Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pin In, Pin Out

The pin distance on a ball is the separation between the heaviest point (Center of Gravity, mark by Manufacturer) and the top of the weightblock (the pin). If both are close, it is harder to manipulate more than the weightblock for down lane effect. Further apart, a pin out, affords a driller two points to manipulate to help fine tune ball reaction, occasionally using a weight hole.

Ball reaction can be manipulated if a player has the skills. Under 150 average, a performance ball will start to help with your effect to the pocket, but because of lesser skills occasionally will cause difficulty with spares. A 170+ average bowler has better skills, typically is becoming better at reading lanes and reading ball reaction, for both first ball and spares. A 190+ average bowler typically hits the pocket most of the time, often equipment helps make them more effective strike bowlers, but lack of practice or understanding of the need to have a plan for spares leads them to an erratic spare game. The solid 190+ bowler, with a good spare game often doesn't match up well, with the environment (lanes to slick for faster ball speed, lanes to dry for slower speed, or a rev rate that is to violent (splits) or not strong enough (weak hitting ball)). 200+ bowlers hits the pocket essentially ever shot, strikes a fair amount, has a solid spare game. For every 10 pins better than 200, is primarily the result of good to great matchups (speed, rev rate, lane condition and ball). One other possibility, any bowler can have any of the above averages and/or combinations of skill set and be terrible or just be flat out terrific (sometimes the bowling gods reward dumb luck).

Layout is important for any performance ball. The ball must react where you need it to and have energy left at the pins. When you are investing in multiple bowling balls, layout can differentiate and fine tune the differences. Too much concern with layout often causes subtle effects causing a ball to hook a little too early and hit a little weak, a little too late and not drive and carry well or some variation. Or, layout doesn't allow flexibility on a given lane condition. A ball may play to "touchy" where minor errors cause carry problems or worse (splits, bad counts).

Buy the ball to get the amount of hook you need, the pin placement is a MINOR factor in reaction. There are no magic bowling balls or magic layouts. Layout is a vehicle of speed, rev rate, axis tilt, axis rotation, surface preparation, lane condition and where does a particular ball reaction need to fall in your current arsenal. Ball choice should determine general look (ball path from foul line to pins). Layout encourages a ball that is created to bite early, to bite a little later, or vise versa. A 4 inch pin and a leverage pin (3 3/8- 3 3/4) roll similarly, but a bowlers speed or "black and white" lane condition or other factors might cause the leverage pin to be a bit to early. There are way to many factors to create a matrix of use this or don't use that, when this is present or the ball does that. That is why an educated ball driller is your best asset as a bowler.

"You can't out execute bad ball reaction."

All examples above assume decent fit, basic layouts and minimal to NO grip pressure.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Some of the Basics, Leading to Throwing a Hook

(For a right hander) Start with your left (slide) shoe about the middle of the lane (the big Dot at the 20th board is the center of the approach and lane, side to side).

If you can, position the ball in front of your armpit with the thumb at 10 o'clock (as a right hander, 2 o'clock for a lefty). Try to swing the ball, straight back and straight forward (let momentum and gravity do most of the work). Try to maintain the hand position throughout the approach, swing, and delivery.

As the ball rolls out of your hand, continue the hand forward (toward your target)and up, like throwing an imaginary glass of water up and over your bowling shoulder.

Maintaining the hand position will provide the axis tilt you want. Keep your first step short and measured, you want to stay balanced, starting slowly. The faster you go the easier it is to get out of balance, or mess up your timing, or both, bad idea.

Also, try to use your back and shoulders to provide leverage at delivery. With some knee bend, you should be in an "athletic pose." The knee bend maintained as you move to the foul line will enable you to absorb some of the wobble of your approach (benefits your balance), and provides stability, to deliver the shot with consistent speed and rotation. Consistency is your first objective.

Adjust footwork (starting point of your slide foot) right if you miss right, left if you miss left.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Best Ball Weight

Many bowlers motivated to knock stuff down, use the heaviest ball they can handle. As I have mentioned before on this forum, if grip pressure is minimized, the ball lets go of you. If the ball doesn't pull you around, there may be something else keeping you down.

If your game is built around solid execution of spare shots, improving your first ball carry and strike percentage will raise your average. Less pins to knock down or NO pins to knock down make the second shot easier. The weight of the ball may cause you to have slower ball speed, requiring a ball, layout, and surface prep to compliment your game.

Your speed and rev rate helps create the path to the pocket. Matching the two provides the effect you desire at the pins. If the ball hits weakly, or rolls out before hitting the pins, you may need to address where you play on the lane, whether you need a smoother/shinier surface or even an easier ball to get down the lane (higher RG - Radius of Gyration, or higher RG drilling).

