Bowling alleys always seem to have two types: the kids coming for a youth group event or birthday party and the hard-core players. The kids come once a year max; the hard-core players know everybody’s name, have the matching shirts, and all the kit. But what if you fall in-between? How do you know when it is worth buying your own bowling ball?
It is worth buying your own bowling ball if you are consistently playing a few times a month to once a week. Bowling balls come at various price points, and there are deals, so the purchase doesn’t have to break the bank. You’ll save time, your skills will benefit, and it is cleaner.
Buying your first bowling ball can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Also, while cost is a factor, remember that bowling balls, unlike ballet shoes, rarely need replacing. So put some research in rather than buying the first cheap ball you see on eBay.
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8 Reasons to Own Your Own Bowling Ball
- Germs: Seriously, wouldn’t you feel better knowing the only fingers that have been in the holes have been yours? That favorite house ball you found last time might now be in the hands of that ten-year-old who is picking their nose before each play.
- Less risk of injury: When you rent a ball, you are stuck with whatever is available. You will have to compromise on finger hole sizes and weight. Sometimes this means nothing more than a blister. But consistently playing with the wrong grip or weight send you into the hands of a physiotherapist. That’s expensive.
- Consistency: You might not injure yourself every time you play with a ball with the wrong grip or weight. However, your body is going to be compensating for these problems. This means you, the beginner bowler, are not creating bad habits that will be tough to unlearn.
- You’ll play better: Owning a ball that fits your fingers and is at the right weight for your body will boost your game. The holes will be drilled for your fingers and perfect grip. This means that each time you play, you can improve. Your body isn’t having to adjust, compensate, and relearn how to move with a house ball’s unique quirks each and every time.
- You’ll be able to do more: House balls are not made from the best materials. Think about it; they know those kids are going to be dropping them all the time. Also, house balls are designed for making decent straight shots, which is all your once-a-year player desires. But eventually, you are going to want to try some new techniques with spin and hooks.
- Renting equipment adds up: Sure, if you only come to bowl for that one friend’s bachelorette party and to help chaperone your nephew’s birthday bash, renting equipment is the way to go. But once you’ve found yourself regularly meeting up with some mates, investing in your own gear might save you some bucks long-term.
- Saves time: When you show up to play with your own equipment, you change your shoes and unzip your ball bag. Done. Renting equipment requires time to check out all the various balls, testing their weight, finger holes, and grip. Meanwhile, all your friends are having a good gab without you.
- Style: Look, it is fun to have a ball that reflects a bit of you. It doesn’t have to be wild patterns, logos, or motifs (although that can be pretty great, too). Just having a ball in a color you enjoy adds a particular mood boost.
Types of Bowling Balls
Bowling balls are made from a variety of materials. The type of material the ball is made from impacts both the cost and the type of shots the ball can consistently perform. Keep in mind, drilling the ball and a ball bag cost extra. Some balls come pre-drilled, however. Also, while having a bowling ball bag is nice, this is a purchase you can put off if you have an alternative.
Plastic or Polyester Bowling Balls
Spare balls, plastic balls, polyester balls are all basically the same thing. They have a polyester coverstock, which is the outer shell and is what is found in a typical house ball. However, a new polyester ball will perform better than a house ball because they haven’t been abused and banged up by the general public.
Plastic balls are for shooting straight. They are typically the least expensive option, so if you are on a tight budget or just play once a month but like the idea of owning a ball, these are for you. They are also a good first ball for a kid.
Other people who like these balls are advanced players that change balls depending on the play. So they might carry a spare plastic ball when they want a reliable straight shot. They won’t use these for their spin and hook maneuvers, however.
These balls are best suited for wet or dry lanes, typical house conditions. They are not great for medium to heavy oiled lanes. These are also slower, less aggressive balls.
The balls tend to range between 30–80 dollars. Here is a pretty example of a polyester ball on Amazon.
Urethane Bowling Balls
Urethane balls are softer bowling balls and considered a more aggressive choice. They are a good option for a player wanting to learn how to hook, as the balls have better friction on a lane. The hook is the cornerstone to consistently hitting strikes.
These balls do better on oily lanes than a polyester ball. They won’t get as much skid as a polyester, however, on a dry lane. A urethane’s roll is more even and knocks the pins down better. Where your polyester has a trendy to be deflected on the pins, which is incredibly frustrating. The latter attribute is often called “pin carry.”
Urethane balls cost between 75-190 dollars and tend to last for decades. This Storm Mix urethane ball on Amazon is well rated and at the lower end of the price range.
Reactive Resin Balls
Reactive resin balls have a coverstock that is made up of resin and urethane. These are an aggressive choice that can perform a range of maneuvers. They do well on both dry lanes and in oily conditions. These tend to be purchased by more advanced and serious bowlers who already can hook and spin but want added finesse.
The price range of a reactive resin is wide. Some are in the ballpark of a urethane; others are expensive. The balls come with various surface options, including solid, pearl, and hybrid, with some brands, such as Brunswick, selling them with their own formulated recipe.
The different types of resin balls come with their own pros and cons. A solid, for example, has greater friction than a pearl and hooks sooner. Where a pearl has an advantage in the back end of a lane. Hybrids are just that, combining the solid and the pearl. How much a hybrid leans more to one or the other depends on the brand and make.
