Get a Grip: Examining Your Bowling Ball for a Comfortable Fit

Get a Grip: Examining Your Bowling Ball for a Comfortable Fit

Most bowling instructors agree you can’t out coach a bad fit. The 3 holes drilled in your bowling ball represent the handle, which allows you to swing the ball easily and roll it down the lane most effectively. A properly fitted bowling ball is easy to hold onto in the backswing, easy to let go of at the point of release, and doesn’t hurt your hand. If your ball does this then you probably don’t need to read this article, otherwise you may benefit from this.

A bowling grip consists of 12 individual measurements at a minimum. It can be more with extra gripping holes and oval holes. These measurements work in conjunction with one another to provide the best possible fit. If one is off, it can affect another. The size of the holes is the most obvious measurement to most bowlers, but isn’t always the most critical. With proper span and pitch, the hole size can be slightly larger and not cause much problem. Let’s examine four common problems and how to fix them.


  1. Squeezing the ball: This will cause a blister on the back of the thumb and leads to dropping the ball occasionally. Most bowlers will fix this by making the thumbhole smaller, but many times this is not the cause. Too much reverse pitch in the thumbhole and/or too much bevel or a short span will cause this. With too much reverse pitch in your thumbhole, you will knuckle your thumb and overgrip the ball to hang on, which will hurt your accuracy and release. When you relax your grip pressure, you drop the ball. A proper span and less reverse pitch will correct this. Span, thumb pitch, hole size and bevel must all be considered in this correction.


  1. Callous at the base of thumb: This is caused from your span being too wide and probably too much reverse pitch in the thumb. Most ball drillers will correct this by adding more bevel to the thumbhole, but this in effect adds more reverse pitch to the thumbhole which can cause squeezing. See number 1. Some bowlers are very sensitive in this area and if their span is ok I will add a little bevel for comfort, but the pitch must not be excessive. Over beveling is a common problem to fix over spanning. It is a quick fix that does not address the real problem.


  1. Blister on fingertips: This is caused from a wide span. The wrong pitch in the fingerholes will also cause this. Many times it is both. When I first started drilling bowling balls, it was a common misconception that you could “hit” the ball harder with a wide span and forward pitch in your fingerholes. If you shorten the span and pitch the holes according to your finger flex, then you will make better contact with the inside of the fingerhole and use your full finger pad to create maximum ball roll.


  1. Callous on both sides of thumb: This is caused by your thumbhole being too tight. You made need to oval your thumbhole if your thumb is very flat. Few people have round thumbs so ovaling the thumbhole can help get a better, more secure fit. Most pro shops have advanced drill presses that will drill oval holes. A tight thumbhole is usually a by-product of too much reverse pitch in the thumbhole. If a bowler has trouble holding onto the ball their first inclination is to make the thumbhole tighter, when often times it is excessive reverse pitch in the thumbhole causing them trouble holding the ball. You shouldn’t feel excessive pressure on the sides of your thumb.


As you can see many hand problems stem from your span and vertical thumb pitch. You can do a quick check of your own hand by drawing a line halfway between your joints on your fingers. This line – not your first joint - should fall on the edge of the fingerhole for a fingertip grip. This is a starting point for your span. Hand flexibility is also a big factor. Fitting a person’s hand to a bowling ball is the most difficult and important thing we do as ball drillers. The most expensive ball with the most exotic drill layout is useless if it hurts your hand.


You shouldn’t have to bowl with pain in your hand. Pain is for football. If you are experiencing problems with your hand seek the advice of a skilled, IBPSIA Certified pro shop operator. (store locator)