Weight is one element of your ball that helps knock down the full rack of pins. If the ball fits, your swing is easy and free, and the ball provides the skid, hook and roll needed for a good angle to the pocket and continuation through the pins, you will improve. If better form would help, seek out a USBC or IBPSIA Coach in your area. Check their websites: or

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bowling Ball Fit

Your grip should allow your hand to lay flat on the ball (or as flat as physically possible), with the pitches of the holes for your fingers/thumb, allowing the ball to hang from your hand, without substantial grip pressure (NO Squeezing).

If stiffness doesn't allow for "normal pitch", adjusting the thumb pitch, towards the fingers, as the finger pitches must be adjusted away from the thumb, should help control the ball with minimum grip pressure. Think of the ball letting go of YOU.

The pitch in your thumb can be increased, more angle toward the fingers, to improve control, as long as you can deliver the ball comfortably. If you are experiencing any discomfort try small adjustments (1/8) until you lessen or eliminate the discomfort and gain more control.

Lastly, adjust hole size so you feel slightly snug in the holes. The lateral pitches and hole sizes shouldn't bind the fingers. Adjusting angles of the holes and hole sizes are the last adjustments for your optimum fit. Don't be afraid to make small adjustments actively. As your hands change and are affected by temperature and humidity, often tweaking the "feel" is needed to maintain consistent execution.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bowling Lanes

USBC CERTIFIED 115,197 lanes at 5,571 bowling centers for the 2006-07 season (includes Puerto Rico and military bases in foreign countries). The average lanes per center were 20.67. PA had the most centers with 388 with WI second at 363 followed by MI at 357, NY at 351 and OH with 345. MI had the most lanes with 8,172 follow by NY (7,658), OH (7,554), CA (6,692) and IL (6,630).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The "Personal" HouseBall

In a seminar last year, a Brunswick representative shared that pro shops sell almost 85% of bowling balls in the US. 5% right here in Chicago. The good news, mass merchants are selling fewer, less expensive balls, while the BAD NEWS, the Internet is selling more, expensive balls. Market shares have for each, for all practical purposes, all but switched.

While, over the years, retail businesses like Sears, JC Penny, and Kmart sold hundreds of thousands of bowling balls each year and league bowling decreased. (Sears and JC Penny's DON"T sell bowling balls. One reason I shop at these stores.)

Brunswick’s last contract with Kmart, when the retail giant was selling bowling balls made in the US, was for about 400,000 balls a year. And new league bowlers were lost at a rate around 70%.

Is it likely that the dissatisfied bowlers did not like the house ball option? Or picked up an inexpensive new bowling ball at a mass merchant? But did NOT like the results?

Don't blame Brunswick, Kmart now sells pre-drilled balls manufactured in China. Essentially personal house balls! Have any of you ever thrown a house ball?

Nothing like selling something potentially hellaciously
bad, to unsuspecting customers, except when selling it as cheaply as possible to the massively inexperienced, and least knowledgeable, nets you Millions of dollars. While effecting the newest of the sport's participants, looking for an inexpensive way to be more involved, by providing inexpensive equipment built on a system of drilling holes that is probably more than 30 years old. Does your houseball hurt?

Does your Dick's Sporting Goods, KMart,
SportMart, Sports Authority, Wal-Mart* or other mass merchant's bowling balls allow you to bowl, without pain or fatigue, at a 160 average or more? 140? (*oh wait, Sam Walton's company decided not to do this. They researched how easy having balls drilled in their store would be -NOT.

Could they send the balls to local pro shops, tried it. Would some bowling stores offer an inexpensive package (as a trial of the concept) of balancing (not done at mass merchants including Wal-Mart), drilling, and engraving balls, YES. Did the customers find buying a ball and going somewhere else to get it professionally, custom drilled was convenient. Not so much. The added expense to get the ball drilled was unexpected. Finding bowling stores open to match the 9am to 9pm typical big box retail hours of operation. Not many open even seven days a week. Not convenient. Could they get a program to accommodate all their stores all over the WORLD. NO. Wal-Mart opted don't drill, don't carry balls, bad idea, unhappy customers don't come back and buy more).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Internet facts every bowling center needs to know

Good News from During a one month period there were over 200,000 searches on the internet for bowling. Bad News: 186,000 of these searches were for "bowling alley" and only 17,000 were for "bowling center"

If your website doesn't mention "bowling alley" then you missed out on 91% of the searches that month!