Reactive resin balls will require more TLC and do not have the life span of a urethane ball. You get the best performance from them when they are new and have an average life span of 5 to 10 years.
It is advised that you keep a microfiber cloth on hand when using a reactive resin ball. The ball should be wiped between each play during a game, as it absorbs oil, which lessens its grip. It is also advised that a reactive resin is resurfaced every 60 games. This costs between 5-10 dollars.
While a reactive resin is considered a ball for more serious players, there are some that suit beginners. For example, the Brunswick Rhino is a well-priced and solid choice for an inexperienced bowler looking to take their hobby more seriously. Where the Storm Code Red on the other hand, is for a beginner whose been playing a while but is now looking to try a reactive ball for the first time.
Particle or Proactive Bowling Balls
Particle bowling balls, also known as proactive, are sometimes referred to as the snow tires of balls. As you can imagine, this is not a smooth ball, but hey, you can use it to exfoliate. The purse of the gritty surface is to achieve better friction on heavily oiled lanes.
These balls are usually used by intermediate and advanced bowlers who play with more than one ball. They were once hugely popular but now more of a niche choice. Their life span tends to be about 6-7 years. Some players find they get the same benefits from a hybrid resin.
Particle ball lingo has shifted since they first hit the lanes. Other terms to look for are “nanotechnology” and “microbite technology.” Some sellers also use slip in the term “additives.”
Where to Buy Bowling Balls
You can buy bowling balls from Amazon and a variety of online outlets. There are always deals online. But make sure you know which weight and type of ball is right for you.
Department stores are not highly recommended. Their stock quality can vary, and the people working there typically can’t provide the best advice.
But don’t discount pro shops just because you are not a pro. The staff will not only be able to advise you on what weight and models will suit you, but they can also have great deals, especially during the holidays. Also, pro shops often include drilling the holes as part of the price. You will have to visit a pro shop, anyway, to get your ball drilled, and it comes with a charge.
Getting Your Bowling Ball Drilled
These days many balls are being sold with the holes already drilled. Sure, this is easy, but it also means the finger holes and grip are not a custom fit. In fact, if you buy online, you could discover your fingers don’t fit after the ball arrives (bummer).
The cheapest method is doing it yourself. You can find instructions here.
The most expensive method is doing it yourself. Drilling holes is incredibly easy to screw up, and once you’ve done it, the holes are permanent. Which means buying a new ball after you’ve messed up. Ouch.
The best way to get holes drilled is to visit a pro shop. Pro shops can provide expertise beyond making the holes the correct width for your fingers. They are excellent at determining where best to place the holes. Yes, there are ways to measure where to put the holes based on your hand. But the way you move when you bowl matters, too. Pro shops know how to assess these things.
Pro shops can also provide inserts (plugs) for those wanting fingertip grip. The grips come in a wide array of colors and sizes and help you achieve more rotation on the ball. Although not everyone wants inserts. They do have to be replaced, and some prefer getting their hook down before adding extras. Nor are inserts really needed for a polyester ball.
It takes about a day to get a bowling ball drilled. Drilling costs range from as little as $30 to as much as $70. Part of the price difference is what is being offered. If the place simply drills the wholes where the customer marks them, it will be cheaper. But if a place is going to take the time to measure you and watch you bowl, the cost will be more. Getting inserts also adds to the price.
How to Care for your Bowling Ball
Taking care of a bowling ball isn’t just, so it stays pretty and lasts longer. Poor maintenance will result in a ball that struggles to grip the lanes and will be harder to hook.
During a game, it is a good idea to wipe down your ball between plays with a microfiber towel. This helps rid it from any oil and debris it picked up as it traveled down the lane and the ball return.
After the game, before putting it in its bag, use a spray cleaner. There are many brands out there, and many bowlers have their favorites. Just remember to be sure that whatever you use is safe for your type of bowling ball.
Some bowlers make their own custom spray. Again, if you do this, make sure all the ingredients you use are safe for your type of ball.
Your ball will need to be washed about every six games to maintain performance. Some bowlers do this at home. First, the holes of the bowling ball need to be covered with waterproof tape. Then you fill a bucket with water about 140F (60C). Then you add a few drops of cleaner. Some use dish soap; others use special cleaner. Again, see what is safe for your type of ball.
Once you’ve spun the ball around in its bath bucket for about 20minutes, the ball needs to be dried. Some people just use a good old microfiber towel. Some help this along with kitty litter or ovens on low. But it is probably best to try fancy (or odd) tricks after you’ve bowled for a good while and have had lots of chats with seasoned bowlers. You don’t want to wreck your ball.
Many find that their ball eventually feels dull even with good home care and will benefit from a pro shop deep clean. They have methods that use heat to bake out oil. This costs around 5 to 10 dollars.
Occasionally a ball will need to be resurfaced. Again, you take it to the pro shop, and depending on your needs, it will cost from 5 to 30 dollars.
Owning a new bowling ball is fun and will improve your game. Just put in a little research before pulling out your wallet. Also, think about what your needs and how long you’ll want the ball to last. But, most of all, take care of your new ball and maybe…maybe leave that oven trick to the pros.