Fitting a Bowling Ball – part 1

March 20, 2011 | Uncategorized

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The most important thing in bowling is to have a ball that’s the correct weight and that fits your hand.  A correct fit should allow you to relax your hand, arm and shoulder.  This imposes less stress on your body.  It allows for a natural, consistent release without thinking about it.  It allows you to throw the correct weight ball and allows you to bowl more games without wear and tear on your hand.

The major measurements in fitting a ball are the thumb hole size, the span (distance between your thumb and fingers), and the thumb pitches (the direction of the holes).  When I fit the thumb, I go to the smallest hole that’s so tight you can’t even twist your thumb – and then go up two sizes (1/32).  At “Hole in the Ball” pro shop, we also drill oval holes.  Many bowlers have oval thumbs and get a better fit with an oval shaped hole drilled to the proper angle of how much the thumb turns in the ball when you load your hand.  You can see on the chart, I have a rather large thumb at 1 & 1/16”; plus I oval it out at a slight 25 degree angle.

The proper span is where your joints lie in the middle of the hole when you put your thumb in all the way and stretch your fingers across the holes:  first joint for fingertip balls and second joint for conventional fits.  House balls are usually drilled out conventional – where you put your fingers in all the way to the second joint.  Beginners get better control of conventional balls.  Most advanced bowlers use fingertip drillings.  I recently reduced my span slightly because of my excessive forward pitch – and my hand keeps getting less flexible.

The thumb pitches are the least understood important measurement by regular bowlers.  Bill Taylor’s exhaustive 1960s study of bowling ball fitting produced a standard chart showing the proper pitch for every span.  In his chart, a 4 ¼ span called for zero pitch.  A zero pitch hole would intersect the center of the bowling ball if you drilled the hole far enough.  The longer the span, the less “forward” pitch and the more “reverse” pitch.  Taylor also indicated adjustments for thumb moisture and length.  A little art intermingles with science here.  Taylor only adjusts 1/8th for dry or short thumbs. This is the only place I really depart from Taylor and this deserves it’s own article of explanation.  So Bowling Ball Fit – part 2 will deal with “Why the hell do I have 3/4” forward pitch”?


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