80% of retailers are now asking for email addresses on their website. Does your website ask for email addresses so you can contact people that were on your site? Anyone that gives you an email address is telling you they want to be reminded to come back!

A is for Arsenal

If you have a ball or an arsenal of balls, please examine and evaluate them, and get an idea specifically what ball does what best?

Occasionally an arsenal works great for your “A” game. Staying in your comfort zone, allows you to control the lane, play in the area that you best perform.

Some arsenals push your performance to parts of the lane (extreme inside or extreme outside) that you are not as “comfortable”. Expanding your experience makes you more adaptable, thus more capable of high levels of play on more challenging conditions, or broken down conditions.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Review Said...

Now there is the matter of the reviews. If a pro bowler, who gets paid by the Company that makes the ball he throws, was to tell you his new ball works great, should you doubt him/her?

What if, through the goodness of their heart, a bowler halfway across the country, with more or less experience than you, with more or less skill than you, on the same or maybe a different lane surface than you bowl on, with more or less ball speed than you, with a greater or maybe less rev rate than you, with more or maybe less….you get the picture.

Some people will like a bowling ball, some will not. Some might be similar, often NOT. The information bandied about on the web, doesn’t seem to clarify the many elements that effect performance of your bowling ball, on your house condition, with your specific game details (rev rate, axis rotation, axis tilt, ball speed, approach drift, etc.). Many bowlers make unbelievable assumptions.

If the bowler waxing poetic about a specific bowling ball, averages what you do, has all your game tendencies, gets similar reaction with similar equipment (and layouts), the lane conditions are similar (can you read a lane conditioning graph?), the temperature, humidity, and amount of lane play (static buildup), type of lane surface (wood-type of lane finish, or synthetic-type of synthetic, etc.) if all these elements can be measured, and they are identical to yours, you still may NOT get the reaction you expect.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Do I get heavier? lighter?

If you have experience and own more than one ball, be sure the a new ball is the same weight. It is difficult to ask your body to deliver two different weights identically. If you are transitioning heavier or lighter, put away the old stuff and get used to the new weight. Consistent delivery will help you control the new ball, thereby control the lane!

It's very hard to abandon potentially effective equipment, but a new direction in ball weight is a BIG decision. Often a GOOD one. But, if your equipment is feeling heavy or more tedious to throw, you may just want to evaluate your fit. More or less pitch forward/lateral/reverse, tighter thumb hole, looser thumb hole (if you gained a little weight and aren't getting your thumb all the way into the hole), are all potential options to regain a secure feel and delivery.

If it feels like your rifling the ball down the lane, a lite ball is very easy to over throw (pull, push, over turn), it is too easy for a minor bump error in your swing to net disastrous results. If you are feeling a little loss of control, to easy to make a mistake, a heavier ball will regain the synergy between ball, swing, approach and your body.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Which Bowling Ball Do I Need?

The, literally, hundreds of available bowling balls demand that the inexperienced ball buyer (often the experienced buyer) wade through multiple choices. Will you choose surface, Radius of Gyration (sometimes just listed as: RG), coverstock type (reactive resin, particle, standard urethane, polyester), or a vague listing of performance or high performance as your key buying factor? What about Differential RG (sometimes just DIFF, then the sub category of Intermediate Diff), Or Coefficient of Restitution? How about the Mass Bias and Asymmetric vs. Symmetric weight blocks? Bowling balls have gotten complicated!

Unfortunately, online ball sellers almost depend on your lack of knowledge. The commodity offered online is just that, a commodity (the cheapest tomato). Don’t buy a tomato if you need an apple. But what if you don’t know what you need?

You will need to get the ball drilled, if purchased online. So, start now and check out your local bowling store, for their recommendation. What does the local store charge to drill a ball? The service will effect your over all cost for this new bowling tool. If the center where you bowl has a store, the operator will know about the lane conditions and more likely a basic idea of your needs. Don't be afraid to ask the operator to watch you bowl. Ask how they determine what is best?

Getting a ball that doesn't work, no matter how cheap it was, is a waste of money and very frustrating for the end user. Because the commodity nature of the online ball sellers, you don’t want to JUST buy price. A brand new Mercedes, with no tires, no transmission, and no engine is still a new Mercedes. It is an expensive paperweight! It won’t go any where, but it still is a new Mercedes! If you buy a cheap new Mercedes and find out it can’t move, you didn’t get what you wanted/needed, but IT WAS CHEAP.

more - what works for what styles.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do You Want A New Ball? Or Need A New Ball?

