Most bowling alleys will rent out bowling balls and bowling shoes—which is okay for beginners or people who enjoy a casual game every now and then. But if you’re a true bowling enthusiast, and are serious about improving your scores or even want to join bowling tournaments, then you’ll want to invest in your own equipment.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with renting equipment. In fact, this gives you a chance to experiment with different weights and types of balls. But you will have a more consistent game if you use your own. Plus, custom-fitted gear is less likely to cause injuries like swollen knuckles and strained muscles. Here are some tips.
1. How to pick a bowling ball
Most bowling experts recommend starting with a lighter ball, at least until you have been able to master your timing and control. However, your goal is to eventually graduate to a heavier ball, since these are more likely to stick to your desired roll rolling path, and can bring down more pins.
Heavy balls are also, well, heavy. You’ll feel the tension and strain in your arm, so you’ll want to wait until your muscles are more developed. You also have to consider your physical built. The average female, elderly, or small-built male can carry a 15 to 16 pound ball, but most prefer something between 12 to 13 pounds.
Weight is not the only consideration when choosing a bowling ball. Fitting is very important. In fact, some light ball will feel heavier if the fitting is wrong. The best option is to have a ball custom-drilled. Don’t use those measuring gadgets you’ll see in stores— instead, go to a reputable bowling manufacturer or custom driller. An expert driller will know the right depth (especially if you’re left-handed), the right tightness and the right pitch for a proper release. The pitch is the degree the finger and thumb holes slant away from the center of the bowl.
Bowling balls also come in different materials: polyutherane, urethane, and polyester. The harder the ball surface, the more likely it will skid on the lane.
If you’re going to compete in tournaments, bear in mind that ‘regulation balls’ need to have a circumference of 27 inches and a diameter of 8.594 inches. Many tournaments also require 3-hole grips, but if that isn’t an issue for you, you can also look into four or even five hole grips.
2. How to pick bowling shoes
Your bowling shoes should be comfortable and well-fitted. Not many people know that your selection of bowling shoes is affected by your ‘favored’ hand. If you’re right-handed look for a pair where the right shoe has a leather tip, rubber sole and heel, and the left shoe has a rubber heel for braking. If you’re left-handed, choose the reverse.
3. How to pick bowling bags
Bowling bags can protect your ball from getting chipped or cracked. Pick durable materials like leather, canvas or a combination of the two. Ideally the bag should also have a compartment for shoes. The handles should be securely attached to the bag (examine material and quality of stitching). You may also want to get a double-ball bag, since many serious bowlers will have two different balls for different surfaces.
4. How to pick bowling clothes and accessories
Your bowling clothes should allow freedom of movement and provide decent coverage whenever you bend forward. You don’t want to give everyone in the bowling alley a ‘free show’—after all you want them to talk about your bowling skills, and not your body.
You may also want to get bowling gloves, which can help you give better control over the balls, and an help protect sensitive skin against chafing and blisters. You can also look into getting wrist supports to prevent injuries.