers of local amateur bowling leagues, and continued to participate in college at the club level. My wife and bowled in coed leagues before kids, and then taught our kids bowling as they grew up. Now I’m here to answer some of the web’s common questions about bowling rules, techniques, equipment and more.

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