If the entry level plastic or urethane ball is feeling light, if you are throwing it halfway down the lane, on a fly, time to upgrade to a heavier ball. Put the old one away, sell it, give it to the kids, something, just don't try to use it. Give the new ball a chance, don't mess up the opportunity to benefit from the new feel, the new effect. Two different weights, especially if one is "old reliable", is a recipe for frustration.

The option of a more sophisticated ball should be examined if and only if you have the skill to benefit from it. If you average less than 140, you don’t necessarily have the skills to control a more sophisticated ball. (“Growing” into it, isn’t a good idea.) You need something more controllable, better for strikes and spares.

If you average 140 - 170, a better ball, more aggressive surface, stronger core may benefit you.

The over 170 average bowler is often restricted by elements of their game and how it plays on a given lane condition. A player that throws hard might struggle when lanes are particularly oily. So for the bowler that throws hard, matching their rev rate, ball surface, layout, and speed translates into success. The needs of the more sophisticated player, often must be attended, hands on. Guessing at ball speed, rev rate, axis tilt, axis rotation, lane conditions, etc. make for inconsistent results.

My guess, some of the thousands, 10's of thousands, 100's.... of former league bowlers have a ball or two that just did not work. Estimated guess just isn't good enough with today's high tech bowling tools.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bowling Balls

Bowling balls are basic to very sophisticated. You want to match your experience and skill to the tool that is a bowling ball.

If you are a new bowler, never owned a ball, start with a basic polyester ball (they’re like house balls). House balls available in most bowling centers are pre-drilled requiring more effort to control and deliver them. Most bowlers, when fit for their own ball can handle more weight. A properly fit bowling ball let's go of you rather than you having to let go (control/squeeze) of it.

Basic balls must be drilled. Often the online price, freight, plus drilling is more than the cost at a local bowling store (pro shop). Don’t be intimidated by the term Pro Shop. A bowling store, by any other name, is typically run by an operator focused on their craft, their sport. They might not have the customer service training of a Wal-Mart greeter, but they only stay in business if they are adequate at their job or they are the only game in town (be careful on this one).

Take advantage of the knowledge that a local driller has. (Look for the IBPSIA label, the International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association, the Earth’s ONLY trade Association for the Pro Shop and Instruction business.) His or her services will be very valuable as you improve.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Storm and Roto Grip News

The word from a major distributor is the Storm Paradigm and Paradigm Passion are being discontinued. As is the Roto Grip Horizon Pearl

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I hope I can contribute positively to the growing universe of information about America's favorite indoor activity, bowling. If you go outside, more people fish than bowl. Oh well.

If you are among the almost 70 million Americans that bowled in 2006 (66-68 Million reported by a few different industry associations), you may be a birthday bowler, Thanksgiving day bowler, it's Saturday-Let's go bowling bowler, or the devoted weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly bowler. I hope to share information that will help the novice/new/beginner bowler to understand more about why they sometimes bowl so well, and sometimes bowl so poorly. Also I will touch upon the HUGH impact technology has had on the league bowling scene, with a spin on why you bowl or why you bowl less.

And why an outing to different bowling centers may result in different levels of enjoyment (we don't call them alleys anymore, Bowling Lounges -Yes, Family Entertainment Centers -absolutely).

So, if you always wondered how those league bowlers get invited to bowl in a regularly schedule program, lets start there. 300 Million people live in our country. Our best are Dominant on the World stage, but fewer bowlers, bowl league programs than they did in years past. If you wanted to give this league thing a try, call your local Center, ask for the League Coordinator or General Manager. Why them? One of my biggest pet peeves in this industry, the person answering the phone in a lot of Centers is among the least informed. You are looking to become a bowling Centers Best Customer, a regular. Your request for information should be the most valued communication, certainly at that time, but among the MOST IMPORTANT that day.

If you can communicate to the person answering the phone, that if you get on a league, the center will have enough money for phone answering person to get a raise! But if you lose another potential league bowler, Mr/Mrs/Ms phone answering person, YOUR FIRED!

You are about to be one of their best customers, maybe one of thousands, maybe one of only hundreds. If you are one of hundreds, more valuable ! So if a note is taken, often on the back of a match book, back of a league flyer (that probably could have answered some of your questions), a note pad made up of scrap paper, or the like, many Centers have NO formal procedures to communicate important incoming calls.

Your call is one of the MOST important. Be persistent. If not called back promptly, try them again. You may be on a long list of people looking to plug into a complex array of offerings, or just be a misplaced note under an invoice, behind a schedule, next to a parts catalog, with a sticky note that the day bartender needs Saturday off or the're quitting - again.

Often the harried manager(s)/owner are more like firemen this time of year. Putting out the bartender "fire," before they can get to the person who wants to give them money every week for awhile.